Leg Pain After Switch to Clipless Pedals



tvaughn

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Dec 1, 2005
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I bought my first road bike a few months ago and put a little over 1000 miles on it with running shoes and regular ol' BMX style pedals. I finally got some Speedplays and after 4 rides of about 25 miles each, I wish I had my old pedals back. During the ride, my left leg feels on fire and when I wake then next morning I wish I could cut it off. When I am actually riding, it feels like my right leg is doing all the work and I feel like my left foot needs to be further back on the pedal. The only way I can explain it would be to imagine a sprinter (track and field) on the starting blocks (how they start with one foot in front of the other). I know this is not a good analogy, but I think I would be more comfortable if the ball of my right foot was lined up over the pedal (how it is currently) and the toes of my left foot were lined up over the left pedal.
Has anyone experienced pain like this after switching to clipless?
Is this something I can adjust mechanically, or do I have a problem with my pedalling technique that I need to fix?
Thanks for any advice.
 

Fox Farm

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Jun 25, 2005
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tvaughn said:
I bought my first road bike a few months ago and put a little over 1000 miles on it with running shoes and regular ol' BMX style pedals. I finally got some Speedplays and after 4 rides of about 25 miles each, I wish I had my old pedals back. During the ride, my left leg feels on fire and when I wake then next morning I wish I could cut it off. When I am actually riding, it feels like my right leg is doing all the work and I feel like my left foot needs to be further back on the pedal. The only way I can explain it would be to imagine a sprinter (track and field) on the starting blocks (how they start with one foot in front of the other). I know this is not a good analogy, but I think I would be more comfortable if the ball of my right foot was lined up over the pedal (how it is currently) and the toes of my left foot were lined up over the left pedal.
Has anyone experienced pain like this after switching to clipless?
Is this something I can adjust mechanically, or do I have a problem with my pedalling technique that I need to fix?
Thanks for any advice.
I am not entirely sure what your problem is. The cleat should be positioned pretty much under the ball of your foot. I suggest that you go to the best bike shop in your area and have some one set you up with correct positioning on the bike, pedals, etc. You said that your leg feels like it's on fire? Where, your knee, calf, etc. Also, try contact Speedplay and explace what you are experiencing and ask for help.
 

wrbush31

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Feb 23, 2006
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Though a major advantage of clipless is the fact you can pull up and just push down on the pedal, I have heard you are not supposed to pull up too hard. I have heard that it drains the legs really bad and puts unnecessary strain on the muscles. Now, I am sure this depends on the rider, some prefer the extra pull, others might now. I personally just pedal and do whatever it is that I do. So this new advantage of clipless pedals could be PART of the cause of your pain. You are utilizing muscles at different points than you were before. So keep that in mind...and definitely go get your cleats properly positioned, that makes a huge difference in efficiency.

-Bill
 

artmichalek

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Sep 15, 2004
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tvaughn said:
Is this something I can adjust mechanically, or do I have a problem with my pedalling technique that I need to fix?
Thanks for any advice.
It's certainly a mechanical problem. Did you change your saddle height when you switched pedals? The distance from your foot to the center of the pedal spindle will be different with each of the two setups and when you switched it probably changed your effective saddle height. Your right foot vs. left foot problem sounds like a leg length discrepancy. Switching to clipless pedals can make something like that much more noticeable because of the rigid constraints. If you think that might be the case a professional fitting is probably in order. The problem can usually be fixed by putting shims underneath one of your cleats.
 

Insight Driver

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Jun 26, 2003
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I do not know the difference in stack height, but a change in pedal can change the effective seat height. It may be the speedplays are lower than the platform pedals you were using. Your legs are used to the position you had. You changed pedals and shoes, changing your foot position. Now you are suffering. What you need to do is determine if you need to move your seat down slightly, the couple of centimeters or so that could make a world of difference. There is also a possible problem with leg length difference, requiring a different cleat position on each shoe to compensate.

There is another issue. It can be your pedaling with the clipless is causing your knee to rotate improperly (with side to side motion). Do go to a good bike shop that will check your fit position and analyze your pedaling based on your leg pain issue.
 

rickt

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Aug 10, 2003
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One other issue that is almost always overlooked is the alignment of the foot relative to the axis of the pedal. More often than not, people align the foot to be nicely square to the axis of the pedal. This is NOT the ideal position for every person. Many of us have slight imperfections in our joints which cause the foot/feet to turn in or out depending on the individual. Even with the lateral movement capabilities of the new pedal systems you can still have problems. As a coach, and consultant to physiotherapists on cycling related injuries, I have always set up the cleats so that the middle point of the lateral movement of the cleat places the foot at an angle as close as possible to the angle at which the foot falls naturally while walking. By using this method I have had NO complaints about position related issues. The most common position is with the toes pointing out. If this is excessive you may even need to get extended pedal axles in order for the ankle to clear the crank arm (absolutely the worst case scenario). If this rotational aspect isn't correct it can cause aggrevation to the nerves that cause the sensations you have described. I must also point out that the vast majority LBS's, that I have dealt with, have been seen to disregard the individuals rotational issues and align everyone the same way, possibly because of a lack of specific biomechanical knowledge or maybe because its easier. Which ever it is, it's not the correct method.
 

dhk

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Sep 1, 2003
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tvaughn said:
Thanks for the help, I will take your advice and get fitted at the LBS.
Also remember you didn't switch to a "standard" clipless pedal, but one with free floating. When I changed to Speedplays after riding Looks for many years, it felt like "pedaling on icecubes" for the first few rides. With the free-float (no spring-loaded centering), believe lower leg muscles have to learn to stablize the foot.

The speedplay zeros work fine for me, but have read that some people can't adjust to the free-float, and actually have more knee problems as a result.
 

cydewaze

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Jun 17, 2004
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I had a similar issue last season, and I solved it with a couple of LeWedges on the offending shoe. Tomorrow I have an app't to get a professional cleat fitting, so we'll see how well I guessed.