I need to insulate my feet, I guess. Help

I just lost a toenail. Well, it’s still attached, but only with tape and a few unwilling skin cells… kind of like what was holding up old Comiskey Park before the White Sox built their new stadium.

What’s been happening is that I’ve had a few high-speed UPDs off my g36. I’m wearing fairly standard cycling sneakery type things. When I fall off, I generally (not always) seem to land on my left foot first. This has two unpleasant results:

  1. I hit the ground really hard on my heel. At this point, I’ve done it three times in the past two weeks (the first two were separated by only a day; I could barely walk, but nothing was broken).
  2. My foot shoots forward, smashing my big toe into the front part of the shoe (known as the toe of the shoe for all of you smarty-pantses out there). It so happens that my big toe is the most prominent pedal extremity, thus it seems to absorb most of the shock.

So I’m wondering if any of you have had similar problems and, more importantly, found a solution. Do I need a gel insole? Is there anything to protect that toe? Maybe a different kind of shoe is in order?

What’s happening to you is why I can’t wear five.ten impacts. I would try a different shoe. It hurts like hell. The five ten free rides don’t bother me like that, I think it might be the big moulded sole on the impact.

Many types of athletes have repeated toenail trauma, and shed nails frequently. I dimly recall an interview with Michael Jordan
where he said he was lucky to have five toenails in place on any given day during the season.

Cutting the nails as short as you can may help. Padding in the shoe is just going to take up more space and smash
the nail even more.

If you want a permanent solution, your friendly neighborhood podiatrist can remove the nail and kill the nail root so it never grows back.
If you can stand the ridicule of family and friends, your naked toe will never hurt you again.

Change shoes and get the shoe a 1/2 size large, cut your nails short.


Keep your toe nails short and try to land on the ball of your foot

I usually wear steel toecaps for riding anywhere, coupled with some extra-thick woolen socks. Plenty of UPD’s later, my feet feel like nothing at all has happened to them. Then again I don’t ride a g36 so I’m probably going a quarter the speed you are…

I’d wear my steel toed shoes, but they make my feet so heavy that they are nearly impossible to ride with. I’ve sure wished that I’ve worn them after some falls though.

Several have already recommended shortening your toenails. Some even removing the toenail. You could take it a step further and remove all of your toes. In fact, why stop there? Just have your feet removed at the ankle. Those toenails will never bother you again.

Helpfully yours,


If you do shorten your toenails, don’t go too far, ingrown toenails are no fun.

For the toes, I try to make sure I have

  • a sturdy toebox that won’t get smushed into my toes (but I think steel caps are overkill)
  • enough airspace there that my toes aren’t up against the front
  • laces snug enough that my foot can’t slide forward into the front

To help my heels, I’ve been throwing in another layer of insole in the back, but I think I might try a gel insert. It’s easy to land hard on them no matter how careful you are.

In the past when this happened to me I started wearing shoes a half size larger, made sure to tie them tight, and kept my toenails trimmed, advice others seem to be recommending. I also have a lot of higher speed UPDs (10-15mph) and I really like the shoes I wear now, Five Ten Urban Enforcers (from a tip from Phil Sanders). The heel is not quite as thick as my Five Ten Sam Hills (which I believe are similar to Impacts) but seems good enough and the speed laces are great to keep them nice and tight so my feet don’t move. They also are high top and offer ankle protection from cranks.

Like everyone else so far in this thread, I’m not a foot expert either…

From an engineering standpoint, it seems obvious enough that you don’t want to put more padding around your toes; you need to keep your toes from smashing up against the front of the toe box. That sounds like what waaalrus is describing, where a “proper” fit and lacing around the thick part of your foot should be set to keep your toes from reaching the front of the shoe.

I haven’t had your problem but yesterday was the San Francisco Unicycle Tour, with loads of downhill riding (after up); a lot of it pretty steep. I notice in those situations my toes getting squished into the front of my shoes, and that’s while I’m still pedaling. I probably need to adjust the fit of my shoes as well. In my experience though one also has to be careful about tying too tight, which can lead to numbness. Experimentation may be needed…

You might look for inserts made of a shear-thickening fluid such as d3o.

I get an awful lot of body pain, neck and shoulder, so I’ve considered having my body amputated below the jawline, nice and clean. It’ll make riding a challenge, but I feel like my skills are good enough.

Great suggestions, folks! Thanks!

It hadn’t occurred to me to get a longer shoe, but the notion of creating (or buying) some distance between my toes and the toe box is really smart (and obvious, now, in hindsight!).

I’ve never had toenails longer than my toes; that is, they’re always trimmed. So that’s not an issue, but still a smart suggestion.

I’ll get a gel insert for my heels and see if that helps.

The “try to land on the ball of your foot” notion is probably something I can’t work on. UPDs just happen, and although I have been able to minimize them (and their effects) over 33 years of riding, I don’t think I can possibly make high-speed UPDs go any differently.

One thing I can do, however, is to avoid UPDs by getting better at changing gears and by paying better attention. And also by not riding off the bike path at high speed in the dark to escape from police, but that’s another story.

I doubt a heel insert will help the sliding much (great for reducing heel impacts though). What would be good is a full length form fitted insole. The good ones start at $30. Even better get one from ur podiatrist.

Superfeet have worked good for me.

That big toe finally lost the nail today; it was basically asking for me to cut it off, so I did. And happily, the new nail has almost completely formed underneath, so there’s no painful, soft area where the toenail used to be.

I have sciatica and tend to upd onto that leg/foot. I added a gel insert into my 5/10’s under the regular insert (there was room) and it does help with heel strikes.