Heel shifter saves your aching feet

Heel shifter

Do you get a sore left foot when changing gears? It’s not uncommon among riders, according to my physiotherapist.

He says stiff motorcycle boots and the upshift gear action can cause plantar fasciitis which is a severe and sharp pain in the bottom of your foot.

Don’t worry, you’re not getting old and fat. In fact, a lot of very fit athletes also suffer as well as tradies with stiff work boots.

The pain is usually most severe at night as your muscles cool down, with your first few steps of the day or when upshifting on your bike.

Treatment can include rolling a golf ball under your foot, strapping, anti-inflammatories, stretches, shoe inserts, massage and even surgery in extreme situations.

My physiotherapist also suggests I wear boots that have good flex through the foot area and use a motorcycle heel shifter to reduce the stress.

Many cruisers with floorboards have heel shifters which are a rear extension of the gear shift behind the pivot point, therefore, they work in the opposite direction.

Harley-Davidson Street Glide - New Zealand -
Harley Street Glide has floorboards and a heel shifter

So upshifting requires you to stomp your heel down, rather than hooking your toes under and pulling up.

They can’t be used in downshifts, but it doesn’t cause any pain to push down on the front of the lever, anyway.

Most people use heel shifters to prevent scuffing the tops of their boots, but they can also help alleviate this chronic pain syndrome.

I always thought heel shifters were simply in the way, but now that I suffer from plantar fasciitis, I have been using them whenever I ride a bike with floorboards and a heel shifter.

9 Comments

  1. Looking for a toe/heel changer for a Custom. Lost all strength and control of left foot and toes in a back injury. Trouble is I need a 1′ I.D. Has a Rev Tech motor, but need info on transmission.

  2. i always though heel shifter were just to ‘be cool’ but once i bought a V-Star classic i realised how convenient they are.

  3. Good one. Now that I know that it can reduce foot soreness it will be used more often until it becomes habit.

    Thanks for this info.

    1. I have now been using the heel shifter around town and no more soreness in my toes or upper foot. Amazing how such little changes in riding habits can make it much more pleasant.

      Thanks for the article MBW.

      1. Hi Erik,
        Thanks. Nice to know I’ve helped you over the pain.
        I recently had to ride a couple of bikes without heel shifters over long distances and I was in incredible pain that night!
        One day back on the Road King with the heel shifter and all good again.
        Cheers,
        Mark

  4. I suffer from bursitus in the thigh and a slipped disc, and hubby made me a heel toe shifter for my Virago 250. I don’t need it every time I ride but knowing it’s there is a comfort.

    1. Bursitus is a shoulder condition named for the bursa a disk of fluid in the shoulder that gets inflamed
      If a doctor told you you have bursitus in the thigh I’d be looking for another doctor PDQ!

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