August 14, 2010
Contact points on the bicycle (handlebars, saddle, and pedals) are areas that can often lead to discomfort when riding long distances, or stringing multiple days together. To some extent there is a natural break-in period, for both your equipment and your body, and only way to work through this period is to put in the time and miles. I have had good luck with saddles in the past, but for the feet, I have always found myself drifting towards a quicker fix, as hot spots while riding has been an issue for me over the years.
There are a lot of generic athletic insoles available, but if you are experiencing enough discomfort with your current insoles, it's a good idea to skip the guess work, and look into a custom insole. I have had good luck with the Superfeet Custom inserts, specifically the Custom Black model that is designed to work well with tight fitting athletic shoes. They are heated, and then vacuum sealed to your foot by authorized custom Superfeet dealers. At $80, these are pretty good for the price, and hold up well against odor, and abuse. For a higher level of custom detail and durability, I have had my best luck with a quick visit to my local physical therapist for a medical grade custom insole. This ran me $140, but has stood up to tens of thousands of miles over the past five years.
The growing popularity of full custom shoe manufacturers like D2 and Rocket7 forced the bigger names in cycling footwear to up their game in the custom arena. Bont, Lake, and Shimano are a few of these shoe manufactures that have semi-custom shoes available, which are purchased in stock sizes, and then heat molded to your foot for a glove-like fit. These can be pretty pricey, rising above $250.
How far you're willing to go to address your foot problems depends heavily on the severity of your issue. I will always suggest insoles over a custom shoe, as they can be transferred from one shoe to another, giving you more flexibility, and more spending money.
Photo by Josh Tack.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.