The Sole of Randonneuring - Shoes and pedals suitable for randonneuring
The joint subjects of this article are shoes and pedals
suitable for randonneuring. By dint of the fact that clipless pedals
and shoes dominate the market today, I will focus solely on them.
Your feet are one part of the cyclist's anatomy that can really be
punished by long distance cycling. They are crucial for transferring
power and, at the same time, can take a buffeting from rough roads.
If they do become very uncomfortable, your cycling performance can be
affected dramatically, so looking after them as best you can will pay
dividends. This begins with choosing appropriate footwear. Advice for
choosing shoes can probably be summarized into one sentence. Choose
those that feel the most comfortable! However, this article will be
a bit short if I leave it at that, so I will expand on that advice a
Shoes can often feel comfortable in the shop when you're trying them
on, but then some small niggardly detail assumes massively uncomfortable
proportions when you reach mile 200 of a 375 (600 km) ride. The overall
fit should be snug, especially for use with clipless pedals. That is
not to say that the shoes should be tight however. In the old days when
shoes were made of leather, one was usually encouraged to buy tight
fitting shoes and then soak them in water while wearing them, thus molding
the shoes to your feet. This approach however, will not work with modern
The toe box should be roomy and one's toes should not touch the inside
of the shoe, even if you point the toes down and push down hard, similar
to what you might do when standing on the pedals.
Velcro straps or some of the fancier ratcheting mechanisms currently
available are great for making adjustments to fit on the move. However,
pay careful attention to the strap or buckle locations and make sure,
for example, that the uppermost strap doesn't sit too high, with the
possibility of irritating the tendons at the front of the ankle joint.
Laces are good for customizing the fit of a shoe, but don't offer ease
of adjustment on the road, or the same ease of removal at checkpoints
to let you feet breathe although your travelling companions might
Check the height of the heel tab by again pointing your toes down and
making sure that the tab doesn't dig into your Achilles tendon. Make
sure that the cleat bolt holes are located in a position that will allow
you to place your cleats where you like them. The text book location
for cleat location is under the ball of the foot, but many long distance
cyclists have gained from the wisdom of Lon Haldeman by moving their
cleats much further back. This both improves comfort by moving the point
of power application away from the relatively nerve dense ball of the
foot and also lessens stress on the Achilles tendon. However, this can
require some custom modifications, but if it keeps your feet happy it's
well worth it.
If you use orthotics or other shoe inserts, or would like to keep the
possibility of using them open, it's a good idea to look for a shoe
with a flat insole which won't cant the orthotic or insert.
One is usually encouraged to buy the stiffest soled cycling shoes possible
in order to make energy transfer as efficient as possible. While this
is undoubtedly very important with some of the diminutive pedal and
cleat combinations currently available, others hold that an overly stiff
sole can actually punish your feet and won't necessarily help you go
any faster. For example, Pete Penseyres set his RAAM average speed record
in 1986 wearing Avocet touring shoes (not excessively stiff by any means)
and using clips and straps. Comfort is what really counts!
The ability to walk around relatively normally is of great benefit
when riding randonnees. Checkpoints, food and water stops and running
into the woods have all been made much easier since the advent of SPD
shoes and pedals with their recessed cleats versus the hard slippery
soles of traditional road shoes. They make the likelihood of doing the
splits for the first time on a gymnasium floor a lot less likely and,
if more proof of their utility were needed, tired PBP riders perched
precariously over the holes in the floor that pass for bathrooms in
Loodeac (sic) and other controls will definitely appreciate them! They
also put a lot less strain on Achilles tendons than the duck like gait
forced upon you by road shoes.
There are a multitude of different pedals available on the market
today. To help you sort the wheat from the chaff, the following guidelines
can be borne in mind when choosing a pair of pedals. The bearings should
be good quality, well sealed and easily replaceable.
The pedal-cleat interface should have a large surface area and not
allow the cleat to rock on the pedal. `Floating' cleats which allow
your foot to pivot on the pedal are a matter of taste, but do make setting
up the cleat angular position a little easier.
For SPD compatible pedals and cleats, I prefer those which don't rely
on the sole of the shoe for stability. Soles wear relatively quickly
and their thickness varies from shoe to shoe, making for some inconsistency
in feel and operation. These criteria for SPD compatible pedals cut
the choice down to Time's unfashionable MID pedals which are basically
a smaller version of the LOOK pedal and cleat; Speedplay Frogs and Bebops.
The largest platforms amongst the road pedal possibilities belong to
LOOK and Time, along with the most widely available spares.
Depending on the climate, overshoes or booties can be a very useful
item to carry on long rides. They help protect your feet and the ever
vulnerable Achilles tendon from the chill of night and from rain. Cleat
covers for LOOK and Time road pedal users make walking a little easier
and help protect the cleat from unnecessary wear and tear. Consider
carrying a spare cleat and mounting hardware on long rides. A broken
cleat or lost bolt can put a dampener on your ride otherwise.