To prepare participants for the OCBC Cycle 2016, which takes place on 1 and 2 October, a series of talks were recently held at the National University Hospital (NUH).
One of these talks was on Foot Care and Cycling and was conducted by Lee Qimin, a podiatrist at the NUH Sports Centre.
Get the right cycling shoes
Lee points out that cycling shoes in general, are more rigid than normal shoes, to allow for efficient power transfer to the bike.
She said, “But you should select the right cycling shoes based on the type of cycling that you are doing.”
Continued the podiatrist, “For example, a mountain biker will not buy triathlon shoes. A mountain biker shoe is built for riding on uneven terrain, but a triathlon cycling shoe is built to come off easily. But for riders who do not wish to buy specialised cycling shoes, they can get outdoor cross training shoes.”
Road cycling shoes on the other hand, have smooth, rigid and inflexible soles. They are also bent at the ball of the feet, fit the feet tightly and are aerodynamic.
Common foot problems caused by cycling
However wearing cycling shoes can cause feet problems, if the rider does not look after his or her shoes or feet.
Lee points out that fungal infections in the skin and nails are increasingly common amongst riders, due to the confined space in the shoes encouraging fungal growth.
She explained, “It will help if you can air the shoes in between your rides, to prevent fungal growth in the shoes. Also, if you are suffering flaky feet or fungal infections, you can also purchase anti-fungal cream.”
Added the podiatrist, “Putting the cycling shoes in the sun weekly can also clean out the fungal spores.”
Blisters, calluses, cuts and abrasions are also common.
Added Lee, “Calluses in particular are a common problem amongst cyclists, but if you use a penknife to cut them off at home, this may result in you slipping and cutting yourself. Instead it will help if you soak your feet in water; this will allow the callus to get soft. Then use moisturiser to keep the feet supple and the callus will disappear. But if it continues growing, then I recommend you to see a clinic.”
Ingrowing toenails may also result, due to the narrow space in the toe box of the shoes.
Said Lee, “To prevent these, keep your toenails short and file them regularly.”
How to keep the feet problems at bay
In between their rides, Lee also suggests that riders should do plenty of stretching and massaging. She said, “Get a tennis or a golf ball to reduce the tension in the feet muscles.”
In addition, the podiatrist feels that heel raises and calf stretches are great exercises to loosen the muscles in the feet and the legs and to prolong a cyclist’s riding life.
Lee recommends moisturising the feet too. She said, “But when you moisturise, avoid the space in between the toes because this area does not receive much ventilation.”