What is Cleat Stagger?
When the cleat on one bike shoe is shifted forward and the other one positioned to the rear rather than symmetrically aligned (see the photo above).
We tend to hear more about cleat stagger when it accompanies a comment suggesting that a particular anatomical leg length difference is located at the femur. With that information in mind, many fitters and cyclists consider staggering the cleats. Is this the right answer?
Things to Consider:
- How can you be sure the leg length difference is only in the femur?
- Are you sacrificing optimum cleat fore/aft position with cleat stagger?
- What other aspect(s) further up the chain is/are compromised by cleat stagger? Are you sacrificing too much in order to avoid a simple solution?
We noticed that by addressing almost all leg length differences as a leg length discrepancy, you will most likely discover the best solution: a Leg Length Shim. This also tends to minimize other complications from the foot up that can possibly occur via cleat stagger. Some of these sacrifices can include injury, pain, imbalance or loss of power.
Find our for yourself! Try both a cleat stagger and a Leg Length Shim separately. In most cases a bike fitter or BikeFit Pro will be able to observe better symmetry from the rear view. For the individual, you will likely feel a distinct difference between the two. Which one felt better? In our experience the preferred solution usually, if not always, includes the Leg Length Shim as the primary adjustment. Some cyclists expressed that the cleat stagger drives them absolutely bonkers (medical expression).
Lastly, remember with all leg length issues, it is best to have a bike fitter or BikeFit Pro check your posture on multiple shaped saddles. Some different saddle shapes mask the potential asymmetrical movements often associated with a leg length issue. Only by checking your posture on a few different saddles can you assure you have indeed addressed the difference as well as possible.
At BikeFit, only after installing the shim is staggering the cleat ever-so-slightly a consideration we make in order to fine-tune. Even then, it is rare at best.
As long as you are talking about BikeFit branded wedges, this is not one wedge against another. Both of the wedge styles offered from BikeFit work extremely well. Each wedge, however, has its place. In most cases, it’s preferential to use the Cleat Wedge.
When to Use In the Shoe Wedges
1.) Cleats not compatible with Cleat Wedges
The In The Shoe (ITS) Wedge often is a “fill in” product for types of cleats that are not compatible with Cleat Wedges like Crank Brothers. However, Crank Brothers provides a shoe shield (seen on the left) where you can use Cleat Wedges with their cleats.
2.) Hyper Mobile Feet
A hyper mobile foot would be a good place to use an ITS in combination with a Cleat Wedge. This type of foot needs more support. A more rigid foot tends to be more responsive with less wedging and the Cleat Wedge is a better solution for most rigid feet. This also may be a great option for those who have room in their shoe and would not be affected by the change in volume inherent with the addition of In The Shoe Wedges.
In The Shoe Wedges are also great for diagnostics. If you are looking to determine the effects of wedging on cycling mechanics, ITS Wedges provide the ability to make quick changes. This also holds true if you are testing out comfort but do not want to take the time to remove your cleats, add cleat wedges, and realign (time saver). We should mention that this is usually a temporary change. Once the comfort or mechanics are confirmed, the first choice to correct your foot’s natural angle/tilt is almost always cleat wedges.
4.) Fine Tuning
In The Shoe Wedges also offer a fine-tuning option for cyclists “in-between” wedge levels or it is tough to tell if 2 cleat wedges or 3 cleat wedges is the better solution. In other words, if 2 or 3 cleat wedges help correct your mechanics and reduce foot pain, try using 2 cleat wedges and add an ITS as the 3rd wedge. Go out on a ride and spend some with the ITS in the shoe and some time with it in your back pocket. Over a period of time, you will usually discover the preferred amount of cleat wedging. For many cyclists, you may require more than 3 Cleat Wedges. Since we do not recommend using more than 3, the ITS wedge provides the extra bit of tilt needed!
Bike Fits recent growth in the industry is a good thing. However, with growth we must also be careful to progress properly. There is a huge amount of misinformation floating around regarding bike fitting. Be aware of this and learn the difference. Many people have been mislead on this issue. We will do our best to provide the proper knowledge!
Speedplay Cleat Wear
Taking into account pedal and cleat wear is often an overlooked aspect by many cyclists and bike fitters. In this article, we focus specifically on Speedplay cleat wear.
This information is static (will not be seen with motion capture or data capture during a bike fit). In other words, if your fitter only looks at dynamic (on the bike) data, they miss important information. Why? Although extremely important, dynamic fitting is just one aspect a fitter must consider.
The ultimate bike fit includes both dynamic AND static analysis (the cyclist and the bike or equipment) as well as consideration for how the cyclist feels. Keep in mind, how you feel is as actually more important than how you look on stick-figure printouts or a picture of you in video.
Your Equipment Tells a Story
Take a look at your shoes. Turn them over and look inside the circle area of your Speedplay road cleat. MOST people notice uneven wear.
Do not be surprised when you see this. There is something you can do to alleviate the problem.
Next, look at the springs. Uneven wear inside the red circles is the norm–not the exception.
Why? The foot is naturally tilted and it wants to stay that way even if the equipment initially forced it flat. As a result, equipment wears out uneven.
Let’s also look inside of your shoe. One of our most popular illustrations is the one on the below where people say they feel more pressure on the outside of the foot. Why? The pedal and shoe are flat but the foot is tilted.
The Uneven Wear Culprit
Is this Speedplay’s fault? Absolutely not. All pedals are flat and wear out unevenly. For example, unlike running, in cycling you can only buy shoes that function one way. ALL cycling shoes function the same regardless of price or brand (there is one brand that purports to include added tilt to the shoe but all of the shoes within that brand function the same). In running, even within one brand, you purchase shoes for different body architecture (stability, support, neutral…etc). In cycling, you only buy shoes that are flat at the forefoot. Consequently you can now diagnose these problems, take a look at possible solutions, and connect with a BikeFit Pro to make your shoe/cleat fit the pedal properly.
Remember it is normal to see uneven wear, but normal does not necessarily mean right. It is also common to see the foot in a relaxed position hang with a tilt or angle to it.
First you must flatten the foot or it won’t even clip into the pedal. We as cyclists learned to master this skill of leveling the foot to get into the pedal but we are hardly aware of it. Once clipped in, the foot tries to try go back to its natural tilted position. Hence, uneven pedal wear.
The Solution: Cleat Wedges
Knee on a chair and ask someone to hold a straight edge across the bottom of your feet. They will most likes look like the figure on the right.
or Download the Free Foot Fit Calculator for Android and with the help of a friend, you’ll discover foot tilt and how many Cleat Wedges you need in minutes!
If you are looking for more detail, a BikeFit Pro fitter measures foot tilt with the FFMD tools (physical or the BikeFit App for iPad) pictured below.
Foot tilt is the number one reason for uneven pedal/cleat wear and for most foot discomfort in cycling. This is why we need wedges.
Here is a rear view of Speedplay cleat with 2 cleat wedges.
If you would like more information regarding wedges, see this blog post. We also reveal more information on the foot/pedal interface in another fitting article: How to Fit a Road Bicycle.
We have never seen a broken Speedplay spring from a cyclist that has a flat forefoot. However, a flat or neutral forefoot is RARE to say the least. This comment is not coming from Speedplay but it is absolutely our belief that the correct use of cleat wedges will prolong the life of your Speedplay cleat springs. Remember it is important to follow the manufacturer’s suggestion for upkeep and maintaining your equipment.
“I have been indoor cycling (spinning1) for a year. I love it and do it 2 times a week sometimes 3 or more. Unfortunately, I’m experiencing problems with my SIDI bike shoes. I love them but I noticed well into class that I started to develop a pain/soreness etc. As a result, I placed insoles in my SIDI bike shoes and they didn’t provide relief. The soreness resides on the outer side of both my right and left foot–more on the fattier side of your foot aligned. I’m desperately looking for a solution. If you could help me with some information I would really appreciate it. Thanks.”
Many customers contact us complaining of discomfort or pain on the bottom, outermost part of their foot. The illustration on the left below shows the location of the MOST common “hot foot” or foot discomfort. This seems to hold true with the description mentioned in the question.
The illustration on the right displays even pressure across the entire ball of their foot. Cyclists often describe this as feeling better connected, more stable, even-feeling…etc.
There are 2 ways to look at your own feet and see why there is often more pressure toward the outside of the foot.
With your knees on a chair, ask someone to hold a book or ruler across the balls of your feet. Are they angled up toward the inside?
Foot Fit Calculator
Download the FREE Foot Fit Calculator at the Google Play Store. The App will walk you through the process (you still need a friend to help) to measure your foot tilt. Not only will it help you determine foot tilt, but it will also provide you with the solution to your foot pain! This method is preferred to the manual measurement do to the ability to provide your with the number of cleat wedges you may need to alleviate foot pain.
BikeFit provides the solution for you called Cleat Wedges. They accommodate for your foot’s natural position by creating an angle on your cycling cleat(s) where it connects to the pedal. The number of Cleat Wedges on one shoe in no way dictates the proper number of Cleat Wedges you’ll need on the other shoe.
Each Cleat Wedge contains one degree of slope (or angle) and can be stacked based on your needs (see below for an example of “stacking”).
You also mentioned the insoles you tried did not provide relief. That does not mean your insoles are bad but, insoles rarely (if ever) address the tilt of the foot as described above. Consequently, SIDI bike shoes are not the culprit. Rather (from what you just learned), cyclists experience foot pain in most cycling shoes.
You can order Cleat Wedges by clicking the picture of wedges above or visit a BikeFit Pro or Dealer who carries them.
1Spinning is a registered trademark of Mad Dogg Athletics, Inc.