Question: My expensive cycling shoes are killing my feet! When I ride more than three hours, my left big toe takes such a beating that it bleeds. I have tried loosening the straps and wearing thinner socks but nothing helps. My feet are wide at the toes, American size 11, D or E. Can I fix these shoes? — Carl K.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Assuming the uppers are synthetic, you won’t have any luck stretching them. This wouldn’t be true for leather shoes, which can be upsized by use of a shoe tree or techniques good cobblers know.
You can, however, modify synthetic uppers to provide more toe room. One fix is to cut a hole in the toe so your big one has more space. This isn’t a very cosmetic fix but it has worked many times for ultra-distance cyclists who suffer from swelling feet on long rides.
Also, see if your shoes have plastic or other synthetic material over the spot where your toe is irritated. Maybe you can carefully remove only this section, leaving the nylonmesh beneath. Mesh can deform, making the shoe more comfortable while not leaving your toe hanging out in the breeze.
My feet are your size. I’ve had good luck with the Specialized Body Geometry road shoe. It has a relatively wide and tall toe box. If new shoes are the only answer, go to a Specialized dealer and try on a pair. Remember, these and other shoes with a synthetic upper will not stretch.
Size them while wearing your cycling socks to make sure they’re large enough, taking into account that feet swell on long rides.