Power Based Cycling Coaching

Optimal Cleat Placement

Achieving Optimal Power Through Your Cleat Placement

Cleat placement is one of the most important parts of bike fitting. If the cleat is not properly aligned then the rest of the bike fit will be incorrect. Every watt of power you produce is transferred to the bike through your feet and on to the pedals.

There are a variety of different cleat positions. However, we will be discussing the two most common, traditional and mid (arch cleat) position.

Traditional – Cleat under head of first metatarsal

Mid – cleat under the Tarsometatarsal joint.

Metatarsal Joint

Mid cleat position (Arch cleat) is when the cleat is positioned so that the Tarsometatarsal (TMT) joints are over the center of the pedal axle. The reason cyclist and researchers tried this method is to decrease the amount of energy expenditure by eliminating the use of the calves. However, the calves are muscle stabilizers and by eliminating the activation of them it creates poor movement behavior patterns. It also leads to heel drop and produces poor pedaling mechanics. Another problem with this type of cleat position is that the cleat is positioned so far back on the shoe the cyclist tends to have wheel overlap issues. Wheel overlap can affect your turning radius and potentially cause you to crash.

Metatarsal Joint

Traditional cleat position is when the cleat is positioned directly under the head of the first metatarsal. Once lined up with the first metatarsal the cleat has to be centered on the shoe. Research has shown that the traditional method utilizes all the muscles in the lower extremity, calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, etc. Having help from a variety of muscles instead of only a select group decreases the onset of fatigue. As you can see from the picture below transferring the load between muscles during the complete pedal stroke will help reduce fatigue.

Pedaling Mechanics

The bottom line is that the cleat placement will affect your position on the bike. The smallest of devices being placed incorrectly on your cycling shoe can hinder your performance.

Movement Tip: Ankle stretch, The goal is to reach 5 to 7 inches from the wall. Try to get the knee to touch the wall while heel stays flat on the ground. This exercise will help increase ankle mobility which will transfer to the pedal stroke.