We all know that pain and discomfort is a major part of competitive cycling — elevated heart rates, labored breathing, the burn of lactic acid in your legs — these are all part of the game. However, there’s no reason for your choice of footwear to be the primary cause of pain while riding. Unfortunately, when it’s come to cycling shoes, I’ve had some bad luck this past year. Maybe I just have oddly shaped feet, maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is, I’m armed with some firm opinions and I’m ready to share.
Specialized BG Expert Road Shoe: Can you say “Cat 5”? I can, and this was the shoe I used for my first road season. They are pretty much what you would expect from mid- to entry- level shoes. They use velcro straps, there’s no fancy micro-adjusting buckle system, and the soles are plastic with a carbon fiber bed where the cleat mounts. Needless to say, they were not especially stiff, but they got the job done.
Sidi Genius 5.5 Carbon: Picked these up in the off-season on the recommendation of several of my teammates. My first impression was fairly positive. The fit was snug yet comfortable, the teeth on the velcro straps preventing slipping, and the ratcheting mechanism was easy to adjust while riding. My almost immediate second impression was,“Holy crap, why does my knee hurt so much?!?” Only a few days after my first few rides on the Sidi’s I was left with debilitating medial knee pain, several appointments with a sports medicine physician, two-and-a-half months off the bike and three months of physical therapy. Bottom line is that some riders are OK without the 1.5mm varus wedging that is built into body geometry shoes; I am not one of them. The shoes went on eBay and I went looking for other options.
Specialized BG Pro Road Shoe: Decided to go back to Specialized brand shoes, since I was not about to risk injuring my knee again. You stay with what you know (or does not injure you), right? The sole is full carbon and the shoes are both light and stiff. One new feature I noticed was that Specialized put a hard plastic mount on the inner sides of each shoe. Using a screw, this allows the rider to adjust the position of the top strap. In theory this is a great idea. In practice, after about 10 miles of riding, the plastic starts to painfully crush into the navicular bone. I’ve tried adding some padding to the inside of the shoe, but once again, I am not altogether stoked on my shoe options.
So, I’m still left wondering what will work best for me. There’s always the option of upgrading (again) to the primo S-Works shoe, but that’s a decision I haven’t made yet. I’m sure some of my teammates can weigh in with their reviews on that particular piece of footwear, but in the meantime, you can call me “Mr. Sensitive Feet.”