knee pain.. do I need pedal extenders

by Sensible   February 1, 2013  

After getting my new road bike at Christmas I got road shoes and pedals (spd sl) both are Shimano. Previously only had a mountain bike with platform pedals. Went on a 29 mile ride with them for the first time. I have bit of knee pain on the outside of both knees. I think I am a bit duck footed and need to angle the cleat so that my feet point out a bit. The problem is that if I do that my heels will hit the crank arms and I already have the cleats as far over towards the bike as possible to try and give me extra room.

I am now thinking that I need pedal extenders to bring my pedals out a bit. I have seen some 18 and 20mm one on the net. Does anyone have experience with extenders. Will this have any adverse effect on my bike (Giant TCR Advanced with Ultera compact chaining)

20 user comments

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Hi there.

It's unlikely that you need to extend the pedals, but you more than likely do need to have your cleat position adjusted. Switching to clipless pedals can sometimes take 3 or 4 rides to sort your cleat position out.

Ideally, taking your bike in to a shop to have them align your cleats as part of a fitting is the best thing to do.

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posted by TrekBikesUK [128 posts]
1st February 2013 - 14:38



I've never heard of pedal extenders and personally would think long and hard before adding anything to my bike. Having some knee pain is not unusual though it's more likely due to cleat position though there are other things you can do like have insoles - eSoles do some very good ones that come with 4 different sizes of arch support. As you're duck footed as you say the height of your arch could play a part too.

I can see why, logically you would lead to the conclusion of pedal extenders though there are other more adjustable and cheaper things. Getting your cleat position right for one isn't the easiest thing in the world.

Anyway, I am a big fan of a bike fitter in Australia called Steve Hogg. The articles on his blog are very informative and he likes sharing what he knows and he knows a lot about our bodies and for me this helped make him credible when I first came across him. I went to a bike fitter called the Bike Whisperer, in Ealing who flew themselves out to Steve for training and got my knee problems solved. I've listed some relevant links for you below and the comments are worth reading as he often exchanges answers with people about their own difficulties there.

Try this article for cleat position:

This one on knee pain:

Bike position including cleat and arch support and more:


posted by NormanStanley [8 posts]
1st February 2013 - 14:53


I had knee pain on every single ride for a couple of months then had some advice from a club mate:

Stretch your quads. Pull heel to bum by grabbing your foot, keep knees together, pelvis forward and back straight. Hold the stretch for at least 45 seconds to 1 min. Do this hourly to start with and keep it up for a week. After that, a stretch every day should suffice.

It really worked for me - what have you got to lose - give it a try Wink

posted by Bobbys boys [81 posts]
1st February 2013 - 15:04


Consider Speedplay pedals - probably not what you want to hear when you've just got new pedals but they give more movement than most.

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posted by TheHatter [811 posts]
1st February 2013 - 15:15


There's a million and one reasons for knee pain, and it's a - ha - pain to sort it out.

I've got recurring knee pain which is probably due to tight muscles and tendons pulling on my kneecap. I use a foam roller to stretch as much as I can.

Beyond that, it's most likely cleat and saddle position/height that will cause it. That and pushing too big a gear.

posted by bashthebox [764 posts]
1st February 2013 - 15:19


Sounds like a bike fit at a dealer or with a local coach would be worth a try, they will be able to advise on seat position (height and fore-aft), bar height, pedalling style, cleat position etc etc and get you properly sorted out. It's a relatively small investment for many years of comfort....

As pointed out above there are many reasons for sore knees and these guys have years of experience in knowing what to look for.

posted by jimmo62 [59 posts]
1st February 2013 - 15:40


Good advice gents.
I do think my seat may need raising. The chap I was riding with said it looked too low.
Also, I have got flat feet and wear orthotics for work and home shoes, but never thought about it for cycle shoes as I wasn't walking. Maybe I need some additional arch support.

posted by Sensible [82 posts]
1st February 2013 - 15:53


As above -- think about your ride position (bike fit?) and whether you are pushing too big gears (spinning at a high enough cadence?). Give it a couple more rides too, although obviously if you are in excruciating pain disregard all the advice except maybe the bike fit and seeing a doctor!

posted by BerlinG [6 posts]
1st February 2013 - 16:10


I was suffering from knee pain on my new bike as well. I too got new pedals and shoes so just put it down to getting used to the equipment. My mate suggested raising my saddle and moving it forward slightly. Since doing that I haven't had any pain.

posted by alijfowler [5 posts]
1st February 2013 - 16:38


I'll second what one guy said about stretching your quads too. Though it may well be down to cleat position or flat arches or similar a colleague who qualified as a soft tissue specialist said "it's rarely the knees fault". Good stretching is complementary and can only help.

Plus the quads I would recommend stretching your hams (can make a huge difference) and consider stretching your calves, hip flexors and ITB as well.

If you have a desk job your hamstrings and hip flexors are shortened - I am 6'4" so the effect is exaggerated.

posted by NormanStanley [8 posts]
1st February 2013 - 17:12


Pedal extenders are an option, but they increase the 'q' factor (distance between feet) - this can cause other issues because unless you have exceptionally wide hips, your legs will no longer be parallel.

I have fallen arches, so I have custom orthotics for everyday shoes etc. However, walking around/running/whatever are heel-posted activites, whereas cycling is forefoot-posted, so use of heel-based orthotics is of debatable benefit.

I also have a neutral foot stance where my soles are tilted inwards by about 4.5 degrees (outstep lower than instep, in other words). This meant that when I was pedalling easy it was ok, but once I pushed on, each foot would collapse inwards on the downstroke. This in turn caused my knee to knock inwards by a couple of cm with each pedal revolution.

I went to see a sports therapist who does bike fittings, and ended up with the following:

Specialised Body Geometry footbeds, in the +++ (green) flavour (this is their maximum arch support).

Varus wedges to support the tilted foot stance, essentially bringing the instep upwards to meet the foot. This consists of 1 x 1.5 degree varus wedge under each insole, use of Spesh Body Geometry shoes which include a built-in 1.5 degree tilt (since they reckon the majority of people need that), and a further 1.5 degree wedge slotted into the Speedplay cleats. Total 4.5 degrees.

Interestingly, while all the above was definitely necessary (they would have caused me problems at some point, and prevention is better than cure), my knee pains were actually solved rather more simply. Basically, the vertical track on which the kneecap runs relies on equal tension from the attached inner and outer quads. Contrary to what you might think when looking at your thighs, the outer quad is used more than the big strong teardrop shaped inner quad. This meant that the outer quad wanted to pull my knee off-track when I tensed the muscles. So, some foam roller work on the outers, and regular tensing of the inners (when just standing around or whatever) solved it. Your mileage may vary, obviously.

Oh, and check that the bike fitter will look at pedals/cleats, a lot don't touch them.

Good luck.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3723 posts]
1st February 2013 - 19:30


Whats the cost of a bike fit these days?

posted by Sensible [82 posts]
1st February 2013 - 20:11


The location of the knee pain is important. whereabouts is the pain exactly?

posted by paulfg42 [395 posts]
1st February 2013 - 21:09


Talk to a fitter.

I use 25mm pedal extenders on Speedplay pedals on my Giant Defy Advanced 2. Best thing I ever did. I am a big guy so your mileage may vary. But after 30+ years of riding I feel like I am pedaling correctly for the first time, as in my legs go straight up and down in line with my hips.
I have heard people talk about Q factor for a long time but I think its overrated and more applicable to smaller people who naturally have a low Q factor.

This is the guy who did my fit at a bike shop in Solana Beach, California.
Also read this

"Your stance width may be too narrow, so you’ll want to widen your feet on the pedals by doing any of the following: 1) move the cleats laterally, toward the inside edge of the shoe; 2) add 2mm of pedal washers between the crank arm and pedal; 3) add pedal extenders (aka “knee savers) between the crank arm and pedal; 4) change to pedals with a longer spindle; or 5) change to a crankset with a wider Q-factor."

If you sign up for his newsletter he explains things like pedal extenders. If you use Speedplay they make pedal axles in different lengths, also switching to Speedplay eliminated a lot of knee pain issues I have had, especially with my left knee which has been operated on twice.

posted by snooks [30 posts]
1st February 2013 - 21:59


Probably between £100-200

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3723 posts]
1st February 2013 - 22:10


Also be wary about bike fitters who have a system and may have little experience. They may not be paying much attention at all to you and how your particular body works. £100 - £200 shouldn't be spent lightly in my book - though I take a lot of things seriously. If a system is in use like Retul they need to have plenty of experience too and even then personally I would think twice - over the last 5-10yrs every man and his dog has become a "bike fitter" - all too easily and all too quickly I think.

If as you say someone rode with you and thought your saddle looked too low in my experience they are often right - by how much is another matter and up to you and your body. This article includes a very good way to set your saddle height accurately yourself.

Even if you don't do it yourself it's worth a read. Also because even the best may not get it right first time (check at least one follow up is free as it was where I went if you get a bike fit) and if you look at this article and things at your bike yourself you are going to narrow down what is the actual cause. You are going to enhance the chances of being fixed first time. What's more you may solve the problem yourself and save yourself £100-£200 and learn a bunch of useful things and doing such for yourself is very rewarding. It is a bit of an art and not a black and white science so have a chance for sure of solving it yourself. If you can't sort it you've still learnt and most likely found it rewarding; what's to lose?

You've plenty of time to get yourself comfortable between now and the better weather arriving, when you want to be out there enjoying your bike. If you decide you need a fitting after lots of research and finding nothing but positive recommendations I went here:
(020) 8998 7271
The Bike Whisperer
185 Pitshanger Lane
W5 1RQ

I think it was £195 and what they offered versus a high street shop I thought made worth paying the extra, even compared to those who give a decent fitting service.

The man won't rush you. Typically the appointment is 4 hrs; I was there for 5 - just the way it went.

posted by NormanStanley [8 posts]
2nd February 2013 - 21:00


Good advice.
I will see how it goes and won't rush into anything.
I found a bike fit video on you tube which gives the basic advice about seat height, saddle position, handlebars, cheat position etc. I will work through that first. If problems persist then I may go with a bike fit but not going to rush into that.

posted by Sensible [82 posts]
3rd February 2013 - 14:05


...and remember to stretch!

posted by Bobbys boys [81 posts]
3rd February 2013 - 14:32


Was thinking of this article when I wrote the above too and just found the link - found it useful when first moved for full road cleats - simple and straight forward:

posted by NormanStanley [8 posts]
6th February 2013 - 0:17


Definitely go for a bike fit. I went for a fully personalised one with a former MTB pro that only cost me £80 (well, £80 is a fair amount). A good fit will run through what you want from your riding then sort out the angles and positions that are right for you. Just from making a few minor tweaks to my bike it's now a lot more comfortable. He also suggested stretches that have eased my existing knee-problems. It's money well spent.

posted by egb [44 posts]
6th February 2013 - 16:56