Foot pain on the bike: causes and solutions

Foot pain while cycling is one of the most annoying and common problems among cyclists. Sometimes it can be so unbearable that it can create real problems and oblige us to make forced stops. In this post we try to analyse the main reasons and understand what to do to solve these problems.

Obviously we do not want to undermine the opinion of doctors and, on the contrary, we always recommend a consultation with a professional if problems persist.


Pain in the sole of the foot is the most common problem. It manifests itself along with sensations of numbness and heat. Let’s see what the reasons might be.

The foot swells whilst pedalling, especially in the warmer months. A narrow shoe prevents the foot from expanding, creating compression on blood vessels and nerves. The result? Pain.

When we talk about a tight shoe, we don’t just mean the length, we mean the opposite. Often the problem is simply due to its improper shape.

To solve this problem, you can try loosening the closure, or you can try adjusting the last of the shoe. Shoemakers have all the tools to do this and often a small extension can be enough.

In case the shoe is new, give it time to take shape on our foot. A little patience is not a bad thing.

  • Insole not adapted to the foot shape

Feet have different shapes. A reduced plantar arch is synonymous with “flat feet”, a very curved arch with “pes cavus”. In between, there is a world.

The insole is the key to solving this problem.

Sometimes it may be necessary to have the support of a podiatrist to get a customized insole. Other times it may be enough to buy a specific one in an orthopedic shop.

Some companies offer specific insoles, designed for feet with a more or less accentuated longitudinal arch. Others, such as ski boots, offer thermoformable insoles that, after heating, are placed inside the shoe and the shoe is put on, making the insole adapt to the specific shape of the foot.

  • Rigid sole

Remember that the most expensive (and therefore stiffer) shoe is not always the right one for our foot and our use. A very stiff carbon sole is certainly high performance, but in the long run, when going out for several hours, it can be less comfortable.

  • Incorrect cleat position

Occasionally cleats can cause foot pain. This usually causes joint pain. But in some cases, if placed on a nerve, it can cause pain when pushed. The help of a biomechanist is certainly highly recommended.


External pain, beyond the last toe, is another problem that can happen to cyclists.

There are basically two causes:

1. Shoes with narrow soles

A sole that is too narrow can create a pressure point right at the head of the fifth metatarsal.

The problem can only be prevented by choosing a shoe with the right conformation.

2. The cleat is set too far in

Sometimes it can happen that someone places the cleat too far in, for various reasons. This way the pressure will be released too much outside causing pain.

In this case it is better to choose pedals with longer axles, such as Shimano and Speedplay, just to give two examples that we all know.


Achilles’ tendon pain is the least common, but still painful.

The causes are to be found in the shoes or in an incorrect saddle position.

Large or inadequate shoes

  • A shoe that is too big does not allow for proper foot retention, so with each pedal stroke the foot itself moves up and down, rubbing and inflaming the tendon.

There is no alternative: you have to make the right decision when buying, there are no other solutions.

  • Saddle height

If the saddle is too low, you could pedal with your heels down, but if the saddle is too high you will be forced to stretch your feet and ankles too far. In either case, the tendon may become inflamed.

A biomechanist will be able to help you.


Personally, there is another situation that has led me to have a lot of pain in my foot that I would like to share. If you have pain in the toes and front of the foot, be careful, it could be an inflammation of the sciatic nerve, and the problem is in the back.

As I wrote at the beginning: A doctor’s opinion is essential!

Find all cycling products at Deporvillage

Stefano Francescutti

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