Sometimes riding a bike isn’t comfortable and as riders we all allow for some degree of discomfort on our bikes, whether it be for our hands, bums, knees or feet. But there’s no excuse for this, especially if it’s your feet or knees that are in discomfort. Knee pain can be debilitating and take months to sort out, so we recommend protecting your knees by making sure you have the perfect biomechanical alignment of your lower leg. This will put far less stress on your joints and improve pedalling alignment too, so you’ll get up those climbs faster as well as save your knees!
Specialized have known all this for some time and have been providing Body Geometry footbeds in all their shoes for many years now. They also work closely with Dr Andy Pruitt, Director of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, his latest book tells you how to look after your knees and set your bike up for the perfect fit.
All Specialized shoes come with Body Geometry footbeds and include the Varus wedge, metatarsal button and medial arch support but for a personalised and semi-custom fit a Specialized authorised dealer can fit you out with specific footbeds for your needs. There are three choices of footbed available as an after sale product, so you can upgrade your shoes at any time.
Everybody’s feet are totally unique so it’s no wonder that arches vary from nearly flat to something resembling the Arc de Triomphe and your arch type can be measured using the Specialized ‘Arch-O-Meter. This helps determine the correct footbed for you, and ll you need to do is stand on the special heat and pressure sensitive mat and you’ll be able to see what type of footbed you need. A trained Specialized fitter will be able to recommend the right footbed for you. Green footbeds are designed to give arch support for standard to high arched feet, blue for flat to standard arches and Red for flatter arches.
The arch shape can be a starting point to determine whether there is forefoot pronation or supination. Pronation is where the foot flattens and rolls towards the crank during the pedal stroke, and supination is the opposite and much more rare. Either case gives an inefficient articulation to the ankle joint which can affect the knee and hip throughout the pedal stroke causing instability and probably pain at some point.
The footbed can make the biggest improvement in getting your feet, knees and ankles aligned, but for fine-tuning you can get shims to help adjust the foot angle by the millimetre. By combining advanced insoles with varus/valgus wedge shims to align cant angle, the alignment boosts comfort, efficiency and endurance. Positioning the correct contour insole with an appropriate amount of BG Shims, the rider can alter forefoot angle to optimize biomechanical foot/knee/hip alignment. The shims come in +/- 1.5mm varus/valgus shaped wedges and simply slip inside your shoe underneath the footbed.Unlike the wedges positioned at the cleat, the Specialized shims can be easily removed or swapped mid-ride or during the fitting session, so there’s no need to use tools or move your cleat position.
The Specialized footbeds are sold In Pairs with 3 varus/valgus wedges included, costing around £24.99, so it won’t cost the earth to protect your knees and get a more efficient pedal stroke. The footbeds are size specific and can be cut down to fit if necessary, but they are not designed to be used on other brands of cycling shoe.
Our Specialized footbeds – TESTED
In August at the Specialized 2007 launch we were all fortunate enough to have a shoe-fit session and despite thinking I had a neutral foot position and good alignment I found myself with two wedges and a green footbed for people with high arches. We were all warned that a new foodbed can cause some slight discomfort at first or feel a little odd when pedalling but to me it was like putting new shoes on that actually fitted and supported my arch. They felt perfect and after the first mile or so of climbing I realised my knees had felt tense for the last 16 years on a bike. Looking down at my knees and ankles I saw everything neatly aligned and what had felt like a weird cleat position at first (I used to ride with the cleat further forward and had been recommended to center it more) it made sense with the new foot position.
But most importantly that nagging dull pain that always ran down the outside of my right foot had vanished, it never quite got to the cramp stage but felt like it always might and it certainly took up plenty of energy thinking about it. Now I could focus on other things instead, like pedalling harder!
So, coming up for 6 months with the new footbeds I am happy to report that I don’t suffer from any foot pain however long I’m in the saddle, and my knees feel relaxed and supple on the bike. Getting the right shoe fit has opened my eyes for sure and now there’s no turning back.
Verdict: A cost effective solution to pedalling and alignment problems that could only be beaten by a custom shoefit session that would cost way more than the £24.99 of the Specialized footbed kit. If you want to ride faster on your bike, here’s a simple and effective way of getting some extra power out of your legs without having to put in any extra miles!