There has been much talk in my classes recently about foot position and various stirrups to help with position or pain issues.
The stirrups I think are great, I’ve had a pair of Sprengers for years and I honestly feel like they helped with my Peroneal Tendon issue (that’s side of shin FYI).
However whilst discussing the various new technologies in stirrups I noticed there was some variation in how we are taught to place our foot in the stirrups.
Not necessarily the positioning as ball of foot seemed to be the general consensus and although toes up heels down is considered the bench mark we all agreed that a parallel foot is sufficient-phew! My heels were never going to get lower anyway!
When it came to weight distribution there appeared to be a difference of opinion.
If you’re a regular reader you will know I am an avid follower of Mary Wanless and her Rider Biomechanics work. Mary advises you to “rest not press” the foot in the stirrup.Mary comes from a Physics background and refers to Newton’s Third Law of motion.
“For every action there is an equal and opposite action”
In relation to riding this means that if you press down with your foot, whether that be the ball or the heel this will cause the joints to straighten and you will inadvertently pop the rest of you up. This causes you to brace your muscles rather than actively recruit them.
So, what to do instead?
In order to effectively use your seat, be stable and able to make clear aids you need to utilise the big muscles of the hips and legs. You need to use them to bear your weight, this creates a light seat, and what I call relaxed tension which simply put means the muscles are working but they are not tense.
Your foot should be resting in the stirrup and you want to be bearing a light weight equal through the ball of the foot, but there is also weight being taken down through the thighs which enables you to control your leg aids.
Next time you ride I want you to think about bearing your own weight. Rest your foot on the stirrup, activate your legs and encourage them to hold your weight up without tensing or bracing.