It's folklore than a benefit of clipless pedals is that you can generate power while pulling your foot "up" as well as pushing it "down". I've noticed that under very particular circumstances (while on an indoor trainer, in non-ERG mode, on a climb) that I've started having slight pain which is easiest explained by this point.

Note that this pain has only shown up in these circumstances (which I can easily avoid) and I've always stopped immediately when I noticed it (and it did not linger after that). This is to say that this is a rather minor medical issue, so I'm unlikely to schedule an appointment over it during the pandemic. This means that my options are either:

  • Try to fix it myself (likely via adjusting bike fit)
  • Only ride outside/in ERG mode during the pandemic

Either one of these seems fine, I just thought I'd ask for advice about the first before jumping to the second.

In particular, I've been having some pain (roughly) in this region of my left foot:

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People other places online say that this part of your foot is responsible for lifting up your toes. I suspect that poor bike fit (and poor pedaling form) is causing me to try to do precisely this. Are there modifications that I could make to my bike to make this movement less likely/"encouraged"?

  • If you want to stop yourself from pulling up, the easiest solution is to switch to flat pedals I would assume.
    – MaplePanda
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 21:53
  • 1
    This is a little indirectly written. Can this be summarised as: your foot hurts from pulling pedals during increased effort. How can you avoid pulling at your pedals.
    – gschenk
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 21:59

2 Answers 2


I would suggest that changing your bike fit to optimise the mechanics of riding a turbo trainer is somewhat cart-before-horse.

However to take it seriously for a moment, if you want the best possible bike fit for pulling up on the pedals on your trainer when the resistance goes up, this will probably involve substantially changing the current relationship between hip/shin/ankle etc. E.g. putting the upstroke of your pedal cycle where the downstroke currently is might do the trick. This may have... consequences for other, perhaps slightly higher priority, aspects of cycling.

I would not describe your issue as originating from poor bike fit or poor pedalling form. I would say it originates from doing something that you would never normally do in the course of riding a bike, and so that the solution is to... not do it (i.e., your option 2)

  • I cannot follow you in your second paragraph: "putting the upstroke of your pedal cycle where the downstroke currently is"
    – gschenk
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 21:55
  • I mean in relation to your hip/the motion of your leg. i.e. moving your position on the bike so that where your foot was in relation to your hip when you were pushing down on the pedals (i.e. on the "front" of the pedal stroke) becomes where your foot is in relation to your hip when you're pulling up on the pedals (i.e. on the "back" of the pedal stroke). It would mean moving your hips rearwards by slightly less than two crank lengths
    – Judy N.
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 22:05
  • Sorry, I'm not asking for ways to optimize bike fit for pulling up on my pedals, I'm asking if there are ways bikes can be fit incorrectly that contribute to emphasize pulling up on pedals, so I can try to change my bike fit away from that. Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 22:24

The most simple way to avoid pulling on your pedals during up-stroke is not to use any foot retention. For example mount flat pedals, don't use shoes with cleats, or modify your cleats such that they release on being pulled.

In case you are using mountain SPD pedals you may get multiple-release cleats. These are released from the pedal when pulled strongly. Setting the pedals to a very soft release might be enough to avoid your injury.

To reduce strain on the tendons that lift the foot you could also move the cleats further aft. While you might still pull the shorter lever will reduce torque in your ankle.

Last but not least, you might simply stop pulling. We can train ourselves to do immensely incredibly difficult things. Learning not to pull while pedaling may be among those skills. A good start could be to try stomping.

  • Setting multi-release cleats so loose that they pull out during hard efforts sounds like a great recipe for disaster. You probably don't want your foot flying out of the pedal during a sprint.
    – MaplePanda
    Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 0:35

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