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Sometimes when I set out on a ride I will get the absolute worst foot pain. It is like a cramp in my arches on both feet.

I am wondering where exactly the center of the pedal should fall in relation to my foot.

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Where is your foot on the pedal now? – whatsisname Mar 29 '13 at 5:39
If you have flat, and overly pronated feet (like I do) you will probably find that using the ball of your foot over the pedal spindle actually hurts. I tend to pedal (stupidly) with more arch than ball. Less efficient but less pain :) – Mere Development Mar 29 '13 at 8:22
I suspect your shoes have a lot to do with it. Probably with stiffer shoes you'd mount the cleat farther forward than with slightly more flexible shoes. – Daniel R Hicks Mar 29 '13 at 11:13
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Definitely open to debate. Steve Hogg has some good information about cleat position.

and arch supports.

I suffered from something called hot foot and using corrective insoles relieved me of all pain.

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Welcome to Bicycles SE. While the links you provide theoretically answer the question, we prefer answers on this site to be self contained. That being the case, it's best to provide a summary of the information contained in any links that you share. – jimirings Mar 29 '13 at 3:27
Thanks for the info Rich, self-contained or not, it is useful for me. I will continue to adjust my cleats and see for myself. Alas, I feel that there will not be one 'right' answer for all. – Josh Smith Mar 29 '13 at 3:48
Fair comments jimirings, but there's no way I could summarize all of the info and research Steve Hogg has done on cleat position. It is a complex issue as are all bio-mechanical issues with humans and bikes. – Rich Wagenknecht Apr 1 '13 at 19:35

Everyone I've ever known and everything I've ever read has stated that the ball of your foot should be right on the pedal spindle.

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Yes, but "right over" gives you maybe a cm of play, +/-. – Daniel R Hicks Mar 29 '13 at 11:12

It sounds to me like you either have very high or collapsed arches and the arch support in your shoes is not enough or too much. In other words you're on an extreme end of the spectrum in terms of arch height. Depending on how much support is built into the last (the lower portion) of the shoe, you may be able to alleviate the problem by replacing the inserts that came with the shoes. Some companies make moldable supports that will set you back quite a few dollars/pounds/whateveryourcurrency- I think they're a bunch of crap, but that's a different conversation. You can also get non-moldable inserts with varying degrees of arch support that are considerably less expensive and more likely to correct the issue at hand. Specialized makes some very nice ones, as do other companies. A dealer should be able to fit you to the appropriate pair. If the last of your shoe is just built really high in the arch and you have collapsed arches, there's not much you can do except buy new shoes. Once again, a dealer worth its salt should be able to help you along.

Regarding cleat position, that's a factor that tends to play into foot and toe numbness more than arch pain. That doesn't mean it's not worth playing with a little though. Lining up the ball of your foot with the pedal spindle is a good starting point. Moving the cleat forward on the shoe is very rarely a good idea for normal cycling activities. Typically you'll want to move the cleat back (towards your heel) if you're having pain or numbness issues. Once again, I think it's unlikely that you'll get much benefit from playing with cleat position if you're having arch problems, unless perhaps you've got your cleats slammed all the way forward.

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If you have stiff-soled cycling shoes, you give up the ability to flex the shoe at the metatarsals: you need this stiffness to transfer the power to your pedals. This isn't a happy behavior for the health of your feet. Regardless of where the cleat is positioned -- and you should get a professional fit to address that interface -- your feet are trapped in a non-flexing container, and they really really want to flex and move.

If your pain is centered on your metatarsals, or if your pain is like a "hot foot" in front of your arch, then the first thing to do is swap out the stock footbed, which is likely a cheap flattish cardboardy thing, with a more expensive "engineered" footbed. Specifically, you want a better arch support, but more importantly you want a metatarsal "button", which is a little bump positioned underneath where your foot "knuckles would be. This button allows your toes to flex around the bump.

Speaking from 10+ years of using stiff Sidis, going with the aftermarket footbeds (I use Specialized body geometry footbeds) makes a big difference. When my feet start to hurt, I can tell it's time to replace the footbed.

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