As bike fitters, as you would imagine, we see a lot of cycling shoes and feet, of all descriptions. A very common question is “I’m thinking of buying some new cycling shoes, do you have any advice, my friend rides with x y and z?” or “there’s an offer on these cycling shoes, what do you think?”
There are hundreds if not thousands of blog posts, cycling news sites and You Tube videos reviewing shoes. Most of them talk about sole stiffness, closure type, width of shoe, material of the upper, ventilation, all of which are great topics, however one of the most important subjects is almost always never talked about, and that is cleat position. This is vital to a bike fit and overall comfort and performance for the rider.
We typically see 5-6 brands of cycling shoes, Shimano, Specialized, Fizik, Sidi, Giro, Mavic. Of course there are many others, but these tend to be the most common. These are all great shoes, very good quality, range of sizes and colours. However…..there are a number, which, are better overall…..when it comes to cleat position and comfort as a result of this.
This is when it gets interesting, and I will expect a good few comments from this… 🙂 On average, if we see a rider with foot problems and sometimes calf discomfort, they will generally be using a shoe from Sidi and Fizik. Why? ….Fore Aft cleat position is to blame. As I mentioned above, the reviewers often do not talk about this, and many riders base their purchases around these reviews. Sidi and Fizik position the cleat holes, quite far forward on the shoe, in other words, towards the toes. In the last couple of years, the Fizik cleat position has improved and they have provided a slot for the threaded part to slide back and forth, but are still placed too far forward on the shoe. Sidi, I believe, have not changed for a while.
Shimano, Specialized and Lake Cycling shoes, on the other hand, offer very good fore aft adjustment. Other decent shoes, in this regard are Giro, and sometimes Mavic. In a simple size comparison, Euro 44.5, there is as much as 15mm difference between a Shimano shoe and a shoe from Sidi or Fizik. You might be thinking…15mm….that is nothing….but it is a huge difference at the shoe, as this is the only place on the bike that you are truly locked into and all the power goes through. Take a look at the photos below of Specialized, Lake and Shimano shoes, note how far back the cleat holes are:
This can make a massive difference to foot comfort and power delivery to the pedal. Our clients sometimes describe the sensation of their toes having to grip the inside of the shoes in a claw like fashion, when climbing or under load, we like to call this “angry toes” This can often lead to the inner soles being completely worn through from the toes digging in, trying to hold onto the inside of the shoe! Whereas this is hardy ever a problem with shoes offering a more rearward cleat position.
One other thing to note, is that the offerings form Sidi and Fizik are not “foot shaped”, they are typically narrow towards the front of the shoe, which can squeeze the toes together.
Again the shoes from Lake, Specialized and Shimano are more “foot shaped” allowing the toes to spread out and relax.
Of course this is not an exhaustive post about all the foot injuries, shoe types and brands, and nor is it meant to take anything away from Sidi and Fizik, but just giving the rider some more information which is not often spoken about, and the ability to be able to make a more informed decision before purchasing a pair of sparkling new shoes.
If you have any questions about your shoes or feet problems whilst cycling or are looking to purchase a new pair, drop us a comment and we will try our best to advise you.