Interesting idea…has anyone tried this? Neil, fyi, this is also supposed to help address “hot foot” issues. For $25 it seems worthwhile to experiment. More info at this link.
The Cleat Wedge
By Dan Empfield
This is the least substantial, but most substantive, product I’ll review this year. It’s not often that I’m able to say. “Use this product, you’ll probably go faster,” and be able to say that unequivocally.
There are some caveats, of course. What I write below presupposes that you’ve got a problem that needs to be fixed, and further on I’ll write about the symptoms, so that you can determine whether you are in fact “Wedge-worthy.”
With all the writing I do about one’s feet and how to keep them healthy and happy, one might consider the time I spend on feet out of proportion to the space I allot to other body parts. For example, I have written no fewer than three articles about the shoe dog, Jim Rice, who builds my running orthodics. Limited to its relationship to triathlon, I imagine my preoccupation with feet does ride to the level of fetish. But I owe a lot to my feet and you do too if you think about it.
The Cleat Wedge, a system of shoe canting, once called the LeWedge, and that’s because (I’m guessing) of its past relationship to LeMond Fitness. LeMond is, among other things, a line of bikes named after Greg himself, & is built & sold by Trek Bicycle Corp. But this LeMond, was LeMond Fitness which started with a stationary bike called the LeMond RevMaster also designed by the Cleat Wedge developer Paul Swift. When asked what The Cleat Wedge represents, Paul Swift said, “it’s an adjunct that completes anybody’s bike fit system.”
Swift is himself a bit of a race fit guru, & actually helped develop what used to be called,” Big Meats.” These Big Meats were simply little wedges that appeared to be plastic slices that were slightly thicker on one side. Depending on whether you needed your shoes canted on the outside or inside, you just flipped the wedges upside down or right side up. If you needed more cant, you doubled up on your wedges, or tripled. If you had a leg length discrepancy, you used them in pairs, with one wedge flipped, to create a platform between your cleat and your shoe.
It’s an elegant solution to a variety of problems. Big Meats were further developed by its owner, who made different versions to service a variety of pedal and cleat styles. A dealer also was provided a large variety of screws that were each slightly longer, and of different screw head styles, so as to accommodate just about any rider, any shoe and any number of wedges between the cleat and shoe.
The bike fit products & education that Paul Swift (a former 8-time national cycling champion on the track, and a 15-year national team member) brought to LeMond Fitness & now to Bike Fit Systems, is much more comprehensive than simply the system of wedges that were Big Meats, then LeWedge and are now Cleat Wedges. But it’s only the wedges I’m writing about today, because The Cleat Wedge is rather unique. There are many fit systems, but this is the only shoe canting product I’ve used, and with which I’m familiar. Since it’s patented, it’s also the only cleat wedge system you’re likely to find for sale.
Who needs The Cleat Wedge?
Here is my list (not Bike Fit’s list or Paul Swift’s list) of those who ought to consider having the cleats canted on your bike.
Do you feel pressure on one side of your foot after riding awhile?
Most often you’ll feel pressure on the outside of your foot. This means that this part of your foot is the part applying pressure to the pedal. The outside of your foot is sore because it is making sole contact (sort of a pun, yes) with the shoe. Putting the Wedge under you cleat so that the thick part of the wedges is on the inside, the medial side, will cause your foot to contact the shoe evenly, and will distribute the force area.
While your knees are tracking up and down during the pedal stroke, are they also moving back and forth?
You may find that they are in the same position relative to the centerline of the bike with your cleats properly canted. You may also find that your knees stay closer to the centerline of the bike, or at least straight over your pedal, with your cleats correctly canted.
Are your feet sliding on the pedal at the bottom of the pedal stroke?
In other words, assuming you have floating cleats, is your heel moving back and forth, inside and out, during the pedal stroke? This might be a sign that your foot is trying to find the correct point of power application, and that it’s finding some difficulty in doing so. This is again possibly an issue of cleat cant.
You may find that the amount of canting you need is minute. There are eight wedges provided in the Cleat Wedge boxes, with the possibility that you may need up the four wedges per shoe. The instructions recommend that you start with two wedges per shoe and use comfort as your guide. I did. After my first ride I discovered that instead of undue pressure on the outside of my foot, now I had pressure on the inside. I’m still in the process of deciding how many wedges I need, and I may move down to one wedge, or perhaps stay with two wedges on one shoe and one on the other.
My riding partner, Mark Montgomery, likewise has had problems for years, and maybe the most dramatic test of the Cleat Wedges for me was riding behind Mark & watching his “new” pedal stroke. For 20 yeas he’s had a very idiosyncratic riding style that incorporated all the “warning signs” I list above. Now they’re ALL gone, & he’s a much smoother rider. As a consequence, his cadence is a few beats higher than before, because of all the superfluous motion now omitted from his pedal stroke.
What is the empirical benefit of having your cleats properly canted, you might ask?
There are three potential benefits, as far as I can tell. One is mentioned above, and it is probably the least often considered by those who use The Wedge. If your knee is taking the scenic route laterally as it’s doing its work vertically, your cadence can’t help but suffer. Second, and probably the most frequently considered, is injury prevention. Finally, there is the issue of application of power, and frankly I’m reticent to write much about this, because I have no data, yet, to back up my working hypothesis – which is this: If your leg is vertically aligned, you’re delivering more power to the pedal.
– Dan Empfield
Triathlete & Tri Bike Fit Guru