Hot Foot? Douse the Flames for Good!
Many cyclists suffer from metatarsalgia or “hot foot” — a burning pain in the ball of the foot that can radiate toward the toes. Severe cases can feel like someone is actually holding a blowtorch to the ball of your foot. Hot foot occurs most often on long rides and may develop more quickly or intensely on hilly courses because climbs cause greater pedaling pressure. 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.
Feet always swell on long rides, especially in warmer weather, causing pressure inside shoes that normally fit fine. Besides tight shoes, another risk factor is small pedals, particularly if you have large feet. Small pedal surfaces concentrate pressure on the ball of the foot instead of spreading it the way a larger pedal will. If your cycling shoes have flexible soles like most mountain bike shoes, they’ll be less able to diffuse pressure.
With hot foot, it is not actually heat that causes the pain; rather, it is pressure on nerves that causes the burning sensation. Many cyclists believe that splashing water on their feet will help alleviate the problem, but that is a symptomatic treatment that doesn’t really address the root of the problem.
Having the proper footwear can make all the difference in the comfort of your feet during and after a ride. 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.