For a lot of riders it can be tough to really enjoy mountain biking. I’ve met and talked to a lot of riders who love to get out on the trail but dread the pain that they know is going to result from it.
In fact, one statistic I’ve come across says that over 85% of all cyclists will suffer from some sort of over-use injury during their riding career. And for a lot of these riders the knees are their biggest problem area.
For years I’ve recognized the need for riders to change their foot position from the ball of the foot to a more mid-foot position in order to get better recruitment of the hips. Besides improving your power, this also takes some stress off the knees because it places more even forces through the knee joint.
Optimizing this mid-foot position was also the inspiration for the Catalyst Pedals. And while I’m hesitant to make a lot of claims in this area, one of the consistent pieces of feedback we get from riders using the Catalyst Pedals is how much it has helped their knee pain.
In fact, one customer was so impressed with his results that he told his doctor about the Catalyst Pedals and the idea behind them. The doctor, being an ex-cyclist, decided to check into the claims and the science behind the Catalyst Pedals.
After doing so he came away impressed and even wrote a blog post about why he feels the Catalyst Pedals are better for your knees. Here are some excerpts from that blog post:
“If you look at modern clip-in pedals, they have a key flaw.
They basically replicate running on your toes… This ends up overloading the anterior compartment (kneecap).
Consider how the forces get transmitted when you…place force through the center of your foot… instead of running on your toes and transferring the force to the front of your knee, the forces now get transferred up the leg and distributed to the front and back of the knee.
Biomechanically, it all makes sense to me…It’s one of those simple ideas that when you hear about it, you say to yourself, “Oh, that’s obvious”
Chris Centeno, M.D. – Specialist in the field of regenerative medicine and pioneer in stem cell research for orthopedic applications.
While I know that there are still going to be a lot of people who will argue their “flat earth theory” regarding the need to be on the ball of the foot when pedaling, as more people see the benefits and science of the mid-foot position it will be harder to deny the truth.
The mid-foot position is how the body is designed to optimally move and transmit forces evenly through the knee when pedaling your bike. This is a self-evident fact in the world of movement and fitness (why don’t you do squats or deadlifts on the balls of your feet if it is better?) but it will take a while for the cycling world to get past decades of mis-information and lies about the pedal stroke.
Hopefully with the help of more riders and doctors willing to do their own research we can start to save more riders from tearing up their knees for no reason at all. You can ride your bike and still have healthy knees, you just need a foot position and a pedal that takes care of your feet so they can take care of you.
Until next time…
MTB Strength Training Systems and Pedaling Innovations
p.s. I know that some people still hold out that you need to be on the ball of your foot for “agility” or something like that. However, they usually point to sports and activities where you are propelling your body through space.
The problem is that these sports have little in common with ours since we are being carried through space by our bikes. When you look at sports like this – including skate boarding, surfing and equestrian events – you see an almost exclusive use of the mid-foot position.
Being on the balls of your feet makes it harder to change levels, which is why athletes that ride on something want to have a mid-foot position so they can easily change levels and maneuver their body. I’ll write more on this soon but the take home message is that the mid-foot position is the best position for both performance and longevity.