Skip to main content

Biomechanical Factors Associated with Shoe/Pedal Interfaces

Implications for Injury

Summary

The principal demand on the body during cycling is on the lower extremities as they are responsible for producing a majority of the energy imparted to the bike. As a result the legs, due to high reactive forces between the foot and pedal, experience high loads on the joints. These loads may adversely affect joint tissues and contribute to overuse injuries, e.g. knee pain. The mechanical link between the leg and the bike is the shoe/pedal interface. This transmission site, by design, can either create smooth transfer of energy or abnormally high repetitive loads which are potentially injurious to the body.

Incidence of lower extremity injury in cycling is high, and historically biomechanical analyses of this activity have focused their attention on either the rider or the bike, but not the link between the two. Recently, pedal designs have changed in response to complaints of sore knees with the development of pedals allowing varying degrees of float. This form of transmission is intended to enhance power transfer from rider to bike as well as minimise trauma to the legs by permitting the foot to rotate during the pedalling cycle in a toe-in/heel-out or heel-in/toe-out movement pattern. Recent evidence evidence suggests this type of pedal design does reduce trauma and maintains power output.

This article reviews common lower extremity overuse injuries and biomechanical factors during the pedalling cycle with the primary focus on the shoe/pedal interface. We will summarise information available on lower extremity kinematics and kinetics as well as recent data specifically related to shoe/pedal interface kinetics, evaluation of different pedal types — specifically comparison between clipless ‚fixed’ and clipless ‚float’ systems — and discuss their resultant effect on lower extremity dynamics and their implications for injury.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Amoroso AT, Hennig EM, Sanderson DJ. In-shoe pressure distribution for cycling at different cadences. Proceedings of the Second North American Congress on Biomechanics, pp. 249–250, Chicago, August 24–28, 1992

    Google Scholar 

  2. Andrews JG. The functional roles of the hamstrings and quadriceps during cycling: Lombard’s paradox revisited. Journal of Biomechanics 20: 565–575, 1987

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Bohlmann JT. Injuries in competitive cycling. Physician and Sports-medicine 9: 117–124, 1981

    Google Scholar 

  4. Broker JP, Gregor RJ. A dual piezoelectric element force pedal for kinetic analysis of cycling. International Journal of Sport Biomechanics 6: 394–403, 1990

    Google Scholar 

  5. Broker JP, Gregor RJ. Mechanical energy management in cycling: Source relations and mechanical energy expenditure. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise 26: 64–74, 1994

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Broker JP, Gregor RJ, Schmidt RA. Extrinsic feedback and the learning of kinetic patterns in cycling. Journal of Applied Biomechanics 9: 111–113, 1993

    Google Scholar 

  7. Browning RC. Lower extremity kinetics during cycling in elite tri-athletes in aerodynamic cycling. Masters Thesis, UCLA Department of Kinesiology, 1991

    Google Scholar 

  8. Cavanagh PR, Sanderson DJ. The biomechanics of cycling: studies of the pedalling mechanics of elite pursuit riders. In Burke (Ed.) Science of Cycling, pp. 91–122, Human Kinetics Books, Champaign, 1988

    Google Scholar 

  9. Coyle EF, Feltner ME, Kautz SA, Hamilton MT, Montain SJ, et al. Physiological and biomechanical factors associated with elite endurance cycling performance. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise 23: 93–107, 1991

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Desipres M. An electromyographic study of competitive road cycling conditions simulated on a treadmill. In Nelson & Morehouse (Eds) Biomechanics IV, pp. 349–355, Human Kinetics Publishers, Champaign, 1974

    Google Scholar 

  11. Ericson MO, Bratt A, Nisell R, Nemeth G, Ekholm J. Load moments about the hip and knee joints during ergometer cycling. Scandinavian Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine 18: 165–172, 1986

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Ericson MO, Nisell R, Arborelius UP. Muscular activity during ergometer cycling. Scandinavian Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine 17: 53–61, 1985

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Ericson MO, Nisell R, Ekholm J. Varus and valgus loads on the knee joint during ergometer cycling. Scandinavian Journal of Sports Science 6: 39–45, 1984

    Google Scholar 

  14. Francis PR. Injury prevention for cyclists: a biomechanical approach. In Burke (Ed) Science of cycling, pp. 145–184, Human Kinetics Books, Champaign, 1986

    Google Scholar 

  15. Francis PR. Pathomechanics of the lower extremity in cycling. In Burke & Newsom (Eds) Medical and scientific aspects of cycling, pp. 3–16, Human Kinetics Books, Champaign, 1988

    Google Scholar 

  16. Gregor RJ. A biomechanical analysis of lower limb action during cycling at four different loads. Doctoral dissertation, Pennsylvania State University, 1976

    Google Scholar 

  17. Gregor RJ, Broker JP, Ryan MM. The Biomechanics of Cycling. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews 19: 127–169, 1991

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Gregor RJ, Cavanagh PR, LaFortune M. Knee flexor moments during propulsion in cycling — a creative solution to Lombard’s paradox. Journal of Biomechanics 18: 307–316, 1985

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Gregor RJ, Wheeler JB. Knee pain: a biomechanical analysis in elite cyclists. Final report to the United States Olympic Committee Sports Science Division, November, 1992

    Google Scholar 

  20. Hannaford DR, Moran GT, Hlavac HE Video analysis and treatment of overuse knee injury in cycling: a limited clinical study. Clinics in Podiatric Medicine and Surgery 3: 671–678, 1986

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Hennig EM, Sanderson DJ. In-shoe pressure distribution for cycling at different power outputs. Proceedings of Second North American Congress on Biomechanics, pp. 251–252, Chicago, August 24–28, 1992

    Google Scholar 

  22. Hiller WBD, O’Toole ML, Smith RA. Training injury and recovery. Proceedings 1st IOC Congress on Sports Sciences, p. 187, Colorado Springs, October 28–November 3, 1989

    Google Scholar 

  23. Holmes JC, Pruitt AL, Whalen NJ. Cycling knee injuries. Cycling Science: 11–14, 1991

    Google Scholar 

  24. Houtz SJ, Fischer FJ. An analysis of muscle action and joint excursion during exercise on a stationary bicycle. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 41A: 123–131, 1959

    Google Scholar 

  25. Hull ML, Davis RR. Measurement of pedal loading in bicycling: I. Instrumentation. Journal of Biomechanics 14: 843–855, 1981

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. Jorge M, Hull ML. Biomechanics of bicycle pedalling. In Terauds et al. (Eds) Sports biomechanics, pp. 233–246, Research Center for Sports, Del Mar, 1984

    Google Scholar 

  27. Jorge M, Hull ML. Analysis of EMG measurement during bicycle pedalling. Journal of Biomechanics 19: 683–694, 1986

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. LaFourtune MA. A biomechanical analysis of cycling under various shoe-pedal interfaces. Masters Thesis, Pennsylvania State University, 1978

    Google Scholar 

  29. LaFortune MA, Cavanagh PR. Effectiveness and efficiency during bicycle riding. In Matsui & Kobayashi (Eds) Biomechanics VIII-B, pp. 928–936, Human Kinetics, Champaign, 1983

    Google Scholar 

  30. Massimino FA, Armstrong MA, O’Toole ML, Hiller WDB, Laird RH. Common triathlon injuries: special considerations for multi-sport training. Annals of Sports Medicine 4: 82–86, 1988

    Google Scholar 

  31. McCoy RA. The effect of varying seat position on knee loads during cycling, doctural dissertation, University of Southern California Department of Exercise Science, 1989

    Google Scholar 

  32. Mellion MB. Common cycling injuries: management and prevention. Sports Medicine 11: 52–70, 1991

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  33. O’Toole ML, Hiller WDB, Smith RA, Sisk TD. Overuse injuries in ultraendurance triathletes. American Journal of Sports Medicine 17: 514–518, 1989

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Pena N. The critical joint. Bicycling: 74–80, 1991

    Google Scholar 

  35. Powell B. Medical aspects of racing. In Burke (Ed) Science of cycling, pp. 185–201, Human Kinetics Books, Champaign, 1986

    Google Scholar 

  36. Pruitt AL. The cyclist’s knee: anatomical and biomechanical considerations. In Burke & Newsom (Eds) Medical and scientific aspects of cycling, pp. 17–24, Human Kinetics Books, Champaign, 1988

    Google Scholar 

  37. Redfield R, Hull ML. On the relation between joint moments and pedalling rates at constant power in bicycling. Journal of Biomechanics 19: 317–329, 1986

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  38. Ruby P, Hull ML, Hawkins D. Three-dimensional knee loading during seated cycling. Journal of Biomechanics 25: 41–53, 1992a

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  39. Ruby P, Hull ML, Kirby KA, Jenkins DW. The effect of lower-limb anatomy on knee loads during seated cycling. Journal of Biomechanics 25: 1195–1207, 1992b

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  40. Ryan MM, Gregor RJ. EMG profiles of lower extremity muscles during cycling at constant workload and cadence. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology 2: 69–80, 1992

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  41. Sanderson DJ. The biomechanics of cycling shoes. Cycling Science: 27–30, 1990

    Google Scholar 

  42. Sanderson DJ, Cavanagh PR. An investigation of the in-shoe pressure distribution during cycling in conventional cycling shoes or running shoes. In Jonsson (Ed) Biomechanics XB, pp. 903–907, Human Kinetics Publishers, Champaign, 1987

    Google Scholar 

  43. Sanderson DJ, Hennig EM. In-shoe pressure distribution in cycling and running shoes during steady-rate cycling. Proceedings of Second North American Congress on Biomechanics, pp. 247–248, Chicago, August 24–28, 1992

    Google Scholar 

  44. Sharp A. Bicycles and tricycles, pp. 267–270, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1977; Reprinted by Longmans Green & Co., London, 1896

    Google Scholar 

  45. Too D. Biomechanics of cycling and factors affecting performance. Sports Medicine 10: 286–302, 1990

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  46. van Ingen Schenau, GJ. From rotation to translation: constraints on multi joint movements and the unique action of bi-articlar muscles. Human Movement Science 8: 301–337, 1989

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Wheeler JB, Gregor RJ, Broker JP. A dual piezoelectric bicycle pedal with multiple shoe/pedal interface compatibility. International Journal of Sports Biomechanics 8: 251–258, 1992

    Google Scholar 

  48. Wheeler JB, Gregor RJ. Shoe/pedal interface kinetics and the influence of float features on applied Mz moment patterns. Journal of Applied Biomechanics, In press, 1994

    Google Scholar 

  49. Wootten D, Hull ML. Design and evaluation of a multi-degree-of-freedom foot/pedal interface for cycling. International Journal of Sport Biomechanics 8: 152–164, 1992

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Robert J. Gregor.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Gregor, R.J., Wheeler, J.B. Biomechanical Factors Associated with Shoe/Pedal Interfaces. Sports Medicine 17, 117–131 (1994). https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-199417020-00004

Download citation

Keywords

  • Knee Pain
  • Overuse Injury
  • Crank Angle
  • Knee Load
  • Force Pedal