Cycling is a popular form of exercise that can often cause foot and ankle pain and injuries. Many of these cycling injuries can be prevented by taking proper precautions and seeking immediate medical treatment from an experienced sports medicine podiatrist at the first sign of a problem.
Common Types of Foot and Ankle Cycling Injuries
There are various foot and ankle problems that can occur due to cycling. If your shoes do not fit properly or if you do not place your feet in the correct position while pedaling, pain can occur in the heels, arches, or other areas of the feet and ankles. In addition to pain, you may experience symptoms such as tingling, numbness, or swelling depending on the specific type of problem or injury. Some common types of foot and ankle cycling injuries include:
- Achilles tendinitis. This condition is caused by overuse and poor cycling technique. It can also occur if the seat of the bike is too low or if the foot is not properly aligned when pedaling. When the Achilles tendon becomes irritated or inflamed, it can cause pain and swelling in the back of the leg above the heel. Achilles tendinitis can be treated conservatively using rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication.
- Plantar fasciitis. This condition occurs when there is repetitive stress on the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. Plantar fasciitis can cause sharp pain in the heel. If the cyclist raises the seat of the bike, it can take the stress off the plantar fascia and help prevent this condition. To treat plantar fasciitis, orthotics can be worn inside cycling shoes, and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug can be taken for pain and swelling. In addition, physical therapy can help stretch the plantar fascia and help ease pain.
- Metatarsalgia. Pain that is focused on the ball of the foot is called metatarsalgia. It can occur when there is repetitive stress placed on the foot during pedaling. Wearing soft cycling shoes or an orthotic can decrease pressure on the foot and help reduce pain.
- Numbness. Numbness and tingling in the feet can occur when cycling if you wear shoes that are too tight or the pedal straps are too tight. Wearing wider style shoes or loosening the toe straps of the pedals can often help with numbness. If numbness in the feet is accompanied by leg pain, seek medical attention, as there could be an underlying problem.
- Shin splints. Shin splints are caused by inflammation of the muscles or tendons that run on either side of the leg bone. This condition can be due to problems with the arch of the foot and can often be prevented by stretching and wearing orthotics.
Tips for Avoiding Cycling Injuries
Not all cycling injuries can be prevented, but there are some precautions that can help you avoid pain in your feet or ankles, including:
- Stopping when you feel pain and taking a rest
- Removing your shoes if you feel numbness or pain in your feet
- Walking around and taking a break from cycling to help with circulation
- Stretching and massaging your feet to reduce pain
- Wearing soft, supportive cycling shoes
- Wearing moisture-wicking socks inside your shoes
- Adjusting your bike seat to a position that is comfortable for you and that reduces pressure on your feet
Pain that is chronic and persists after rest and self-care measures should be evaluated by an experienced sports medicine podiatrist. This type of foot specialist will examine your feet and determine the cause of your foot and ankle pain. In addition, they can make recommendations for specific cycling shoes and custom orthotics and what types of treatments will work best for your specific needs.
Contact Our Experienced Sports Medicine Podiatrist
If you notice signs of injury or have pain in your feet and ankles that is worsening, contact Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists for a consultation. To schedule an appointment in our Grapevine or Keller office with our sports medicine podiatrist, fill out our convenient online contact form, or call us at (817) 481-4000 today.