Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
Today, I’m answering a letter from “Mike,” who’s looking for new shoes and inquiring about cleat placement on them. If you’ve had the same or a similar experience, I’m sure Mike will appreciate reading your tips and advice in Comments.
“Hi Jim, Thanks for the article on cleat placement. I would appreciate it if you can answer a question. [Editor’s note: I believe Mike is referring to this article: Bicycle Cycling Shoe Cleat Positioning Alignment and Adjustment by Jim Langley]
For comfort I ride a full suspension mountain bike as my road bike. It’s a Canyon Lux 29er Lux | Full Suspension XC Bike | CANYON US. My 10-year old Garneau MTB shoes have given out. My LBS had few options in my size (48) so I ordered 5 pairs to try from Competitive Cyclist.
The shoes that I like the best are Giro Sectors, except that the slots are positioned too far behind the ball of my foot. In their farthest forward position they still feel like they are 1/2 inch behind where I would like them to be.
The 4 other shoes I ordered (from Garneau, Pearl Izumi, Fizik, and another Giro model) are not as comfortable as the Sectors, but have the slots positioned further forward so the cleat can be under the ball of my foot.
So my questions:
• Is there some trend to move pedal position further back behind the ball of the foot?
• Are you aware of a way to extend the slot without damaging the integrity of the shoe?
• Got any other advice or insights?
You’re welcome, Mike. Nice to e-meet you.
I don’t know if I’d call it a trend, but pushing the cleats further back than “normal” is something that has been shown to help some riders eliminate “hot foot,” that awful burning sensation you can get under some circumstances. Pushing the cleats back does this by getting more of the foot over the pedal for added support.
Please see this article by RoadBikeRider co-founder, coach and author, Fred Matheny. He explains the problem more and gives some solutions to try: https://www.roadbikerider.com/how-to-deal-with-hot-foot-tips/.
As far as I recall, the trend to move cleats rearward started with the riders who did the Race Across America. One of the top guys, Lon Haldeman experimented with it and I believe it’s where Dr Andy Pruitt at the Boulder School of Sport Medicine learned about it.
Dr Pruitt went on to design shoes for Specialized under the Body Geometry brand and used some of what he learned in those shoes.
I would say that people should start with a standard neutral position and if that doesn’t work, then they should start trying the cleat positioned further back.
Expert Fitter Paul Swift Weighs In
One of the great things about the tech articles we’ve published over the years is that comments can come in any time. In looking back at one of these stories, I found that Paul Swift of BikeFit Education commented recently recommending I watch his history of cleat placement video.
I did and it’s very good. He explains more fully and expertly how cleat placement has changed over the years.The video is on his Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1103401383201663. I don’t know of any other way to view it except on Facebook. I apologize if you’re not a user. Perhaps Paul will see this and provide another way to view it.
I have not modified any modern cycling shoes to move the cleats further than the shoe was originally made for. But, back when clipless pedals arrived on the scene (1983) I did add adjustable clipless cleats to lots of shoes – sometimes significant surgery was required (90% of cleats were nailed on back then).
From that experience, I would say it all depends on the design of the shoe on what you find inside and what it’ll take to get more room to move the cleats. I took a couple of photos to show 1) that many SPD cleat holes in shoes have 2 positions you can use to move cleats front to back and find what’s best; and 2) it’s relatively easy to access the bottom and top of the sole.
If you’re lucky, you could remove the innersole inside the shoe that usually just pulls out like the one shown, which is on a Giro shoe. Then you might be able to access the plate that the cleat screws into (on my Giro shoe, I would need to cut the innersole carefully to get at the plate).
But, if you can see it/get at it without damaging your shoe, you might be able to modify the sole of the shoe so that the plate moves up enough for you. You would use something like a Dremel tool with a grinding bit. Or a small rat tail file. (You don’t know what’s in the sole, so wear a mask to protect your lungs from any toxic dust.)
If you were holding the Sector shoes – like at the store – you could probably pull out the insole and take a look and not harm the shoe at all. For the mod to work the plates need to be movable. If they’re stuck inside a cutout in the insole, it’s probably going to be impossible to move the plates.
Overall, it’ll likely be easier to buy shoes that allow positioning the cleats where you want them. But if you want to try modifying the Sectors, I hope these ideas are helpful. And, watch the Comments for readers’ ideas.
Ride total: 9,955
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. A pro mechanic & cycling writer for more than 40 years, he’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Tune in to Jim’s popular YouTube channel for wheel building & bike repair how-to’s. Jim’s also known for his cycling streak that ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.