Do Cyclists Suffer from Metatarsalgia?

Updated June 2024

Many Cyclists suffer from metatarsalgia, a condition characterized by pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot. This can occur due to several factors such as improper Footwear, ill-fitting pedal or plain overuse.

Hot Foot? Douse the Flames for Good!

Metatarsalgia, commonly known as “hot foot,” is an issue among cyclists. This condition manifests as a burning pain in the ball of the foot, often radiating toward the toes. In severe cases, the pain can be so intense that it feels like a blowtorch is being held against the ball of the foot. Hot foot is particularly common during long rides and can develop more quickly or intensely on hilly courses due to the increased pedaling pressure required during climbs. The pain results when nerves are squeezed between the heads of each foot’s five long metatarsal bones in the ball of the foot just behind the toes.

One contributing factor to hot foot is the natural swelling of feet during long rides, especially in warmer weather. This swelling increases the pressure inside cycling shoes that typically fit well, exacerbating the problem. Tight shoes are a significant risk factor, as they do not allow enough room for feet to expand. Additionally, cyclists with large feet who use small pedals are at a higher risk. Small pedal surfaces concentrate the pressure on a smaller area of the foot, rather than distributing it evenly like larger pedals do. Cycling shoes with flexible soles, common in mountain biking footwear, are less effective at diffusing this pressure, further contributing to the discomfort.

It is important to note that the sensation of burning associated with hot foot is not caused by actual heat. Instead, it results from the pressure on the nerves in the foot. Many cyclists mistakenly believe that splashing water on their feet will alleviate the pain. While this might provide temporary relief, it does not address the root cause of the issue, which is the excessive pressure on the metatarsal nerves.

To effectively manage and prevent hot foot, cyclists should consider a few key strategies. Ensuring proper shoe fit is crucial; shoes should be snug but allow for some swelling during long rides. Opting for shoes with stiffer soles can help distribute pressure more evenly across the foot. Additionally, using pedals with a larger surface area can minimize the concentration of pressure on the ball of the foot. Making these adjustments can significantly reduce the risk of developing hot foot and improve overall cycling comfort and performance.

Here are several options you can try to put out the flames:

  • Adjust shoe straps. Tighten the top strap nearest your ankle to help stop your feet from slipping around in your shoes.
  • Wear thinner socks. This will give your feet more room and is especially helpful if your shoes are on the snug side.
  • Buy new shoes. Look for a model with a wider-and-higher toe box and a stiffer sole and footbed with a metatarsal button.
  • Purchase custom cycling orthotics from Foot Dynamics. These footbeds are fit specifically to your feet with built-in metatarsal buttons. If you are a cyclist, be sure to order orthotics designed specifically for cycling, as cycling is a forefoot activity and orthotics designed for running or other full gait activities won’t provide the support you need.

Affected By Hot Foot? Foot Dynamics Can Help with Fitting the Right Cycling Shoes and Custom Cycling Orthotics!

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