Yesterday was World Bicycle day, which may mean thet you'll be tempted to hop on your two-wheeled roadster and get moving. Before you do, I’d like to warn you about some common biking-related foot injuries and give you tips on how to prevent them.
Protect Your Feet From Bike-Related Injuries
Achilles tendinitis is an inflammation of the Achilles tendon that is quite painful. Bikers can develop this injury because of overuse of the tendon (biking puts a lot of strain on your calves) or because their bikes don’t fit them properly—a bike with a too-high seat makes you point your toes downward as you pedal, making your calf muscles contract far too much. To avoid this injury, don’t overdo the distances when you bike and keep your seat adjusted at a comfortably low height so that your Achilles tendon gets a break between pedals and between rides.
Shin splints are an irritation on your lower leg that manifests with pain or swelling. Like Achilles tendinitis, bikers develop this injury because of overuse due to muscle imbalances that may make the surrounding muscles and tendons work too hard when you pedal. This injury can also be seen in bikers with collapsed arches or flat feet. To avoid shin splints, always stretch before and after a bike ride and, if flat feet are an issue, consider being fitted for orthotics if you plan on making bike riding a long-term hobby.
Otherwise known as metatarsalgia, this condition is characterized by a painful burning in the ball of your foot. The problem is usually caused by a combination of a long ride, hot weather and poorly fitting shoes, which pinches on the nerves in your feet and causes pain that can’t be biked through. Since the only way to stop this problem is to get off your bike, remove your shoes and let your feet cool down, you’ll want to take preventative measures such as adding supportive insoles to your cycling shoes in order to take pressure off your nerves.
Take the Bike Indoors for a Comfy Ride
While all of these tips can help protect your feet, some people may find it too painful to bike outdoors. If that's the case, you can always try a recumbent bicycle. It helps people with foot problems because, instead of the up-and-down movement of a standard bicycle, recumbent bikes move in an out-and-down motion, reducing the impact on your feet. A stationary bike is also a good choice. If you like the idea of a more intense workout, but want to minimize pressure on the feet, try cycling at a greater intensity but with lower resistance—this combination is better on the feet than the high-intensity, high-resistance combination.
Of course, as we indicated above, proper form will also minimize pain during indoor rides. Your feet should fit snugly in the pedals. When you are at the lowest point of rotation, your knees should be bent slightly and your toes should be level—not pointing up or flexing down.
Whether you’re taking a leisurely ride in your neighborhood, working towards competitive cycling, or hitting the indoor spin studio, biking is a fantastic sport--as long as you take care of your feet. If you have experienced any biking or other sport-related foot injury, contact Houston podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider so you can get back to doing the activity you love.