Nothing kills the momentum of your cycling workout like sore feet. The soreness caused by cycling shoes can be debilitating on long rides, and can remain painful long after you've stopped riding. Soreness could be generated from an incorrectly sized shoe, blistering from rub in the forefoot or heel, or the closure system. Once you diagnose the source for your particular soreness, you can correct for it with the right pair of socks or a new set of cycling shoes and return to your ride pain-free.
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Shoe Size Matters
Cycling cleats are designed to improve your efficiency during your pedal stroke by securing your feet directly to the bike pedals. This means that your feet may be pulling up on the pedals from time to time, so a secure fit is especially important for reducing any rub from lateral motion. Make sure you try on several pairs of cycling cleats above and below your normal shoe size to determine the best fit in a given shoe, and bring the socks you intend to cycle with. Ideally, the best cycling shoes for your feet will allow you to loosen the shoe using the straps; your feet can swell slightly during intense rides.
Put A Sock In It
Your cycling socks can correct a lot of discomfort and soreness by providing a cushion between your foot and the cleat. Many cycling socks come with a cushion woven into the forefoot, since the power you use while pedaling is concentrated just above the cleat. Cycling socks made from a synthetic material or merino wool also work to wick away perspiration from your skin, which prevents maceration and reduces your chance of developing a painful blister.
Strapped In and Ready to Ride
The closure system on your cleat is a key consideration when choosing a shoe that prevents soreness. Since cycling shoes have to fit as close as possible to increase your efficiency, a closure system that uses laces or velcro straps can be easily adjusted for the shape of your particular foot. Look for a cycling shoe that has adjustment near the toe of the shoe as well as the forefoot for the most precise fit.
Ratcheting Up Your Comfort
The ratcheted mechanical closure system found on most cycling shoes is a great tool for keeping soreness at bay during a ride. Since the clasp on these closure systems is easily adjustable, advanced cyclists can make the shoe looser or tighter during your ride with a bit of practice. This allows you to adjust the tightness of the shoe as you ride, keeping you comfortable on longer rides where your feet might need a break every now and again.