In cycling the use of proper equipment and correct technique is essential for comfort, safety, performance and injury prevention.
The use of appropriate shoe gear when cycling cannot be overemphasized. Whether you are a recreational or serious cyclist, you should wear a stiff-soled cycling shoe with a cleat. When your foot is on a bike pedal, it is perched on the ball of the foot, and the stiff-soled shoe will help support the heel and the arch. This will result in increased efficiency and help prevent injury by allowing the power from your legs to be transmitted to the pedals wihout placing undue stress on your foot. There are models appropriate for cyclists of any level, from touring shoes which are comfortable for walking and are inexpensive, to models geared towards the competitor. In addition, you should use bike shoes with cleats. The cleats secure your shoes to the pedals allowing you to pedal more efficiently. Some cleats are free floating and allow your foot to rotate and assume its natural in or out toed position while others are adjusted with screws. Have someone at your bike shop experienced in cleat adjustment to assist in your set up.
Aside from the lack of support that a non-cycling shoe provides, shoes such as cross-training, aerobic, running or court shoes are typically made of thicker soles, causing them to fit improperly on the pedal, and wider heels will hit both the crank arms and chain stays, requiring you to ride with an unnatural, in-toed position. If your cycling is limited to 20-30 minutes, three times a week on a stationery bike in a gym, you probably don't need to run out. However, if you have flat feet or over-pronate (feet collapse inwards), and have knee problems, you too should ride with a stiff-soled shoe. Cyclists of any level who over-pronate may need the additional support that only an orthotic can provide, particularly if they have been experiencing knee pain despite proper training and bike adjustments.
Maintaining high RPM's with low resistance (referred to as 'spinning') is the key to correct pedaling technique and will enable you to ride further with less fatigue and strain on the joints and muscles. Cleated cycling shoes will keep your foot in contact with the pedal allowing an efficient high RPM spin. Instead of focusing on how fast or far you are riding, you should try to focus on maintaining a cadence of 80-90 RPM's whilst staying within your target heart range, adjusting the gears accordingly to maintain this cadence. Also try to maintain a smooth pedal stroke ("pedal in circles"). In other words, don't just "mash" down on the pedals during the downstroke, neglecting the bottom of the stroke and the upstroke (the cleated shoes will help here). Spread the energy utilized throughout the stroke.
This should provide a brief overview of some of the key elements in comfortable, safe and injury-free cycling. If you have any questions or desire additional information, please contact me.
By Dr. Ehrenberg, firstname.lastname@example.org
, who specializes in sports medicine, is on Bicycling Magazines fitness advisory panel and has treated many top bicycle racers.