Back Pain : Anyone use wedges in their cleats/shoes?

RSV_Ecosse Posts: 237
edited September 2008 in Road beginners

Way back in 1990, I had a serious motorcycle accident which resulted in my almost loosing my life. Had my spleen removed and shattered my lower right femur into a thousand tiny bits, the fractures ran into my knee joint.

The docs had to take a bone graft from my hip in order to rebuild the lower femur and knee joint. I was off work for almost 12 months in recovery.

Anyway, I had a load of meccano fitted in the leg to hold it all in place, which a few years later was removed. Everything back to normal now and it doesn't affect me at all in any aspect of my life or work ( I'm a firefighter - 19 years service ).

However, they did warn me that as a result of the rebuild work on my femur and knee joint, my right leg was @1-2cm shorter than my left leg was. It was recommended I use a small heelraise inside my footwear to attempt to offset any future back/hip alignment and posture problems.

Since starting cycling, this has always been at the back of my mind.

I use Ultegra SPD-SL pedals and Shimano R099 shoes.

I've been getting lower back pain after rides and it seems to manifest on only one side of my lower back/lumbar region. Sometimes its on the left side, other times its on the right side. Not a sharp pain, more of an "ache".

I did some looking around online and found that I could be compensating for the imbalance in leg length by lowering my bum cheek on the saddle and dropping it to one side, even by a tiny almost unnoticeable amount.

Had a look around and found these BFS Wedges available.

Does anyone use these or indeed, can anyone offer any practical advice on my situation?.

My bike has been set up properly when I picked it up at my LBS, although they did say that over time I may want to look into "tweaking" it to suit me exactly. I'm thinking of going for a proper "Bikefit" session though I have no idea if this will improve things for me relating to my back pain.

I don't want to just carry on regardless and think "'s just you getting used to the new bike" just in case I do any damage to myself.

Many thanks for any advice.
Ethernet (noun): Something used to catch the etherbunny.
Road : Pinarello FP1 | MTB : Cube Acid 2010


  • dcab
    dcab Posts: 255
    have u tried contacting british cycling? they must be able to put you in touch with a specialist?
    veritas vos liberabit
  • My ankle rolls in to an extreme degree... apparantly I also have a minor leg length discrepancy also.

    I use homemade wedges because I am an overpronator. They are asymmetrical, made of 3-ply wood & I only fitted them about 1-2 years ago. They are probably the single biggest improvement I've ever made to my bike concerning proper fit. Whenever I get on a bike without using these cleats, I can feel my ankle grinding away on the outside. I don't know how I ever manage to ride 100km + before. I suppose because the pain was barely noticeable when compared to that of jogging or running. :(

    I now experience ZERO ankle pain while riding because of this little tweak. Have a look here for a bit more info...

    If I were you, I'd consider getting your legs measured by a specialist with the MRI technique... it'll give you a better idea of the magnitude of the leg-length discrepancy. I'm not even sure that most bike fitters believe in fitting people asymmetrically to a bike (and if they don't, go somewhere else). Maybe those days are gone?

    If the difference really is 1-2cm, I think it may be best to fit different length crank arms to your bike. Otherwise, a 1cm cleat is going to be pushing it... it'll affect your pedalling stroke too much...

    Thinking about it a bit more; since it is your femur and not your lower leg, it's not purely a question of different reach to the pedals (something to be fixed with asymmetrical cleats & positioning), but more a question of one leg wanting to pedal in a smaller circle than the other (and also raised slightly w.r.t. the other side).

    Remember, a shorter crank will be shorter at the 6 o'clock position (less reach to the pedal) but also shorter at the 12 O'clock position. :wink: The femurs do most of the moving when pedalling, so that's what dictates the size of the pedalling circle...

    I'm not a professional in this respect, but logically speaking, I think it should be fixed with a combination of asymmetric cranks + asymmetric cleats, not soley by fitting asymmetric cleats.
  • Rich-Ti
    Rich-Ti Posts: 1,831
    I reckon a bit fit session would tell you if there's a difference between each side of your pedal stroke - if there is a decent bike fit specialist would give you guidance regarding how much of a wedge to put between cleat and shoe.

    Might cost up to £200 (most seem to be around £150-175), but a small price to pay to get the comfort back and prevent further problems 8)
  • pdrolo
    pdrolo Posts: 127
    cheap option

    try doing some pilates - or core strength excercises - there was a cracking selection in c+ a few issues back - or do a web search - this really helps my back issues - (symptoms similar to yours)
    Roadie with an MTB
  • Hi,

    My mistake, its not cm its mm of a difference.

    Just back from a 25 mile ride. Before I went out I adjusted my seat height by a few mm, lowering it.

    Also adjusted the angle of the bars so I'm not putting so much weight on the hoods, raised 'em up a little.

    Bike feels so much more comfortable and I got almost no back pain in the same place as usual, just a little twinge with about 3 mile to go but nothing like before.

    So fingers crossed, I think it may just be a case of getting used to the bike and tweaking the geometry a little till I get it perfect.

    Did the 25 mile ride with me best mate and he said from behind my hips were dead straight and not rocking which is a good sign I believe?.
    Ethernet (noun): Something used to catch the etherbunny.
    Road : Pinarello FP1 | MTB : Cube Acid 2010