Where should I put my foot on the pedal?


Lee,
Where is the ideal place to put the pedal under my foot? Should it be more under the ball of my foot or in the middle of my arch?
Chris


Chris!

Thanks for the great question.

Let’s make this simple.

Chase a deer. Flee from a mountain lion.

Are you running and jumping on your arches? Hell no. You’re exploding and absorbing from the balls of your feet. This is how the human animal is designed to move. Hip, knee and ankle: triple extension.

If you’re plodding along with a crappy pedal stroke, taking your ankle out of the chain might make you feel less crappy, but it will make you less of an athlete. Your pedaling smoothness (which relates to speed and power) will suffer, and you will lose a significant portion of your body suspension.

Can you make up for the loss with a brutish style and/or full-suspension bike? Sure you can, but I think we should maximize our athletic potential. Removing a joint from your leg doesn’t seem like a good way to do that.


Landing a jump while turning and pumping a backside? Balls of feet, please.

“But X Person says mid-foot pedaling is best!”

Some people say your pedal should be under the arch of your foot. They say you can push harder when your ankle/calf is removed from the chain, and that your whole foot should be supported.

I asked Dr. Dane DeLozier, PT, DPT, ATC, NASM-PES, what he thinks of this. His reply, informed by years of education and medical experience: “That is bullshit.”

Do what you like, but I’ll always side with the body. Use it the way it’s designed to be used.

If you have a medical issue, get qualified help.

Lee


Macky Franklin is a real-deal pro enduro racer (and a client of the www. online MTB school). He jibs a crazy line … on the balls of his feet.


Know more. Have more fun!

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6 replies
  1. Max says:

    I think this can get confusing in a lot of ways. In part because clipless pedals that a lot of people use make you determine your foots position over the axle by where the cleat is set up. If you set the cleat over or close to the ball of the foot when it comes time to drive off the foot you will not be driving of the ball of the foot but farther forward (more toes). This can feel unbalanced. When you plant your foot on a flat pedal, it appears/feels that the axle is much farther back closer to the arch, but when you go to drive off the foot you are in fact driving off the ball of your foot. So some people that promote mid foot pedaling, are under a misconception. They are most likely driving off the balls of there feet.

    Reply
  2. Pedrin says:

    Having a short pedal under the arch of your feet may create a lot of stresses on the foot. Try standing bare feet on top a 2×4 centered under your feet and soon you will realize why.
    Now, with a longer pedal that reaches from the ball of your foot all the way to the back to the heel bone you may have adequate support. I haven’t tried them, as to see if you would still be able to do the same foot movement and still be able to push with the ankle through the ball of your foot, as Lee describes. I think you will not…
    Being that said, I can see that if the pedal reaches all they way to the heel bone. At the time(s) you sink (drop) your heels there will be a lot of more force engaged on the pedal. And this is because you are taking out the equation the flexing of the ankle. The force will come straight from the heel bone through your calf bones (tibia and fibula) to your knee. Certainly you are not pushing harder you are, in a way, emulating a side kick.
    But the question that would remain to be answered is, if taking the flexing of the ankle out of the equation will lead to injuries on the knees, hips or back, since now are taking full impact with no ankle dampening. This kind of impact you can feel it, when you jump (with no bike) and try to land on your heels.
    Clear as mud?

    Reply
  3. Anne says:

    Everyone does not fit the pedals or the bike the same way. While you say you get a lot of power out of the balls of your feet, and yet the mountain bike motion is like a deadlift.

    So does this mean we should be doing deadlifts on the balls of our feet? That sounds like a recipe for serious issues with bad form.

    I tried that by repositioning my feet on the smaller pedal to where I’m on the balls of my feet. It doesn’t work for me, and that’s part of the reason that people use different pedals/shoes/bikes/etc.

    With the longer pedal (I have a big foot for a female), I feel that I have adequate support. My ball of my foot is supported properly, where I did not feel as though my foot was supported enough with the shorter pedals. With the longer pedals, I do not have arch pain and my ITB doesn’t act up.

    Reply
  4. leelikesbikes says:

    Anne,

    Whatever works for you is great.

    I do in fact perform deadlifts on the balls of my feet. But this is after a year of practice, under a doctor’s supervision, and I’m only pulling 1.5x bodyweight. I feel this is more applicable to Riding and Living than the flat-footed option. It feels great, actually.

    Reply
  5. Vince Svehla says:

    I can’t say that everyone is the same with riding a bicycle but I feel more power by using my arches over the middle of the pedal . On longer rides I still like to move my feet some .

    Reply

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