The feet are one of the three contact points that take all your weight on the bike. What’s more, much of the energy to propel it forward goes through the feet. So your feet are a critical area.
Keeping your feet comfortable on a long distance bike ride isn’t a nice to have it’s an essential.
Specialized Comp MTB shoes
I find one of the main problems with my feet is the temperature of them. Usually this equates to being too cold. In the winter, due to poor circulation the toes tend to get cold and so uncomfortable. Big socks and specialist winter footwear can help a lot.
In the summer, it’s usual to wear cooler socks and shoes with vents. This is to prevent overheating. I’ve got a load of coolmax socks for summer use. Overheating isn’t quite as bad as cold feet but it is definitely something I’ve had happen in the past. But as I will often ride in the early hours of the morning, even in the summer it can be cold.
One effective way to control foot temperature during cool periods in summer rides is to use some overshoes. Put them on when riding at a cold time of night and take them off as the day warms up.
Despite my best efforts at controlling toe temperature I still get stiff and uncomfortable toes. I suppose this is partly due to the lack of movement in them during normal riding. So I make a conscious effort to wriggle them inside the shoes. This seems to help also.
Sorbothane inner soles
As the feet are a “contact point” they are taking some of the buzz and shock from the road. Normally this isn’t a problem but on very long rides it can be. So for last PBP I got some Sorbothane Double Strike Insoles They are a kind of shock absorbing inner sole and do seem to help. I have them in my summer shoes, the rubberiness isn’t an extra heat problem.
As well as comfort the other issue with feet is power transmission. Riders who are more interested in racing see this as the major thing to optimise.
One thing me and the fast boys can agree on is rigid soles. Fast riders favour rigid soles as more of the energy is converted into power through the cranks and less into flexing the sole. Like a firm saddle a completely rigid sole on the cycling shoe also seems to to be more comfortable in the long run.
Many cycling shoes aimed at “tourist” cyclists that would otherwise be suitable for long distance cycling have a more flexible sole. This is so that the shoe can be used for walking as well as cycling. For long distance riding I favour MTB shoes that are intended for racing. These tend to have extremely rigid soles.
The other power transmission factor worth mentioning is where I disagree with the faster riders. The cleat position I favour is as far back as possible, near the ball of the foot. It is possible to generate more power with a further forward cleat position. But this puts strain in the arch of the foot and on the long ride this can cause problems.
I also deviate from the racing road cyclist in preferring MTB spd pedal systems. Most of my bikes have Shimano PD-M540 SPD MTB Pedals This is because if you have to walk the MTB cleats are recessed and do not wear with walking on them
Finally, one last thing to mention is trimming the toenails. This gives just a little more wriggle room. Over long toenails can cause bruising against the inside of a rigid shoe toecap. So keep them as short as possible.