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Pedal Science Blog: How to solve HOT FOOT when cycling and running

Many people competing in long distance cycling or triathlons report a burning feeling in the ball of the foot after a certain length of time. The pain is usually only reduced by unclipping, unweighting the foot and wiggling the toes. The result of 'hot foot' is increasing discomfort and the inability to maintain a consistent power output. This pain can often be extremely painful for cyclists, but for Ironman competitors, it's often when they finish the cycle ride and start to run that the pain becomes most severe. Often the pain in the ball of the foot can be so bad, they have to stop and unfasten their shoes.

The reason for this is pressure under the ball of the foot resulting in irritation to the soft tissues within the foot. There can be irritation of the nerves which run under the 'metatarsal' joints. The problem often only manifests during events which makes it difficult to address in training. There are two ways to alleviate this problem:

  • Cleat position:

If the centre of pressure is directly under the ball of the foot it will most likely exacerbate the problem. Most people are more efficient if the cleats are positioned approximately 1cm behind the metatarsophalangeal joint. This is the widest point on the medial side of the foot where bunions can develop. Cleats for time trial and triathlon are therefore better positioned further back which reduces stress on the calf muscles and also removes the pressure from under the ball of the foot as the shoe plate takes the stress.

  • Correct fitting shoes

If your cycling shoes don't fit you and in particular are too narrow, they can cause excessive stress under the ball of the foot and 'pinch' the widest point.

  • Shoe inserts

Using insoles can help a great deal as they prevent the foot from 'collapsing' and therefore reduce the amount of pressure on the underside of the 'metatarsal' joints. In particular using a 'matatarsal' pad/support, which is under the ball of the foot.


Hot spots can be debilitating and for Ironman competitors, can cause significant pain on the marathon course. A simple cleat adjustment and fitting inserts can resolve this issue. If you'd like to book a bikefit, we can discuss this issue and our qualified podiatrists can help to resolve the problem. Email

Nick Thomas is the resident bike fitter at The Endurance Coach. He is a fully qualified bike fitter and expert in lower limb mechanics, holding a BSc (Hons) in podiatry. You can contact him using the email address: or see more about his fitting services by GOING HERE.

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