Feet are marvellous pieces of bio-engineering when you’re walking. They don’t work so well when they’re operating on a small surface like a bicycle pedal. Since your feet are the power connection between you and the bike, you need to treat them well.
On a bike there’s no heel-toe action as there is when you walk. All your pedalling power is displaced into the pedal through the ball of your foot, which is not natural.
Soft-soled shoes such as running shoes don’t give your foot much support when you’re pedalling. On a long ride you can suffer pain in your arches because your feet are bending unnaturally with each pedal stroke. That’s where cycling shoes can make a difference.
Go into a bike shop and try bending them. There are all sorts, but they have one thing in common – very stiff soles. That makes them perfect for long cycling trips.
There are basically three types of cycling shoes: road, mountain bike and touring. The type of cycling you do will determine the type of shoe you choose.
Road and mountain bike shoes tend to have a moulded plastic or carbon fibre sole with rubber pads to make them slightly easier to walk in and to protect the hard compound from wearing. Touring shoes often look much like a walking or hiking shoe. They have a nice solid tread and they’re easy to walk in because the cleat is recessed into the sole.
Of course the big leap is not the shoe itself, but the whole cleated shoe-pedal system. Having your foot attached to the pedal can be unnerving at first. What if you have trouble getting your foot out if you need to stop in a hurry? At some stage everyone who uses clip-in shoes has been through the same thing, but no one would give them up now.
To get started set up the shoe and pedal properly. The ball of your foot should be positioned over the axle of the pedal for maximum pedalling efficiency and your foot should sit in a natural position. The pedal cleat tension should allow you to stay firmly attached yet unclip easily. Your bike shop can help adjust all this for you.
Lean against a wall or post and practise clipping and unclipping both feet before you head out the first time. It’s a big step, but the increase in comfort and pedalling efficiency are worth it.
See you on the road soon, God willing.