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My understanding from reading and talking to others has always been that a stiff shoe is nearly a requirement for long distance/road riding, but I've never entirely believed in the benefits to the rider. Some research I've been doing as of late has brought to light another idea when it comes to platform pedals (whether a rubber block pedal, a touring pedal, or something else - basically, any flat pedal that doesn't require the rider to clip into a small surface that doesn't support the foot). It has been suggested that the only need for a stiff shoe when riding is because of the clip factor and the small surface of the clip mechanism, and that if one is cycling on a platform pedal that supports the foot, more damage can actually be done to the foot when using a stiff shoe because it isn't allowed to move the same way it would in an everyday shoe.
I'm continuing to experiment because I am fascinated by the idea that the stiff cycling shoe when riding on platforms isn't really the best choice, but I am curious what others have experienced. I know that I am really an oddity when it comes to road riding on platform pedals, but I'm curious if anyone has noticed any difference between shoe choice and the pains and aches of your feet - Even if you just use platforms around town, I would be interested to know if you have different experiences when using various shoe types. I think the theory makes sense - if you have the platform to support your foot then a stiff shoe is potentially doing you a disservice - but I am interested in the more practical application and whether or not this has been true for others. I suppose, if nothing else, I'm learning that I really do have to do my own experiments rather than relying on the information that is so readily accessible on the web, and truly trust my own experiences and findings.