Joey's Gear Recommendations & Reviews
Proper Shoe Fit and Sock Material Study Results
If you have shoes on your feet right now, chances are good they do not fit you properly according to fifteen years of research conducted by myself and a crew of trained professional footwear fit experts. If you are female, the odds are even at fifty-fifty. If you are male there is a ninety-five percent chance you have been wearing incorrect fitting shoes most of your adult life. If you put on a new pair of shoes and push down on the toe box with your fingers to determine toe position for sizing, you are most definitely wearing improperly fitting footwear and will likely cause damage to your feet.
The information contained in this article will probably change your life. There is the risk that reading and understanding the information presented here will cause you to discard your entire footwear collection and start from scratch. In the end, that is a good thing.
Poorly fitting footwear and the wearing of cheap socks (or no socks at all) promotes a large number of painful, sometimes chronic foot conditions. Many of the conditions are reversible, some are not. The list includes: ingrown toenails, black toenails, hammer toe, fallen arches, sore arches, bunions, blisters, corns, athlete's foot fungus, toenail fungus, bacterial infections, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendentious, stress fractures, heel pain, fore-foot pain, knee pain, hip pain, back pain, neck pain, and headaches, just to name a few. If you have been suffering with foot pain, or hope to prevent foot and general pain caused by improper foot care, the information in this report could help you. All of the information is here and complete. This is not a "hook" or a trick to bait you into buying my book. Read the entire report free of charge, then take it or leave it.
Bunions may be caused by high heel shoes and shoes that are too short in length. Corns result from pressure between skin and the inside of shoes or boots, often in shoes worn without socks. Black toenails can be bruises caused by shoes that are slightly or grossly too small, or can indicate a nail fungus often caused by wearing cotton socks, or no socks inside of footwear.
Just cruise down the foot care isle in any drug store and discover the vast array of hopeful remedies for foot ailments. Wouldn't it be easier to just wear sensible shoes that actually fit properly and socks that do not encourage microbial growth? Expensive, temporary relief may come from a bottle or tube, but the cure for many foot ailments is to halt the damage at the source.
Legal Disclaimer: The information presented below is in no way a logical substitute for obtaining a medical opinion regarding a medical condition. If you currently have broken bones, torn tendons, raging fungal infections, infected ingrown toenails, etc., proper fitting shoes and socks will not cure you. You need to visit the appropriate type of M.D. for proper diagnosis and treatment. Even if I were a doctor, I cannot SEE you through the device you are reading from right now. You should be SEEN by a medical professional for any medical condition. Improperly fitted footwear is not a medical condition but certainly may lead to medical issues if ignored.
NOTE: This report does not focus solely on hikers and runners. If you wear shoes for any purpose that involves standing up, you will likely benefit from continued reading here.
About Me: I am Joseph Donnelly, the owner and author of JoeyBike.com and several other online publications. From 1989 until 2005 I managed a high-end specialty retail store in New Orleans, Louisiana. My complete resume is online HERE. A large part of that store's customer base relied on our ability to properly outfit them with hiking boots, trail running shoes, mountaineering boots, technical walking shoes, and cycling shoes. The store had a widespread good reputation and attracted customers from many neighboring states. I worked hands-on in the footwear department and was responsible for training new employees in the art of proper shoe fit on their way to becoming skilled fit technicians. For fifteen years we kept track of how many customers entered our store wearing incorrectly fitting shoes. The results were dramatic and eye-opening. Half of the women and most of the men had no idea what size feet they had, always guessing much too small. Women often wear small shoes because they do not want their feet to look big. Most men just don't know their shoe size. Wearing casual shoes a bit too small is bad enough and over time causes problems. Wearing hiking boots on rugged terrain while carrying a fifty pound backpack in shoes too small is an instant disaster as is pounding down a paved road in running shoes of improper fit. Our researchers would not have to wait thirty years for a test subject to damage their feet with improper footwear. Our test subjects would wreck their feet in less than two weeks if we did not get the fit correct.
Study Statistics: During the duration of the study we fit and tracked 14,500 pairs of shoes, most of which were used under extreme and strenuous conditions. The rate of dissatisfaction with our fit service was well under one percent. This is why people from all over the Gulf South made the pilgrimage to our shoe department, often just to get assessed for shoes they would purchase elsewhere or for shoe related foot problems no one else could solve.
Study Results: Female customers were far more likely to know their shoe size before visiting us. I believe this occurs because female customers in general buy more shoes than men and generally get full service when they shop for shoes as opposed to men who ninety-five percent of the time believe they already know their foot or shoe size and would not ask for help with sizing. This might explain why most men did not know their foot or shoe size. Out of 14,500 encounters, less than half a percent of males and females guessed their size too large. Therefore, almost every male and half of the females had been wearing shoes too small up to three whole sizes. Related foot maladies were common and very often were solved when the customer began wearing shoes of proper fit. Customer feedback, both positive and negative were noted with the assumption that a dissatisfied customer would return expensive boots or shoes for refund. At the time of return our researchers always asked the customer about fit issues. Less than ten percent of the small number of returns were fit related.
Study Conclusions: Due to a large amount of feedback received during footwear break-in periods and after test subject's trips and events we felt confident in drawing some conclusions. A large number of subject's informed us that after wearing properly sized footwear for many days or weeks, the shoes in their closets were obviously too small upon later attempts to wear them. The combination of properly fitted shoes or boots along with socks of appropriate materials and thickness to match the subject's foot type improved the comfort and health of almost every subject's feet. A significant number of subjects also found releif from mysterious knee, back, and neck pains - the causes of which may have gone unsolved for many years by medial professionals who did not make the connection between poorly fitting footwear and the subject's pain elsewhere.
Sock Materials and Construction as a Function of Foot Health
The importance of sock materials and construction as it relates to shoe fit and foot health cannot be overstated. Since the sock makes actual contact with the skin of the foot it is a critical component of foot health, comfort, and disease prevention. Socks provide physical protection from construction seams along inside surfaces of shoes or boots and padding for tender regions of the upper foot as well as the tougher sole of the foot. Socks may easily be washed to remove bacteria and fungi. Many types of sock materials do not encourage organism growth in the first place. Cotton, although very common and inexpensive, is not a material that should be used for socks, underwear briefs, boxers, or ladies panties. (See the underwear section for details regarding the health issues of wearing cotton underwear and learn about the alternatives).
Cotton socks are inexpensive and they make great rags for cleaning bicycle chains. Those two facts are the only positive attributes related to cotton as a sock material. Otherwise, the properties of cotton used to make any type of hosiery is pathetic. Cotton socks enclosed in a heavy boot multiplies every disadvantage of cotton fiber. First, cotton holds moisture like a sponge. What are bath towels made of? Cotton. Why? Because cotton is a very absorbent material. It sucks up moisture and holds it in the fabric. You don't generally wear a bath towel. You dry off with it, then hang it to dry away from you or put it into a gas heated clothes dryer to force the water from the fibers. Cotton socks are jammed against the skin inside of footwear. Perspiration rapidly dampens the cotton and stays right there against the skin. The inside of a boot with your foot in it will be dark and warm. Add a little moisture for a short period in contact with skin and the skin softens and wrinkles. Blisters are the result along with wildly blooming bacteria and fungi. The damp, weakened, wrinkly skin provides the perfect medium for culturing microorganisms. Cotton socks contribute greatly to athlete's foot fungus infections, toenail fungus attacks, stinky feet, and reduced shoe life. I will step out on a limb and claim that if no one wore cotton socks or cotton underwear, Desenex®, Cruex®, and products like them would risk becoming extinct. Cotton is not a material you want to enclose while in contact with your tender skin surfaces. Finally, cotton has zero insulating properties when damp. If worn during cold months, cotton socks will insure your feet will fell like blocks of ice even inside of insulated footwear. So remember the ABC rule for cotton socks and underwear: Anything But Cotton.
Without getting too deep into the sock discussion just now (see the Socks page) I will just touch on the topic as it pertains to fitting shoes to your feet. First, any shoe designed for walking, running, backpacking, skating, or cycling requires a sock of some kind. Real shoes are engineered with socks in mind. Ornaments like ladies high heels, flats, slip-ons and sandals do not require socks because they are not real shoes. They are engineered for one lap around the mall, a walk from the condo to the beach, or role playing and Halloween costumes. If you cannot walk comfortably all day in the footwear, it is just a foot ornament, may not require a sock, and will not be discussed here any further. The term "shoe" or "boot" from this point forward excludes any footwear that cannot be used for utilitarian walking at least.
Materials used in the construction of quality socks include wool, nylon, silk, and acrylic. Silk and acrylic socks are generally sold for use with dress shoes. Silk makes a nice, cool summer sock and acrylic can be woven into thicker socks when more padding is desired or cold weather is expected. Dress socks made of wool are available in every possible thickness and enough color options to match any wardrobe. Thin wool socks are cool, thick ones are warm. Good quality wool socks do not itch and can be tossed into a washing machine and an electric or gas clothes dryer on low heat. This is all you need to know about men's dress socks. Remember...no cotton!
For all other uses outside of dress clothes, nylon and wool are ideal fabrics for constructing socks that last almost forever, wick moisture away from your skin and out from your shoe or boot, keep your feet cool in the summer and warm in the winter, resist microbial growth, offer very quick drying qualities, blister prevention, and fantastic padding inside any type of footwear. Nylon material is generally restricted to warm weather socks as it is difficult to create thickness, loft, and padding with nylon. Wool's potential runs the entire spectrum of temperature from Mojave heat to Everest cold. Modern wool sock manufacturers use what is termed "descaled worsted wool". You can look that up with Wikipedia if you are curious about manufacturing processes. All you need to know here is descaled worsted wool can be softer than cotton, woven together with nylon or wicking polyester to improve moisture transport, outlasts fifty pairs of cotton socks, may be woven as thin as silk or thicker than an insulated boot. As a bonus, wool and nylon both dry really fast which saves electricity. A wool or nylon sock will actually dry on your foot. You could pull a wool sock out of a river, squeeze out the excess water, put it on a foot, and watch it dry even inside a boot. Wool even insulates while wet and retains all padding properties. Nylon will not hold water in the first place. Pull a nylon sock from a river and squeeze the excess water from it....wait a minute....there is no excess water because it all stayed in the river. Put the sock on your foot and off you go.
OK...wool and nylon socks are fairly expensive. It is not too hard to spend $10US on a single pair of nylon cycling socks or $20US on a medium-weight pair of SmartWool® trekking or hiking socks. You pay up front, but by the time you need new ones you won't be able to remember when you bought the last pair. I have wool socks I wear regularly that are ten years old. Nylon socks could last twenty years. Then you save money drying them too. You save money on fungus medicine, and you can keep the house a little cooler in the winter by wearing your wool socks which saves you more money. Quality wool socks are the first big step to drastically improving your life. Match up some good socks with your unique foot shape and proper fitting shoes and the podiatrist is probably out of the picture for good too.
One more strike against wool and nylon are the political ramifications of sheep herding and oil drilling. I will not make judgments here regarding those things. Of the materials available on this planet, wool and nylon are the best for making feet happy inside of shoes. If your sensibilities prevent you from purchasing such fabrics I applaud your ideals, but I have no answers for you. Cotton is still a terrible material to make socks from and farmers are not exempt from reeking environmental havoc. If you can afford organic cotton socks, go for it. Be sure to pick up some anti-fungal foot powder at the same time. There is no such thing as microbial politics.
If you read and understand the paragraphs above, you should have enough information to proceed to the next section. You are likely very skeptical about a few conclusions drawn by our study. The following text and graphics will detail exactly how to properly fit yourself, or anyone, in a nice pair of walking, running, or hiking shoes and will serve to prove the statements above.
The Science of Proper Footwear Fit
Here I will run you through a fit session. This is Technician Training 101 as best as I can duplicate it in text and graphics. I picked the Grand Canyon hike as an example because this scenario - day-hiking in rugged terrain - was by far the most common adventure among our customers and test subjects, although many embarked on very long and strenuous hikes and climbs as well.
A customer enters our store and tells us they need some hiking shoes. A technician escorts them to our footwear department and asks a short series of questions.
Technician: What type of (hiking, running, cycling) will you be doing?
Customer: I am hiking the Grand Canyon (for example).
Technician: Cool! Are you carrying a backpack with camping supplies?
Customer: No, we are carrying light daypacks and staying at the lodge at the bottom of the canyon, then we plan to do some day-hiking for a few days after that.
Technician: Sounds like fun! Do you have any trips planned for the future where you might carry a heavier backpack?
Customer: Oh no...I am not big on camping.
Step 1 is complete. I have qualified the customer enough to narrow down the choices. Sneakers are out of the question. Trail-running shoes have not been ruled out. For this customer, I will start with a lightweight day hiking boot with a 3/4 high ankle cuff. Just playing the odds and picking footwear that will certainly work. If the customer wants to go lighter, fine. The fit procedure is the same for any shoe or boot suitable for day-hikes. I do not point to any boots just yet. Various models of boots fit a foot quite differently, and with my experience I know which ones fit various types of feet. I need to determine the customer's foot size and shoe size before I can recommend any shoe. No point wasting time showing a customer with extra-wide feet the narrow boot models.
Technician: What size shoe do you normally wear?
Customer: I need a 9 Wide.
Technician: Hiking boots usually fit differently than street shoes. Could I get you to kick off one of your shoes please? If one of your feet is larger than the other, let's see that one first.
Customer: Do you have a 9 Wide? I would like to try one on for size.
Technician: We do have 9 Wide boots. Putting one on your foot will be our next step. For now, let's learn some other things about your feet. Let me get a measurement first. I want to see what your feet have to tell me.
My last statement was a diversion. I am looking at this fellow. He is about five feet - ten inches tall and very trim. No way on earth was he a 9 Wide. But no matter because as our study showed us, 95 percent of men during the fifteen year test period had no idea what size shoe they should be wearing. So EVERYBODY gets their feet measured FIRST. This is a huge time saver. Running back and forth from the shoe storage area with the wrong sizes time and again is maddening, and will probably result in a lost sale, or a customer who hates his boots, and his life, and me, after a long hike down the canyon BACKWARDS because all of his toenails are bleeding and falling off. And other customers are waiting. We want to get each customer in the correct shoe, in the perfect size, inside their budget, in the least amount of time so everyone gets a turn.
So I kindly force him to take the measurement. It is extremely rare for anyone to refuse twice if I am standing before them with the measuring device in my hand and a huge smile on my face.
Customer: OK. Whatever. I wear a 9 Wide.
The customer presents his right foot, so I flip the foot measuring device (called a Brannock Device) around and have him nestle his heel into the metal cup marked Right Heel at the top of the device. I have him stand up to determine how much his foot spreads under weight, then have him sit down for the actual measurement. I slide the red Arch Length Pointer up next to the ball of his foot. I lay the middle of my index finger across the knuckle of his big toe with the tip of my finger on the Arch Length Pointer in the little indentation designed to accept my finger tip. This allows me to feel the large knuckle of his big toe as sometimes, especially while wearing socks, the bone structure is hard to see.
Next, I slide the Width Bar firmly against the other side of his foot. His foot is quite typical and should be easy to fit.
Technician: OK, the device shows your foot length is 9 but your shoe size is 11 Narrow.
Technician: We should start with size 11 Narrow and see where we go from there.
Customer: I have never worn a shoe larger than size 9 in thirty years.
Technician: You are not alone. Ninety five percent of our male customers have been wearing the wrong size shoe most of their lives. When was the last time someone looked at your foot in a Brannock Device?
Technician: A really long time I bet. Maybe you were ten years old?
Customer: Yeah, that's about right I guess.
Technician: Ok then. Your foot grew over the past thirty years. Let me show you how this device measures your foot. First, the air space in front of your toes inside of a shoe or boot is irrelevant so long as your toes are not touching the front of the toe box. You should have plenty of room up front in a size 11. The most important part of finding a shoe that fits properly is matching the arch of your foot to the arch inside of the shoe. You stand on your arches, not your toes. If the arches don't match up you might experience pain anywhere from head to toe including mysterious headaches, backaches, or knee pain...and obviously your feet will hurt. Even people with flat feet or fallen arches must have the arch of the shoe in the correct location under their foot. I think you have been trying to compensate for short fitting shoes by increasing the width because all these years you have been fitting yourself by feeling for your toe through the shoe right?
Customer: Yes. And my lower back has bothered me for years. No one can figure it out.
Technician: I can't make any promises, but aligning your arches to your shoes is an important step in figuring out mystery pain. OK, now take a look at the Arch Length Slider. This tells me your arch length, which also indicates your shoe size. It shows size 11.
Customer: I still cannot believe that.
Technician: Is your heel pressed all the way back against the device, and does the slider feel properly aligned with the knuckle of your big toe right HERE?
Customer: Yes it does. It's all tight.
Technician: Can you read this number to me? (as I point at the Arch Length Slider)
Customer: It reads eleven.
Technician: The device is made of steel. It is the true truth about your feet. It cannot be wrong. Our shoes may vary in size from model to model, but the Brannock is Gospel. And we make the same amount of money selling you the wrong size shoe as we do selling you the correct size. In the end I will sell you whatever you tell me to. Would you try a size 11 for me just for giggles?
Customer: Sure, OK. Now I am curious.
Technician: Great. Now look down here at the Width Slider. I take the eleven from your arch length and look on the Width Slider to see the letter of the alphabet that lines up with eleven. Your width is roughly between B an C. D would be average, so your foot is a tad narrow.
Customer: Well I'll be go to Hell. That's amazing all these years I have been buying EEE width.
Technician: It's amazing you still want to walk. I am glad you finally got it figured out. I hope it helps your back pain too. Let's take a look at the footwear display. I will show you some choices that will fit narrow feet really well.
The above script played itself out, word for word, at least five thousand times during the fifteen years I helped people get matched up with the right pair of shoes. It would be shocking to any of the staff if a male customer, in our store for the first time, guessed his shoe size on the money. It almost never happened. And I could have saved a lot of time and conversation by throwing a pair of 9 Wide boots at him like he asked me to. But would our shoe fitting department have been famous in four states?
The diagram below illustrates what I saw when the customer put his foot in the Brannock Device - except for the exposed bone. That would have been horrifying. If you read through the above fit scenario, the diagram below should start making sense to you. But we are not finished fitting this fellow just yet. Continue reading below the image.
By this time in the process I know the customer's measurements and price range. He has picked out two models of low cut hiking boots. Before fetching boots from the storeroom I pick out a pair of socks from the nearby sock display. I know the Grand Canyon will be above freezing during summer months, so I grab a pair of SmartWool® medium-weight hiking socks. I chose medium weight because the customer has narrow feet and could use some help filling up the inside volume of the boot models he chose. After the customer puts on the correct size socks (size 9 according to Brannock) I check his foot size in the device again while he is sitting down, then standing up. Some folks feet spread out like mad when they add weight. I am trying to anticipate every problem in advance. This fellow has no problem with foot spread and the addition of mid-weight socks did not change his size significantly.
Handing the customer a new pair of expensive socks, even without him asking, is a key part of boot fit and customer satisfaction. Quality worsted wool socks will make any shoe or boot feel like a million bucks. The sock, and my fit session, nearly guarantee a boot and a sock sale today. Tomorrow this fellow will likely return for several more pairs of socks because his cotton socks will feel like trash in comparison. He has done himself a huge favor graduating from the cotton sock club as mentioned at the beginning of this article. Good socks combined with knowledge about his actual shoe size will likely change his life, or at least prevent some misery as the years creep by.
The customer slips on both socks, then the boots. I lace up the first boot for him just in case he has never worn hiking boots before. Then I suggest he try to match my tie job.
Technician: OK, now walk around the store a bit and concentrate on where the arch of your foot contacts the arch of the boot.
Customer: I can't feel the arch at all.
Technician: Perfect! That means the arch in the shoe is matching perfectly with your foot. (If he could feel the arch I would have him point to the exact spot. If he pointed to the back of the arch, he needs a larger size. Pointing to the front of the arch means I have to move the arch back a bit requiring a smaller size)
Customer: Man, these are the most comfortable boots ever.
Technician: Yeah, those are really nice boots (it's the socks working their magic, not the stiff-assed new boots).
Technician: Now take the same walk and concentrate on your heels. Are they lifting off of the footbed more than 1/8 of an inch?
Customer: Yes, they are lifting quite a bit, especially the one I laced up.
Technician: OK, let's lace them a bit tighter.
Customer: OK, that helped. Just lifting a tad now.
Technician: Those boots are stiff. As they break in from use the lift will become smaller and smaller. Now take the walk one more time. Are the boots bending EXACTLY where your foot bends up front?
Customer: Yes. Very good.
Technician: And I bet you have plenty of toe room too.
Customer: Yeah. That feels a little strange. Could I try a smaller size?
Technician: No problem. You want to go down a whole size or just half a size?
Customer: Half a size sounds good.
Now the sale is nearly made. I am convinced this guy is in the right boot. I start jabbering about boot care, cleaning, and preserving products. I remind him to never leave shoes in a hot car as the glue holding the soles onto the uppers will fail.
The smaller boots are on and laced. The customer makes one lap around the store in them.
Customer: I can't believe it. Just half a size and they feel terrible. I can feel the arch, one toe is touching the front, the shoe is not bending in the right spot. You nailed it. I'll take the size eleven and two pairs of these socks.
Technician: Great. The Brannock does not lie. I will haul everything up to the cash register for you. I will check back with you in a just a minute.
Before any footwear customer departed the store with new boots we gave them a quick clinic regarding boot break-in. We also begged them to return with the boots if they were getting blisters, hot spots, or any foot pain. If the customer had pre-existing bunions, corns, or calluses we informed them we had the ability to stretch small spots on the leather uppers to avoid hurting previous foot injuries and imperfections. Roughly five percent returned for additional adjustments. Less than one percent returned footwear for reasons involving fit that could not be satisfied with a slightly different size or style of shoe, or a different sock or footbed. For customers insistent on fitting themselves and ignoring or refusing our advice, we marked the inside of the boot or shoe under the footbed with a Sharpie marker. If a customer returned footwear for any reason, an employee would look under the footbed for the marking "CFS" meaning Customer Fit Self. We did our best to work out the problem, but we accepted no blame for the fit or the shoe manufacturer.
Foot Type as a Function of Shoe Fit
For the fit story in the previous example I chose the easiest, most common type of foot in order to explain the basics of Brannock Device use and socks as a function of footwear comfort and general foot health. In truth, feet are like snowflakes in the sense no two are identical. Every test subject or customer must be treated as an individual. No assumptions may be made on the basis of anything except careful study of each foot, exact measurements, customer input, and working knowledge of how each model of shoe or boot fits certain foot types and sizes. The footwear we sold was not for show. Every pair of shoes walking out of our door had to perform as we claimed, or the result would be a very angry or disappointed person and money returned to them along with apologies for ruining their adventure, vacation, or race. We took every precaution to avoid footwear disasters. Most issues could be attributed to improper or inadequate break-in. Less than one shoe in one thousand failed as a result of our advice. Again...that is why we were famous for fitting shoes and boots. We had a statistical ZERO failure rate.
There are three basic human foot shapes that are inherited and perfectly normal. I have never learned of any advantage to a particular foot shape as it relates to speed, stamina, or strength. All three shapes work just fine for active people, as do all of the hybrids of those shapes however, as a fit technician knows, the shapes have bearing on what shoe type should be recommended. Also, after careful study of the foot in a Brannock Device and on the floor or other flat surface, a skilled technician who knows his inventory will be able to predict which models of footwear would be best for each foot type. Fit goes well beyond the sales floor all the way up to the footwear buyers who must buy inventory to cover a wide range of foot shapes, then communicate their knowledge to the technicians. Ideally, the technicians with the highest skill level in the fit department should also do the buying. This is where large department stores generally fail their footwear customers which forces a very generous return policy. Basically, the part-time clerk hands the customers what they asked for and hopes for the best or does not care at all. Satisfaction is guaranteed or your money back. Good luck with the unexplained black toenails.
The illustration above shows perfect foot placement in a light hiking boot. Without a Brannock Device - using the trial-and-error method - it would take all day to achieve this fit for a customer with size 11 Narrow feet if the fit technician started the procedure with a 9 Wide as the customer requested. The chances of obtaining a perfect fit through guessing is nearly zero. A confident, well educated and trained fit technician with good communication skills is often mandatory to gently "strong-arm" and opinionated, strong-willed customer into accepting the proven facts of good shoe fit without offending or otherwise alienating him or her.
This is about as far as I can lead you into the world of proper footwear fitting through words and images online. The information presented should be enough to help you pick correctly sized shoes for yourself or children when there are no technicians on hand in the shoe department - if you can locate a Brannock Device. Remember that your feet continually change, grow, or spread with age for as long as you continue to walk. Check your size once a year.
Cleated Bicycle Shoe Fitting Information
Please read the Fit Clinic information above first.
Cleated cycling shoes are sized and fitted exactly like athletic running and hiking shoes. The ball of the foot still needs to be lined up perfectly with the spot on the sole of the shoe that "bends" even though many cycling shoes do not actually bend at all. The reason for the alignment is the pedal spindle. The spindle should be positioned under the ball of the foot for proper pedaling mechanics and transmission of power to the drivetrain. In order for this positioning to occur, the shoe must fit properly. The positioning is so important that bike shoe manufacturers always mount the cleat in a fashion that allows a bit of forward or rearward adjustment, along with rotational adjustment to accommodate pronating or suppinating feet. Either the shoe or the cleat has a track roughly one centimeter in length. If the shoe fits the foot perfectly, the track adjustment may be utilized for adjusting power transmission. Move the cleat forward for more foot leverage and power for sprints, climbs, and short speed events. Or move the cleat toward the heel for less strain on foot and ankle tendons - such as when one is bicycle touring on a heavy bicycle spinning the lowest gear possible for a long duration or recovering from an overuse injury. DO NOT use the cleat adjustment as a shoe size fit tool. Cleat adjustability is a riding style adjustment tool only. Yes, most of us will adjust it once and ride like that forever. It is not adjustable on a day to day basis. You have your race shoes adjusted aggressively - cleat relatively forward on the shoe, and then a different touring shoe with the cleat positioned farther toward the heel of the shoe.
A Brannock Device measures the position of the ball of the foot precisely. If the shoe model was manufactured correctly it is easy to obtain a good fit and perfect pedal positioning every time. Just like hiking boots and running shoes, guessing at sizes is time consuming, frustrating, and often results in improper shoe fit.
In the above illustration I purposely (and purple-ly) picked a foot subject with short toes to illustrate a point: The space in front of the toes is irrelevant to proper fit, provided the toes are not touching the front of the shoe. Except for toeshoes used by ballet dancers. Have you ever seen an experienced ballet dancer's toes?
Note: The illustration shows a bare foot for better visibility and understanding of foot position, and magenta coloring for better visibility in the overlay diagram. You should always wear a quality nylon or wool sock (No Cotton! No Bare Feet!) when wearing any closed-in shoe designed for walking, standing, or cycling.
For more detailed information about sock materials, construction, and how wearing proper socks improves foot health check out my SOCK CLINIC page.
I hope you enjoyed my footwear fit clinic. You are now armed with all of the information you need to assure proper combination and fit of sports footwear. The sock links on this page lead to the best deals I can find. If you can't find your size or color preference at those link targets, please shop the fine establishments below. I only represent long established, honorable, and reputable retail stores. You cannot go wrong doing business with these fine shops. If you enter their stores through my links, and make any purchase during the next few months, a few pennies will fall from heaven to keep me motivated.
Thanks for hanging out with me. Shoot me an Email anytime if I can help. Telephone consultations can be arranged 24-7 with a little notice.
SmartWool Socks feel like the softest cotton, have impressive cushioning properties, may be machine washed and dried, and will last for years.