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Cycling is again causing PF; what am I doing wrong?

Posted by Carole C in NOLA on 4/09/03 at 12:27 (115764)

When I first got PF in September, 2001, it was due to biking barefoot with the exercycle on its highest tension and the seat way too far back, which strained my Achilles tendons. I am such an idiot when it comes to exercise. I'm not really athletic.

My PF was extremely painful by Thanksgiving 2001 when I was diagnosed. My doctor saw heel spurs on my x-rays and diagnosed me as having PF, Achilles tendonitis, bursitis, and other tendonitises, all of which he said were part of the same thing and due to riding my exercycle.

I stopped riding my exercycle and diligently applied the conservative treatments on this site, and have not had PF pain since May or June of 2002. I have been leading a 'normal life' without PF pain since that time.

Yesterday I felt a genuine, unmistakeable, PF pain in one foot for the first time since last year. I know what's happening. I'm riding my exercycle again (10-20 minutes/day for the past ten days or so) and this was what caused my PF the first time. I'm trying to ride my exercycle in a more intelligent way, now, but I'm still having trouble. Maybe I'm still making mistakes?

I have been wearing my Fuldas while I cycle instead of cycling barefoot, and although they provide lots of suppose, maybe they flop around too much as my foot goes around with the pedal while I cycle. The exercycle was on its lowest (zero) tension. The seat was not as far forward as I had it for some 2-5 minute sessions of pain-free riding a while back, but not as far back as when I first got PF. My knees were always at least a little bent. I did warm up and cool down stretching (my regular PF gentle stretching that helped me to heal), but only about half the time. Maybe that is part of the trouble. I just can't think of what else it could be, though I have thought and thought. I just don't want to give up trying and think that I can never cycle regularly again.

I am so discouraged and terribly angry. It's not like I am in constant pain, but it's there again and I could even feel that awful 'ripping' feeling once. When I stretch, things seem tight again. At least, this time I know what to do. And at least this time it's almost summer, so I can wear my Fuldas with socks to work and not look like I'm freezing.

My badly arthritic knees have never felt better, due to the exercycle last week. I just don't understand why it continues to cause me these PF problems. Meanwhile I'm taking it easy and maybe I can figure it out. Maybe if I wear my custom orthotics while I ride, it might help. I know what to do to heal my feet if I don't cycle, but I don't know how I can ever cycle again. Do the doctors or anyone here have any thoughts on this? What would be your advice for me?

Carole C

Re: P.S. - - I forgot to say that my "Fulda" shoes are a style of Birkenstocks (nm)

Carole C in NOLA on 4/09/03 at 12:31 (115765)


Re: Cycling is again causing PF; what am I doing wrong?

Bev on 4/09/03 at 12:47 (115766)

Another question to the doctors, is it any different using an exercising bike than just going bike riding with a regular bike? Would there be any difference either for the better or worse? Thankyou.

Re: Cycling is again causing PF; what am I doing wrong?

Rachael T. on 4/09/03 at 12:50 (115768)

Hi Carole! Sorry to hear of your new/reoccuring pf pain.....my thoughts are this: I think you should wear your orthotics when you bike or do anything strenuous. That is when people (such as prof. athletes) wear orthotics even though they may not wear them regularly for their 'street' & normal activities. Rest & ice once again & treat it like it is 'there!' Then, after a period of rest, I am sure you will once again be where you were before in your healing.....Then, tackle the bike in a lesser fashion & time & WITH orthotics. I, too, have been off horses since September 2002 (my pf began in April 2001 & I continued to try to ride off & on & apparently, I couldn't get healed - so it has been 2 yrs. that I've had pf) . Since September 2002, I've healed alot & in that time, I did NOT ride. When I do ride again; it won't be 10 horses in 1 day - & it won't be extreme training on them - & it will be with my orthotics. I am hopeful that this 'ride day' is around the corner - soon!!!! Good luck to you also & hope your bike days are around the corner too!!!

Re: Cycling is again causing PF; what am I doing wrong?

Carole C in NOLA on 4/09/03 at 14:10 (115778)

Thanks for your good advice, Rachael. I am so tempted to keep riding with orthotics, but I probably should wait. Hearing your story is helping me to accept that. It shouldn't take too long with rest, ice, gentle stretching, and shoes all the time, for me to feel better. I hope I can bike again and that this isn't some kind of permanent inability to cycle.

Carole C

Re: Cycling is again causing PF; what am I doing wrong?

Mar on 4/09/03 at 19:56 (115798)

Carole -

I noticed a difference between a regular bike and an exercise bike (i have the recumbent kind). All summer I ride about 15 miles a day on a regular bike outdoors and the PF does not get worse (it just stays bad!!). I bought the exercise bike in the fall and after a week, the PF was soooo bad, I haven't used it since :-( I don;t know why, except that maybe I did too much too soon, although after biking 15 miles a day all summer, I certainly was in shape. I think it exercised different leg muscles which irritated the feet? That's my story! Mar

Re: Cycling is again causing PF; what am I doing wrong?

Carole C in NOLA on 4/10/03 at 02:20 (115822)

Yet the standard truism that is told by many to runners with PF, is to either take up swimming or get an exercycle. This is so infuriating. I must be doing something wrong on it.

Carole C

Re: Cycling is again causing PF; what am I doing wrong?

Mar on 4/10/03 at 05:26 (115823)

Carole -

Well, I'll vouch for the swimming - great exercise and no pain, but there were a few posters who said the swimming made things worse, so go figure!! I'm tempted to try the exercycle again myself, but am afraid!! Good luck -- Mar

Re: Cycling is again causing PF; what am I doing wrong?

Kathy G on 4/10/03 at 08:51 (115838)


That's really interesting. Back in September I was able to take short walks with no bad results. I wasn't walking as far as I used to but I felt I was making real progress. I foolishly had my Pod send my orthotics out for some adjustments and went downhill from there and never was able to get back to that stage of walking since but that's another story. What I found interesting was that while I could walk outside, on pavement, with no ill effects, I couldn't do the same thing on our treadmill. I would experience quite a lot of pain, walking the same distance and at the same rate. And it's a good treadmill, padded and everything. When I asked my Pod, he said that was not uncommon. He said that it was really impossible, he believed, to duplicate ones regular gait, etc. on a treadmill.

I'm wondering if the same is true of an exercise bike vs. a regular bike? I have no idea but the similarities seem striking.

Re: Cycling is again causing PF; what am I doing wrong?

nancy sc on 4/10/03 at 10:46 (115844)

Hi Carole:

I can offer my experience with cycling & PF -- when I got PF last spring, I immediately stopped running and started cycling. The POD thought this was OK, although cycling was not as good as swimming, in his opinion. I cycled for 6 months outside, and now realize I made my PF worse because I did it wrong. I cycled in too hard a gear (was trying to duplicate the effort I put into running, and thought I couldn't get a workout with the bike in an easy gear) and wore my running shoes without orthotics. I also tried the exercycle at the gym and again did damage by using too-high tension and no orthotics.

Since my PF is pretty much gone, I've started running and cycling (outside) on alternate days and have not had my PF start up again, but when cycling I find I MUST be in an easy gear AND wear my orthotics. The one time I didn't use my orthotics I felt a pulling sensation in my arch which is a harbinger of PF for me. I wear the orthotics in running shoes (NB 991).

Also I stretch & ice whenever I finish any activity even though I don't feel any pain or stress on the foot. Also still wear the night splint and never go barefoot, etc., etc.


Re: Cycling is again causing PF; what am I doing wrong?

Mar on 4/10/03 at 15:20 (115882)

Kathy -

Perhaps you are correct. I was thinking that when I ride my regualr bike, there is pedaling and coasting and pedaling and coasting. When I do the exercycle I just keep pedaling. Maybe it is too intense. Mar

Re: Cycling is again causing PF; what am I doing wrong?

Carole C in NOLA on 4/10/03 at 19:05 (115906)

The doctors here have said before that treadmills are not good for PF. I remember reading a thread on that before, sometime.. Some reasons that were mentioned were that people set the treadmill at an angle which is hard on the Achilles tendons, and also that the cheaper treadmills have a very hard surface. Maybe the foot professionals will have a word or two to say about it.

However, this is the first post I recall suggesting that exercise bikes are bad for PF at all, much less worse than regular bikes for PF. I was really hoping one or more of the docs or foot professionals would respond, as well as my fellow PF sufferers (whose opinions I greatly appreciate too, of course!).

Carole C

Re: Cycling is again causing PF; what am I doing wrong?

Mar on 4/10/03 at 20:22 (115911)

I remember it coming up once before about bikes. I don't think anyone suggested that cycling is bad for PF, but for some of us it did seem to make things worse - for me it was the recumbent exercycle and for a couple of others it was regular biking. Like swimming -- it is recommended and is great for me, but someone posted that they were in more pain afterwards. So I guess generally speaking, cycling and swimming are good for PF sufferers, but there are always exceptions to the rule! Mar

Re: Cycling is again causing PF; what am I doing wrong?

Carole C in NOLA on 4/10/03 at 20:43 (115912)

Mar, how crummy that there have to be these exceptions! LOL I'm glad that you found regular bikes worked for you.

Carole C

Re: Cycling is again causing PF; what am I doing wrong?

Carole C in NOLA on 4/10/03 at 20:53 (115913)

Thanks for the information, Nancy! This is a very helpful post. When my feet feel better I will definitely try cycling with my orthotics. I just can't give up yet. I have very good custom orthotics that I wear in men's leather SAS tie-up shoes, since my C.Ped made them to fit in those shoes for some weird reason known only to her. However, they feel and work just fine, so maybe that will help.

I found that even with the exercycle in the easiest gear, I experienced a whole lot of improvement of the arthritis in my knees due to the exercise. For a week there, I felt like I was regaining the mobility of my youth, and then my PF came back. Oh well!

I'd also better not forget to stretch and ice and not go barefoot. I pretty much stopped going barefoot when this happened and have done my gentle stretching some but haven't iced. It's harder than I thought to get back into my old PF habits. I never did use a night splint, but it does help me if I do my gentle stretching before going to sleep and before getting up in the morning.

Thanks again.

Carole C