I’m a longtime fan of Rivendell Bicycle Works’ President and Chief Technical Guru, Grant Petersen. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Petersen, you can read a little background at this link. Among all of the other things that must be involved with running a successful bike company, Grant posts to Peeking Through the Knothole, the Rivendell blog. He’s not what I’d call a prolific blogger, averaging only 3-4 posts per month, but his posts are always intriguing and insightful.
His most recent post directs us to a Cycling News article about Biomac’s “arch-pedaling” shoes. The article is essentially a review of a set of cleated shoes that have the cleats mounted under the arch of the foot, rather than in the more usual position under the ball of the foot. Cleated shoes no longer hold any interest for me, but arch-pedaling is something I’ve been doing for years.
I started arch-pedaling as a way to keep my feet on the pedals back when I was doing a lot of technical single-track mountain biking on platform pedals. Today, many gravity MTB riders naturally adopt this position for the same reason. It’s also not a bad way to pedal if you’re a bike commuter who wears street shoes with platform pedals. The arch-pedaling position provides a more secure connection to the pedals and reduces strain on the calves and hamstrings.
If you decide to try arch-pedaling, be aware that ankling will no longer be effective, so you may need to drop your saddle a bit to compensate. Depending upon where your saddle is set now, this may be as little as a couple of millimeters to as much as 2 centimeters. A large majority of bicyclists already run their saddles too low, so you may not have to move the saddle at all if this is true in your case.
There’s a tendency to mash the pedals while arch-pedaling; you’ll want to avoid this at all costs as it can wreak havoc on your knees. It’s definitely more difficult to spin with the pedal under your arch, but with practice it’s not impossible to develop a good spin while arch-pedaling.
The idea of moving the cleat rearward is not new; for years it’s been common practice among recumbent cyclists to move their cleats as far rearward as possible. I can’t say why this practice is widely accepted within the recumbent community while being less common within the upright community. Perhaps it’s because recumbent riders are more willing to shun cycling’s conventions, while upright riders tend to follow the long-established Rules of Cycling.