Question: My Achilles tendon gets aggravated, apparently by my pedaling style. If I pedal with my heel just slightly lower than normal on the power part of the stroke, it doesn’t hurt. Can you suggest how to keep my heel at this “ideal” pain-free level? — Jim L.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: I suppose you could use a custom ankle brace or a really tight tape job! But locking your ankle like that and altering your pedal stroke might produce injuries somewhere else, even if it does relieve your Achilles pain.
We naturally hold our feet in a certain position while pedaling based on various physiological factors. There’s no “correct” foot angle. Jacques Anquetil, a five-time Tour de France winner, pedaled with a pronounced toes-down position. Eddy Merckx, another Tour five-peater, had a flat-foot style. Both worked quite well.
Most riders who try to emulate an Anquetil or Merckx, instead of pedaling in the style that’s normal for them, will probably not ride as well and might get injured, too. Manipulations to pedaling style generally create an inefficient stroke.
Be certain your saddle height is correct and that your cleats are properly placed. And it may well help to begin a stretching program that creates more ankle flexibility.
One effective Achilles stretch is to stand about two feet from a wall and lean into it while keeping your heel on the ground. Hold for 20-30 seconds, doing one leg and then the other. As your tendons loosen, stand back a bit farther to increase the stretch. Do this short routine before and after every ride.