Point of Contact: An Underrated Detail That Has the Potential to Boost Your Performance

By Adam Marsal

Let’s face it – road cycling is all about performance. Sooner or later, every cyclist is confronted with the desire to ride faster or have more power for longer rides. Most of these goals can be achieved by buying a better or lighter bike with better geometry. A fitting – a professional helping you to find the perfect fit tailored to your body type – has also been proven to deliver results. But all of these options are very expensive. One subtle detail overlooked by most cyclists is the point of contact between your lower body and the bike, which fundamentally affects the transfer of power from your muscles to the pedals. Can you guess it? The insoles!

Even though cycling is a sport where the feet do not touch the ground at all, they are put under extreme stress when riding. Even a detail like the insole has an impact on the final performance and overall riding pleasure. On the other hand, the wrong insole choice can lead to an area overloading and result in a fatigue injury or chronic disease.

Transferring power to the pedals, which overloads the feet, is a much less natural movement for the body than walking or running. This strain can cause pain and lead to fatigue damage in the long term. The momentary discomfort then reduces performance and the enjoyment of the ride itself. If you have less tired or sore feet, you can pedal longer and harder.

When walking or running, the feet flex, whereas this movement is practically impossible in hard cycling shoes reinforced with a cleat. Hard cleats in the soles also distribute the pressure unevenly, which is mainly transferred to the forefoot. Last but not least, vibrations are sent from the road to the feet, which have the character of shock waves on uneven surfaces. What does all this mean for the cyclist?

The transmission of pressure and vibrations causes discomfort. Most cyclists are familiar with the notorious feeling of “hot feet“, which causes overheating of the congested arches of the feet. The term “hot feet” or metatarsalgia refers to a condition in which the soles of the feet become painful and inflamed with increased pressure on the pedals. Cyclists may also experience burning or numbness in the feet as a result of the pressure.

Even though cycling is a sport where the feet do not touch the ground at all, they are put under extreme stress when riding. © Profimedia

In the long term, prolonged discomfort and postural imbalance can lead to inflammatory injuries under the foot and negatively affect the health of the calves, Achilles tendons, and even the knees. With fatigue and pain, performance and pedalling accuracy naturally decrease. What is the main cause?

The strain on the feet is exacerbated by poorly chosen footwear that is either too small, too big or too tight. The problem can often be solved with the right insole, which supports the foot well, absorbs unpleasant vibrations and stabilises the heel.

Kelly Avenas, podiatrist and orthotist at the Sidas Centre and advisor to the Astana racing team, says that the ideal insole distributes the pressure points between the forefoot and rearfoot better and stabilises the foot perfectly in the shoe. It also absorbs the vibrations of the road surface and potentially helps to correct recurring postural defects that can lead to injury.

Former professional racer Laurens De Vreese from Belgium noticed a difference in pedalling between his left and right foot at the beginning of his career, caused by a more pronounced outward movement of his left knee. Thanks to the right insole in the shoe, he was able to compensate for this imbalance.

According to Oli Elsenbach, the developer of the Solestar insoles, the design supports the inner edge of the foot, while a raised area around the little toe and a lowered area under the big toe help to bring the foot into a more natural position. The result is better support for the entire foot, leading to less muscle tension and better power transfer.

This article is not intended to advise you on a particular product but to highlight the importance of such a neglected detail as the right insole. If your feet hurt and you are still wondering what’s causing it, you may have just stumbled across a possible reason, haven’t you?