Two Quick & Simple Fixes for “Hot Foot” on the Bike
Have you ever experienced foot pain or burning/numbness while riding your bike?
If you answered YES then you are not alone! This condition is often referred to as “Hot Foot” and it is one of the more common complaints I hear in the Bike-Fit Studio. It’s important to know that this is not a normal part of riding a bike. You should not have pain, numbness, or tingling in any region of your body when cycling. The great news is you can resolve almost all cycling issues very quickly with a simple fix.
What is “Hot Foot”
Let’s check out what exactly is happening to give you that foot-on-fire feeling.
Figure 1: Nerve supply to the foot
As Figure 1 demonstrates, the nerves of the feet travel through a narrow space between our metatarsals (foot bones) and metatarsal heads (foot knuckles). The metatarsal heads are more often referred to as the “ball of the foot” and is a common identified landmark during cleat placement. This is further identified as the foot-pedal interface.
Hot Foot occurs when the nerves in your foot are compressed by poorly fitting shoes (often too tight), improper cleat placement, and/or hot weather. This compression results in numbness, burning, or pain localized from the site of the compression down to the toes. The bottom of your foot will feel like it’s “on fire”, and is usually relieved by loosening your shoes or at the cessation of activity.
Quick Fixes for Hot Foot
1. Shoe Size: One of the first things to consider if you are experiencing burning feet on the bike is shoe size. Our feet tend to swell during workouts, especially on hot days or really long rides. If your cycling shoes are too small, the nerves that descend between your toes may become pinched or compressed leading to the symptoms listed above.
To test this, take the insole out of your shoe. Try standing on it to see how your foot compares to its width/length. (See Figure 2 & 3 for reference). If your foot hangs over the insole on the sides or on the top, then the shoe is too small and could be a large contributor to your symptoms. While a cycling shoe needs to be snug to transmit power, the width needs to accommodate the anatomy of your foot. Squeezing your foot into a narrow shoe will inevitably lead to issues.
2. Cleat placement: Another option to consider is your overall cleat placement. This is one of the most important aspects of a bike fit. The cleat should be placed so that the pedal spindle falls between the 1st and 5th metatarsal heads.
It’s easy to check this placement on yourself. Find the boney prominence on the inside and outside of your foot (Figure 5 & 6). Once these land marks are identified, make corresponding marks on the bottom of the shoe (Figure 7) for your reference during cleat alignment. In most cases, the pedal spindle should be biased toward to the 5th metatarsal head.
What if I still have “Hot Foot”?
If you have tried these two remedies and are still experiencing issues, you might have unique considerations with the specific anatomy of your foot or your symptoms might be originating from your low back. At this point, I recommend seeking a medical bike fit to determine the true source of your symptoms and evaluate your overall position on the bike.