My original blog was Hoses of the Holy (ca. 2003), which ended up being abandoned in the dark days of 2007. I started this one in 2011. Scroll down for the archives!

Through the Arched Window (boring cycling post)

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I have written a great deal over the years about my various aches and pains on the bike, and my ongoing search for shoe nirvana. Short version: My right foot has some arch issue (fallen, or just too high?) and is painful when both walking and cycling. In terms of cycling, I get a numb, burning sensation that grows steadily worse until, about an hour into a ride, I need to get off the bike and take my foot out of my shoe. This happens when walking, too. Over the years, I’ve tried multiple shoe/insert/pedal combinations, and I’ve occasionally even thought I’d cracked the problem, only for it to recur later on.

The best cycling shoes I’ve found are Shimano SH-CT80 which I don’t think are available any more, which is a shame because I’d buy them again. I got them in a size 44 which might be why they’ve been better for my over-high arches. They’re not proper road racing shoes, but in this case comfort trumps correct kit. Anyway, I prefer to ride my bike(s) these days wearing clothing that at least looks like everyday wear. I don’t mind a padded undershort or technical materials, but I like it to look as much like I’m wearing regular clothes as possible.

But in these shoes I’ve tried a variety of insoles and footbeds, none of which have been entirely satisfactory. Having stood on a tiled floor with wet feet, I’ve established that my arches are either “high” or “very high” — and that one of my problems might be that my footbeds are actually too cushioned. That what I probably need is a footbed that’s as thin as possible, to give my feet more wiggle room.

So no more gel insoles or extra cushioning. For this season, I’m introducing the Sole Active Thin, which is an eye-watering £38. But it is specifically designed for “tight fitting” sports shoes (and, frankly, all shoes are “tight fitting” on my deformed feet). It’s also heat-mouldable, so you can speed up the process of it shaping itself around your foot by putting them in the oven for three minutes and then standing in the target shoe for a while. This is all very counterintuitive if you’ve spent years thinking that you needed more cushioning in your shoes. It also adds considerably to the price of a pair of sneakers or shoes. It’s not as if cycling shoes were cheap in the first place. £100 is more or less mid-priced. Sole also do sandals, if you like that kind of thing (I don’t).

But I’ve been out three times on my bike in 2021 and so far (🤞🏻) these Sole footbeds seem to be working quite well. Now, I’ve had false dawns before. But today I deliberately pushed myself to my usual upper limit (25 kilometres, at which point my right foot is usually on fire), and although I had some mild pain, it was nothing like as bad as usual. So impressed am I that I just ordered another pair for my Ecco walking shoes. I like to think that, during lockdown, I’ve kept the economy afloat singlehanded, or in this case single-footed.

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