Don't Forget the Sole
An oft-overlooked part of knee health starts at your shoes and feet. We could devote an entire column to a discussion of shoe fit, footbeds and how it impacts your cycling. I can't this month, but let me say this. The flimsy, foam footbeds that come with your cycling shoes are good for nothing. The more one's foot rocks side to side during any athletic endeavor, the more the knee must compensate to keep the foot stable. In cycling this translates to lost power during the pedal stroke and the potential for stress on the knee.
"We're offering an athlete more efficiency, more power and more comfort," says Scott Henderson, the regional sales rep for Superfeet. "The key is, (Superfeet insoles) control the rear of the foot ..."
Henderson travels far and wide spreading the gospel of a stable and supported foot platform. His Superfeet footbeds range from relatively inexpensive ($18) cut-and-trim models, to the heat-and-vacuum-fit custom versions up to $150. The inserts help stabilize the rear of an athlete's foot and thereby reduce strain on the knee joint and increase biomechanical efficiency.
Which model you'll need "depends on volume and the foot," advises Henderson. For people with a relatively "neutral" foot position—one that doesn't pronate or supinate excessively—less customized and lower volume models will do just fine. Visit any hiking, running or ski shop that specializes in fitting shoes and bring your cycling shoes along. Ask for someone experienced in working with footbeds and tell him or her your needs and have at it.
Sitting Pretty—What's Left?
All right, you've got your matching Pearl outfit, your feet are rock solid, you've found that perfect position. Now what do you do to avoid further injuries?
Dressing up ain't just for clubbing, amigos. Below 70 degrees legendary cycling coach Eddy Borysewicz recommends covering the knees. Colorado can be tricky because on a spring day, the temp in Boulder might be 60, so you decide to head up in the hills.
But you get to Ward, it's over 8,000 feet and now you've got a 17-mile descent with bare legs. I'm no weather man, but I'll tell you your knees are gonna be stiff as wood by the bottom of the canyon!
Tights, knee warmers, leg warmers and a light upper layer should be on your hot bod anytime it's below 70. Ever go riding with the Euros? I remember seeing five-time Tour winner Miguel Indurain riding above Boulder in August—in full tights, a long-sleeve jersey and a thermal jacket. And the sun was out.
You've got the right fit, the right dress and now it's time for a 20-hour week on the bike, right? Hardly! Ramp up your mileage carefully and slowly—a 10-percent increase in time or mileage each week is sufficient. Don't be tempted to do more than you should, otherwise your knees are gonna complain.
Space constraints keep us from spending all day going over knee stuff, but if you have another question or comment, then hit me with an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.