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Fane Clinic Orthotics Review

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Before you read this post I shall warn you that it is not an advert but a review - and it's about some cycling specific orthotics (insoles) I bought and had made for me by the Fane Clinic in Peterborough. If you aren't interested, then don't read! For me however they have been pretty revolutionary to my enjoyment of cycling (and performance).

For the last few years I have been on a mission to eliminate every pain I experience whilst on a bike, all pain except for that cleansing aerobic pain you get from cycling fast anyway (eventually I will get round to dealing with this problem by cycling much more slowly...). This is what led me to using Selle SMP saddles and taking much more interest in my position on the bike. The way I see it the more comfortable you are the more powerful you are. But the pain and numbness in my feet was something that I hadn't got round to yet - but have always been unhappy with.

At the beginning of the year I went to visit the man behind Zheroquadro bikes (one of our title sponsors), Gianni Pederzoli. He gave us a pretty thorough bike fitting using a crazy pneumatic cycling contraption in the basement of his shop - blog here and photo below. Normally he has a team of people to do a more thorough bike fit, including a chiropidist to make custom insoles (this is what he did with Liquigas and CSF Colnago). I basically spent most of the evening chatting to Gianni about insoles and cleat position, much to the boredom of my increasingly hungry team mates (and my impromptu translator, Mauro). Basically I have always felt that my cleats are never far enough back on my shoe and that my toes are doing all of the pedalling. This has resulted in things like cramp in my toes, in the arch of my feet and also numbness, particularly on hard efforts like time trials. Since I wasn't able to have any insoles made by Gianni's cycling specific chiropodist, or find out much more about them I experimented by modifying the insoles in the shoes I had at the time (made by Specialized*). I basically raised the arches slightly using pieces of old inner tube and it immediately felt a bit better, and certainly very different, as if more of my foot was in contact with the shoe. The pressure was evened out slightly, and a bit away from my toes. From that point I experimented a bit but soon realised that I was going to have to see an expert as I didn't really know what I was doing.

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The way I saw it there were two roots to go down, one was to find an expert in feet but not necessarily cycling, or to find a bike shop that had sufficient bike fitting expertise that they might know a little bit about insoles, too. For me it was a pretty simple decision, since I have worked in a bike shop I know that BG fit (from Specialized) and Retul etc. are all well and good at some level but this was one step beyond. Besides, having a bike fit from a shop that's been approved by one of these companies is by no means a guarantee that the fitting will be any good, bike fitting is still an art, not a science and you can only do so much in one session. So I basically started searching for and ringing round custom sports orthotics manufacturers in the UK and only one of them seemed interested enough to have a serious attempt at making some cycling orthotics for me: Fane Foot Orthotics on the edge of Peterborough.

The movement and forces your feet undergo when cycling are very different to any weight bearing sport such as running or football. This is roughly how I understood it when it was explained to me: In a sport that involves running and jumping around your heel is the crucial part of any orthotic, anything that the orthotic does to that area when you land controls what the forefoot does and so (ideally) corrects any problems you have (such as maltracking knees, for example). In cycling this is different, you wear shoes that have really stiff soles, your foot only needs to be in one plane of movement and the axle is under the front part of your shoe, so that is where a lot of the weight is - it is a pretty unnatural set of conditions for your feet and totally different to a 'running around' sport. So just buying some running insoles and shoving them in your cycling shoes will achieve absolutely nothing. It' s like using a fish knife for your steak, slightly pointless and probably a step backwards from a standard knife.

The orthotics that Fane make are made by taking a 3D scan of your foot using a special machine, this is different (and better) than the custom moulded insoles and shoes you can get from Shimano (for example) because when my foot was being scanned it was being held by the chiropodist in the perfect shape/position that it should be in - not how it usually is. The insole is made from a special plastic that is flexible in one direction but not the other and so provides a degree of control as to which way you want your foot to be mobile, or not, as the case may be, it's also virtually indestructable (and guaranteed for life by the manufacturer). In cycling you don't really want to have movement in any direction except for in that one single plane in which your foot moves when pedalling, and this is what the orthotic tries to achieve.

The process I underwent when visiting Fane was extremely professional, I was basically analysed thoroughly by a Chiropodist and Physio in tandem for well over an hour (might have been more like 2 actually). I was also observed closely on my bike riding on rollers, too. For me the problem basically stemmed from being 'hyper mobile' or the old fashioned term: 'double jointed'. The joints in my feet, ankles etc were really floppy and mobile, this basically meant that when I stand normally my arches sink down and my feet kind of roll inwards. By making orthotics that adjust this (through the forefoot, not the heel) and putting them in my cycling shoes I was able to correct the problem.

The clinic offered a full money back guarantee, but in addition to this you get to try them out for up to 3 months, if you don't like them you can come back for another consultation and have them modified again if necessary, for free. Then your 3 months are reset and you can try them out again, you can have 3 consultations + modifications in this way potentially giving you 9 months of free insoles if they don't sort out your problems! This is basically what convinced me to try this deal, it is basically a win win situation. I found it necessary to have the insoles readjusted twice, since I was in Italy by the time they had been changed the first time they posted them to me there for no extra charge. The second adjustment was required whilst I was in Italy in the middle of a stage race and I was given instructions on how to modify them myself, normally I guess this wouldn't be how they do things but I was desperate and it worked - they certainly went the extra mile for me! Once you have paid the initial fee all consultations etc. are free. They may seem expensive (360) but they have been worth every penny as they have done so much good for my cycling.

For me the subsequent consultations were necessary and the whole process of getting everything right took a long time (several months in total), I am a perfectionist though. The difference between these insoles and the Specialized ones was huge and now I consider them to be totally necessary, much in the same way that padded cycling shorts are necessary over normal clothes when riding. The price may seem extortionate but given that you are paying for the expertise of two professionals for a pretty long amount of consultation I felt that it was really worth it, particularly with all the guarantees involved. The care and interest that they took was exemplary, it was clear that they understood how serious I was, what I wanted and were able to deliver in spades.

So before splashing out on some new deep carbon wheels have a think about what might really improve your performance and enjoyment on the bike, for me these insoles were definitely worth it.

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*Incidentally, Specialized actually do more than most shoe manufacturers, they have 3 different types of insoles you can buy with varying arch height - for me the comparison with the custom orthotics was absolutely no contest though.

Comments

  1. boldy's Avatar
    I got insoles at snow and rock/cycle surgery, as I have very high arches and had them made for both of my sidi shoes and they have solved my numb feet problem.
    Updated 16-09-2011 at 07:31 PM by boldy
  2. Jon Wells's Avatar
    Hi Dave,

    I read your article with interest. I was fitted for a pair of orthotics by the chaps at the FANE clinic about 20 months ago and, at this risk of sounding overly profound, they really changed my life! I'm very flat footed, and had been experiencing all kinds of pulls, strains, aches and pains for years before getting some advice and being encouraged to visit FANE. I agree that it is a lot of money, but it's more than worth it. My orthotics are not cycling specific but are a 'general' pair which I wear in all my shoes all day, whether I'm walking, working, running etc etc.

    I regret having not been aware of a foot podiatrist like FANE years ago as having orthotics has really made a huge difference to my life by recitifying an inherited skeletal disorder that for years I'd just been told to put up with. I'd encourage anyone who is even a little concerned about their posture to do the same.

    :#)

    Jon