Why you don’t want to push through the ball of your foot when pedaling.

A few months ago I wrote an article outlining why you don’t want to push through the ball of your foot when you pedal your bike. In it I explained how the foot functions two different ways depending on what kind of movement you are creating, and how pedaling a bike wasn’t like walking or running.

Looking at the pedal stroke from a movement based perspective instead of a mechanical/ engineering perspective, leads too two very different views of the pedal stroke, and how we want to train that pedal stroke both on and off the bike.

In other words, answering the question of how we pedal our bikes is central to how we will train to improve that pedal stroke. The logic sequence used to answer that question makes all the difference in the world.

Here is the funny thing though… that article actually started out as a video I shot that took on a life of its own. I had intended to write an intro for the video and by the time I was done, that intro became a standalone article that didn’t need the video at all.

And so I ran the article without the video. It was (mostly) well received and got all sorts of great feedback. It even ended up as a Must Read Post of the Week on Pinkbike maintaining the #2 spot most of that time.

But while the article did a great job of explaining why a more mid-foot position on the pedals is better, I know that some people are more visual learners and prefer videos. Moreover, I think the video does a great job of explaining the concept in ways an article can’t and so I wanted to post it as well.

So here is the video that actually came before the article explaining why pedaling your bike is not like running or walking, and how this in turn impacts the pedal stroke.

Like I mentioned earlier, how you pedal you bike is an important question to answer before you can truly understand how to improve your pedal stroke. If you are chasing the wrong model and trying to force an unnatural way of moving on the body it will lead to sub-par results and injuries.

But if you work with your body and apply its own natural strengths to the bike you can unleash your true potential and reduce wear and tear on the body as well. Apply the tips I shared in this video – and the article I wrote based on it – to your own training and riding and you’ll see what I mean.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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  1. Sherri says:

    Hi James,
    I need to rewatch and reread this information. I am 56 and have put flats on my Trance. I am having numbness and my toes fall asleep whether I wear flats or clipless. I’m thinking my 5/10s have too large of a platform/width for my foot and I can’t seem to find a comfortable place on the pedals still. It sure would be nice if mtb shoes came in women’s specific models.

    Thank you for all of your articles. I find them very helpful. Hope to get back on the kettlebell program this month.

    Reply • October 1 at 8:12 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I agree that flat pedal shoes in general need to be re-thought. I get the same thing happening and I do think it is because the shoes have to much room in the toe box. I’m not sure what 5.10’s you wear but their Freeriders and Spitfires aren’t as stiff in the upper and I find to be more comfortable than the Impacts.

      Reply • October 1 at 9:42 am
  2. Wacek says:

    After being flat pedal devotee for 3 years I am going back to riding clipped-in, only part-time though but still. I made some research for the latest trends in the game, which pedal system and shoes give a nice and good ride. It appears that CB Mallet-like, large platform clipless are THE benchmark with the hypest shoes being latest 5.10 IMpact VXii clipless – WHICH get a lot of attention among “proper MTBers” thanks to having the most rearward clip mounting position way behind the ball of the foot, as one would ride flat pedals. So that seems like kudos to what you are saying 😉

    There is one issue though I noticed immediately after switching to super floaty CBros pedals and softish 5.10 maltese falcons. I am having a problem James with your theory on overuse injuries due to using a shoe that ties your foot to the pedal. Along with clipless I bought fresh flat pedal 5.10s. There is no float when putting that sticky rubber to a good pedal. Your foot is stuck for good. Now I ride with pins barely sticking out, like 2-3mm. Guys like Sam Hill ride with freaking 5mm spikes!!! Seems less healthy than clipless system with lots of float.

    Reply • November 15 at 1:55 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      The problem is that your foot doesn’t need “float” when you walk on the ground or do squats or deadlifts. There is no instance in real life that you want lateral float instead of a firm surface – that is like being on ice. You get a little movement from your shoes and there is some movement on the pedals, which is what it is like when you move on solid ground. Float was invented by the bike industry and sold to us as necessary when it is a very unnatural thing and not how your foot wants to move. Lots of float is actually less healthy for your knees since your foot never gets a truly solid platform like it gets in every other aspect of movement.

      Reply • November 17 at 8:49 am

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