Tuesday, September 6, 2011

About "Hot Toe Syndrome" In Cycling

You may have heard of this syndrome.  You may have not.  You may suffer from this,  You may not.  Either way if you're an avid cyclist or long distance triathlete, I think you will benefit from my experience.  Read on my friend.  Read on...

Throughout the past four years I have been battling a condition which in the cycling world is known as "Hot Toe Syndrome".  In a nut shell, it's a "burning sensation" or feeling that starts in the metatarsal area, or the ball of the foot and radiates to the toes.  At times the pain is so intense, it's debilitating.

I first noticed it when I participated in my first Metric Century Ride on Saturday, August 23, 2008.  At that point I thought that it was my inexperience on the bike that caused the pain.  I would find out as time went by that this was not really the case.

I put this issue out of my mind because it did not present itself again until I started training for Ironman 70.3 distances.  At which time my bike training rides began to get longer.  With time and a little attention, I noticed that the burning aggravated itself after 3 hours, more or less, on the saddle.

So I started asking questions and researching the issue on line.  I went to my local tri shop and picked their brain.  They really had little knowledge of the problem so I went to the local bike shop.

Here I was told that my bike shoes were the wrong shoes.  The toe box was to small.  My toes needed room to expand.  So new shoes I bought.  I was told that I may have to consider inserts to change the pressure points.  This is the first time I heard "pressure points".

I rode with the new shoes and it seemed to solve the problem.  The bigger toe box seemed to be the answer.  For the time being.

As I entered Ironman training bike distances, the issue came back with a vengeance.  On a century ride early in the season, the last 40 miles or so were pure hell.  So were the next two centuries.  Time was running out. Something had to be done about this, and quick.

I submerged myself in the Internet.  Hoping that I would find a "magical" solution to my problem.  "Surely, I'm not the only one suffering from this issue".  Everything I read, everything I learned kept coming back to the "pressure point" topic.  No one answer was offered anywhere, because everyone is different, but the same advise kept coming back... make sure you have the right shoes, make sure you have the right clips, make sure the clips are in the right place, etc., etc., etc.

I went to a third shop and they looked at my bike, my shoes and my cleats.  They had nothing new to offer.  According to them, everything seemed to be just the way it needed to be.

There are no other shoes in the market that offer a bigger toe box.  The clips had been adjusted on the shoes several times.  There was nothing else to do here.  So the owner at the local tri shop suggested I try a shoe one size larger than what I needed.  He let me borrow his old pair to try on in an upcoming century ride.

During said ride the problem seemed to have been solved.  One foot did not hurt, the other one did.  The pain, however did not show up till much later.  The larger shoe did not give me a good feel for the bike, it was not firm and I felt uncomfortable with it.  All I thought was creating another problem while trying to solve this one.  So I returned the larger shoes.

And then it came to me!  Just like that, out of no where...yes, in the middle of the night.

The only thing I haven't changed in this equation is the socks!.  Yes, I ride with socks.  I use a cycling sock which is a compression sock.  Compression.  That's what made me realize that maybe this was the problem.

So I took the socks off.

Next time I went out I went sock-less.  PROBLEM SOLVED!  No pain!  Zero.  Nada.  Nothing.  Zilch.  WOW, could this have been the answer all along?  I was sure hoping it was.

AND IT WAS! As it appears the sock was creating undue pressure (compression) around my toes!  Yes, it was something that simple.

Every ride after that, long, short and everything in between was sock-less.

An on August 28, 2011 at Louisville Ironman?  Yeah, NO PAIN!