Triathletes and Achilles Tendonitis

In nearly all of my high volume athletes that experience Achilles issues, the root cause can be traced back to their pedal system. What follows are excerpts from a common thread.

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With your AT -- check for lateral rock in your bike shoes. Nearly all my athletes' AT issues can be traced back to the bike -- specifically old shoes or speedplay pedals (Gale's warning from long ago). You need lateral stability or pronation in the foot results in strain on the AT.

Question: What is it about old shoes that makes them a problem? I currently use old Carnacs and Speedplay pedals. Plaatjes had suggested that I get a different pair of pedals.

Answer: That was the exact set-up that I had when I experienced a recurring AT irritation. Here's what happens...

  • The shoe is able to rock
  • The foot pronates through the bottom of the shoe stroke
  • Torque is pasted up the lower leg
  • Your calves take it until they are fatigued then the AT is overloaded
This problem cleared in 72 hours when I bought new shoes and went to look pedals. When your irritated leg is clipped into the shoe have someone hold your heel/toe and see if they can rock the shoe. If you have a lot of rock then I would bet that this is the source of your AT pain.

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Question: Is it the float in Speedplays that contributes to the problem? Plaatjes recommended I get another pedal, and I was going to get the Coombes, which still have a little bit of float. I'm wondering if I should get pedals without any float.

Answer: In the speedplays (for me) the source of the problem was that the cleat gives too narrow a base -- this enabled me to rock (laterally). With the wide base of the Looks, I was a lot more stable.

I use the red cleats on the Looks which gives some float -- float being the ability of the heel to swing (as opposed to the foot pronating). I hope to, eventually, get to a fixed cleat system but haven't been able to get the fit right, yet. We'll try again in October when I am back in NZ and able to access my fit experts.

So the issue for the AT, is pronation -- different from float.

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Question: I'm changing over my pedals to Coombe's and new shoes. I had old cleats on two pairs of shoes and with both of them they allow a significant amount of lateral movement between the pedal and the cleat/shoe. The Coombe's have a tiny bit of lateral movement between the pedal and the cleat, as I'm guessing that all pedal systems do, but I'm not sure. If you get a chance to look, could you tell me if the Time pedal/cleat combination also has a little bit of movement? I'm curious.

Answer: With new cleats and new shoes... zero movement at the start. As the plastic cleat wears, I get a little movement. If I get any AT issues, then I swap the plastic cleat out for a new one and I'm back to very little movement. The Look platform is quite wide and I think that this helps.

Even with a little movement, my form orthotic (soft) limits pronation.