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Cycling Injuries: Hot Foot - How to Diagnose, Prevent and Treat 'Metatarsalgia'

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Have you recently been suffering from sore feet just after your ride? Or, maybe even worse, when you are still riding? There might be times when you literally cannot feel your foot after biking for some time. Walking and running comes naturally to us but pedalling a bike isn’t something that is done usually. It is for this reason that cyclists often tend to feel numbness or pain in their feet. The symptoms might not be experienced at all times but the longer rides can seem to be a daunting experience. To ensure that you can keep cycling-related issues like hot foot or numbness at bay, follow this guide and fix the issue forever. 

Foot Pains while Cycling: Hot Foot and Plantar Fasciitis

The plantar fascia (aponeurosis) is perhaps the most common cause of heel pain. It is a flat band of the ligament which connects the heel bone to the toes. The plantar fascia forms a protective layer on your foot’s arch that enables people to walk barefoot. The plantar fascia tightens as the big toe extends when you are walking or pushing down the ball of your feet. This is referred to as the ‘windlass mechanism’.

If an excessive strain is put on the plantar fascia, it would end up getting swollen, weak and inflamed and this condition is referred to as plantar fasciitis. It gets to a point where you would find difficulty in doing simple things like walking or standing. This condition is found to be very common among the cyclist who experiences hot foot and all the other people who indulge in activities that puts huge stress on the underside of the foot.

Hot foot also known as Metatarsalgia is a condition where the bones connected from feet to toe tend to burn, leaving you with severe pain. If you experience such a pain after cycling, then do read more and find out how to bring an end to this pain. 

plantar fasciitis
Painful Plantar Fasciitis

Causes of Foot Arch Pain

Pain in the foot arch is a very common issue and there are several factors that can cause arch pain. One of the direct causes would be an injury or structural imbalance in the foot. But, in most cases, it happens because of a condition referred to as plantar fasciitis (discussed above).

It happens due to the excessive stretching of the plantar fascia. In cases of a hot foot, the pain experienced is often extreme in the early morning when the person gets out of bed and steps his/her first step on the floor or after a long period of rest. 

If left untreated and the strain continues on the longitudinal arch, there might be the development of a bony protrusion referred to as heel spur. It might even contribute to Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, weakness in the knee joints, soreness in the calf muscle or pain in the lower back and hip. It is therefore essential to treat the condition before it worsens. 

hot foot in cyclists
Hot Foot Syndrome (source)

Effective Ways to Prevent Hot Foot

There are a few things that you need to consider when you are experiencing hot foot, numbness or pain in the arch of your foot. Listed below are a few things which when kept in mind would help you in protecting yourself from cycling foot pain. 

  • Pay Attention to the Fit of Your Shoes 

If you are suffering from foot pain or hot foot, most of the solutions would aim at relieving the pressure on the foot's ball or giving more space to your feet’s nerves. One of the best solution would be to wear shoes that have loosened straps and a spacious front. This is because your feet would most certainly swell up a bit due to an increased blood flow to the muscles.

Also, choosing a shoe that has several closure options is a good idea. A single closure and that too very near to the foot would just put pressure on the smaller surface area instead of evenly distributed across the entire foot. Width and height of the shoe also matter as the shoes that have a higher toe box height would be more suitable for individuals that have a higher arch.

Hence you need to choose shoes very carefully by ensuring that they fit you well. You could even consider getting custom-made shoes as they are vacuum-moulded to the exact shape of your feet and therefore wouldn’t require tightening much. 

Shimano SH-RP2 shoes for hot foot
Wear the right shoes to prevent hot foot
  • Consider your Position on the Bike 

A poor position on the bike is also quite a usual cause of hot foot, pain, tingling sensation or foot numbness. When you are continuously riding in a bent-over position, your hips and lower back would most certainly remain under stress. This isn’t a good thing as this would eventually increase the stress on your feet. The best solution would be to maintain a position that is less aggressive. 

You could also consider alternating regularly between sitting and standing during long rides. When you are taking breaks, try and include a few piriformis and hamstrings stretches. This way stress would be reduced from your lower back. More than often, excessive tightness and inflexibility can lead to nerve impingement problems.

correct bike posture
The right way to ride the bike
  • Choose Socks According to the Type of Your Feet 

You might feel as to how socks have any role to play in this? Well, paying attention to the kind of socks is also crucial. For instance, thinner socks might be suitable for bigger feet as that would leave a bit of more space inside the shoe. 

Thicker socks can be chosen by people who have bony feet as that would offer some padding to the foot’s ball.  So, determine what your foot is like and then purchase the socks accordingly. 

cycling socks
Thicker socks for bony feet
  • Remain Dry 

When you pedal your bike for a prolonged period of time either in wet shoes or socks, it can lead to foot sores. Such situations can be hard to avoid especially in a race but can be quite uncomfortable. What you can do is attempt to keep your feet as dry as you possibly can during the training sessions. 

But, how can do so?

Well, the best solution would be to bring in an extra pair of socks during those hot and humid days when excessive sweating can pose as a major issue. During the rainy days, consider using shoe covers. However, if you still manage to get one, try anti-fungal cream or see a doctor and get it treated as soon as possible. 

  • Check the Insoles Too 

Insoles that are specifically shaped can also offer amazing relief in case of hot foot.  Shoes that come with ‘metatarsal button’ (which is a small elevated kind of area present just behind the foot’s ball) which spreads the metatarsal heads apart and gives the nerves of the foot more space to breathe. 

cycling shoes insole
Comfort your feet with insoles
  • Don’t Ignore the Cleats

The position of the cleat can also be an issue that might be causing numbness or pain in the feet. The pressure on your foot would tend to increase if you can feel the cleat plates beneath the insoles. When you are looking for shoes, choose a model that has smooth cleats. It would ensure that you are comfortable when pedalling a bike. This is possible because less pressure is put on the ball of the foot. 

You could even try moving the cleats back as far as they can possibly go. Some people might even advise you to drill holes in order to move the cleats back as far as about 2 centimetres. 

cleats for bike
Pick correct cleats for smooth ride
  • Try Orthotics

Orthotics might be able to solve your problem if changing the cleat position hasn’t brought about any change. This is especially true if you have rather low or high arches. The way in which your foot moves while pedalling or cycling also plays a role in how well the orthotic is going to work for you. For the perfect orthotics, you would have to discuss the matter with your bike fit specialist. 

Remember that an unwarranted and an unnecessary orthotic wouldn't help you much and would, in fact, limit your performance. 

  • Do Not Ignore the Persistent Pain

If all of these do not seem to work and you notice that the symptoms are limited to just one foot, it might occasionally be due to ‘Morton’s neuroma’. It is basically a painful condition which affects the ball of the foot and can most commonly be present in the area between your 3rd and 4th toes. It involves the thickening of a tissue present around one of the nerves that lead up to the toes. 

Morton’s neuroma’ can cause a burning and sharp pain in the ball of the foot. The toes also might start feeling numb. 

Foot Stretches to Reduce Hot Foot

A few basic strengthening and flexibility exercises can often help in providing relief in cases of hot foot, discomfort or foot arch soreness. Perform these exercises before you get on your bike and after you are done cycling. Perfuming it every day would eventually alleviate and reduce foot pain.

1. Foot Arch Ball Massage                             

For this exercise, you can get the ball that is used for massaging the foot arch or you might use any other ball of a similar kind. A few people also like using a tennis ball. When you use this ball top massage your foot arch, it helps in relieving soreness or muscular tension that has built up in that area. 

Keep the ball on the floor and begin to roll your feet in a forward and backward direction for approximately two minutes. You could do this by either sitting or standing. The inner, outer and middle part of the foot arch must be massaged properly. You could also consider rolling your barefoot back and forth over a frozen juice can to provide some relief to the hot spots on foot. 

foot arch ball massage
Soothe your pain with foot massage

2. Standing Calf Stretch 

Begin by facing a wall with both of your hands placed on the wall at about the eye level. The leg in which you are experiencing pain should be kept back with your heels on the floor. The other leg must be kept forward with the knees slightly bent. Now, turn your foot on the back slightly inward. 

Once done, lean towards the wall until you begin to feel a stretch at the back of your calf. Remain in this position for approximately 15 to 30 seconds and then return back to the starting position. Repeat this exercise several times a day. 

standing calf stretch
Reduce pain with stretches 

3. Toe Stretch 

Sit either on a chair or on the floor with your right leg crossed over the left thigh. Now with your left fingers hold your right toes in a way as if you were holding hands with your foot. Once you have interlaced your fingers with the toes, squeeze the fingers and toes together for about ten seconds and then stretch wide for another ten seconds. Keep alternating between your feet and do this for three times with each of your foot. Eventually, it would provide some relief to the hot foot. 

toe stretches for hot foot
Stretch the toes for a relief

4. Heel Reliever 

For this, sit with your left leg extended right foot against the left inner thigh. Now, slowly bend forward and hook the left thumb around the little toe and right thumb around the big toe while your fingers remain wrapped around the sole. If you want, you can bend your knees a bit as well. 

Pull your hands back to flex foot and then gently press the thumbs away from each other to separate the toes. Hold and massage the bottom of the foot with your fingers for about thirty seconds. With each foot, repeat it twice. 

Frequently Asked Questions for Hot Foot While Cycling (FAQ’S) 

Q: What factors to look while buying cycling shoes? 
A: To ensure that the shoe fits you perfectly, ask your local bike shop about the pedals and cleats available. Also, arch supports or insoles in cycling footwear are something that you would want to look into. A wrong set of insole can be the reason of foot pain too.  As mentioned above, orthotics is not something that you necessarily need. 

It would depend on the problems that you are facing as a cyclist. In some cases, it can alleviate tingling and numbness and reduce the symptoms of hot foot. But, it would be best to consult an expert before. 

Q: Can posture be one of the reasons behind hot foot?
A: Yes, the way you sit on your bike can bring a lot of difference to your foot. If your saddle height is too high or low, or if you arch your spine heavily and ride, then you are putting a lot of stress on your lower back, hips and pelvis. This can, in turn, cause foot numbness and pain. What is the solution for this? Consult a cycling fit specialist who would guide you on setting the right saddle height and which position to ride. This would keep foot pain at bay. 

consult cyclist specialist
Check your posture

Q: What can I do to reduce my postural issues? 
A: So, it is quite obvious that the fir of the bike is essential but other than that, you would also need to consider your own strength and flexibility of the lower back. You could try home-based or gym strengthening exercises for this. If you feel that the pain is persisting, you could consider consulting a chiropractor, a physical therapist or an osteopath. You could even try to the fellow cyclists as they are ought to have some experience regarding this issue. 

Summing Up 

We understand that pain in the arch of your foot can be a disturbing issue. In cases of severe pain, people couldn’t walk altogether. Therefore, it is best to look into the matter when you still can. Follow all of the above-mentioned tops and if the pain still hasn’t subsided, consult a doctor as soon as possible.

We really hope that helps you. If you have any doubts or have any more tips to share with us, please feel to do so in the comment section below. 

Happy Riding!!

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