How Understanding Foot Mechanics Can Improve Cycling Performance

If you missed Part 1 of this article, be sure to read it first to get a quick overview of the anatomy of the foot.

Last time we began a conversation about the role of the foot in pedaling with a quick overview of the anatomy, terminology, and movement sequences used. This time we want to delve a bit deeper into the role of the foot as it relates to the two transitional phases of the pedal stroke: Top Dead Center (TDC) and Bottom Dead Center (BDC).

We'll also look at the role of the shoe/pedal interface and ways that you can improve performance by maximizing your individual fit. As with last time, we'll again be assisted by Dr. Kirk Herring, a podiatrist and cyclist from Spokane, Washington, who has kindly offered to help our understanding of this most complex of interactions.

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A Quick Review

Recall from last time that there are four primary phases in each pedal stroke: power, recovery, transitional power, and transitional recovery. Recall also that the foot begins in supination at the start of the power phase and moves into pronation as the foot approaches BDC, and then moves to realign towards neutral during the transitional recovery phase via re-supination.

Similarly, the foot rolls through a range of flexion movements during pedaling that include plantar-flexion (toes pointing down) as it enters the end of the power phase/transitional recovery phase and dorsiflexion (toes pointing up) as it moves from the end of recovery to the transitional power phase in an effort to return the foot to its neutral orientation as the cycle begins again.

Keep the neutral foot in mind as it is the most important reference point around which this conversation will pivot...

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A Detailed Look

This may read a bit over the top...but please bear with me, for the goal is to give you insight into all that goes on during pedaling that you may not have realized.

The foot is made up of three portions: forefoot, midfoot, and rearfoot.

The forefoot is composed of the toes (phalanges in anatomy speak) and the metatarsals, (numbered 1 to 5 from largest to smallest) and bears more than half of the weight in normal walking while also balancing the pressure on the ball of the foot.

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