I’m still often asked if I have the cleats on my cycling shoes in the midsole position as I first reported here in January of 2007 and then followed up with more posts in December, 2007, and December, 2009. (There have also been a number of comments posted by readers which you can also find by simply doing a search—right side of home page—for “cleat.”) The answer to the question is “yes,” I still use a midsole cleat position. I have my shoes custom made by D2 Shoe to accommodate this position.
I’ve suspected for many years now that the greatest benefit of midsole cleats may actually come on the run following the bike leg in a triathlon. The reason for this line of thinking is that a midsole cleat requires less work by the calf muscles to pedal the bike thus allowing these primary mover muscles for running to be fresher when the run begins in a multisport race. Now there’s new research that supports this.
Carl Paton at the Eastern Institute of Technology in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand recently sent me the abstract for his latest study which addresses this matter (Paton, C.D., T. Jardine. 2011. The effects of cycling cleat position on subsequent running performance during a simulated duathlon.) The paper is unpublished as of this writing but Carl mentioned that it would be submitted to a journal soon
In this study Paton and Jardine had 12 well-trained, competitive triathletes do 2 bike-run experiments. The bike portion was 30 minutes to be done at about 85% of VO2 max (roughly anaerobic threshold for well-trained athletes). They then immediately started a treadmill run of 5.5km at a maximal, self-paced effort. For one of the experiments they used a normal, traditional cleat placement on the cycling shoe—under the ball of the foot. For the other experimental condition they wore a shoe with a midsole cleat. The order of the experiments was randomized. (I don’t know this, but I suspect the subjects were unadapted to the midsole cleat position.)
Run times were significantly faster (2.2%) with the midsole cleat position as compared with the traditional position. Oxygen consumption was slightly but insignificantly higher in the runs following the midsole cleat experimental ride. Using more oxygen would be expected if they were running faster. There were no other significant differences or noticeable trends between metabolic variables during the cycling phase of the 2 experiments.
This is the first study I’ve seen that addressed this effect of midsole cleats on running performance. I’ll keep watching for more. If you know of any such studies please send them my way. Thanks.