foot problems

-- Last Updated: May-02-05 2:04 PM EST --

when i started kayaking last year the last problem i thought i would have is with my feet, but the pegs aggravate a problem called Plantar Fasciitis which causes a lot of heel pain. I've tried padding the pegs, but it does not help. Has anyone ever had a problem like this and a solution ? I have a Necky Manitou

Would like to thank all for advice--lots of things to try--am sure one of these will work--thanks again Phil

peg position
plantar fasciitis is a tough one, but you could try to keep the pegs on your arches instead of your metatarsals (balls of feet.)

i have found some folks with fasciitis (but certainly not all) benefit from a firm arch support. use the pegs in that manner and you might just find it tolerable.

otherwise, don’t use the pegs at all and compensate with your knees–not a great alternative but maybe worth a try.

also remember to stretch that tendon well (starting slowly of course) before trying anything .

disclaimer: do not continue to paddle in pain without doctor consultation. the only sure-fire cure for plantar fasciitis is rest.

Brace against foam blocks
We went to this and I’ll never go back to foot pegs - it’s easier on feet, hips, you name it.

If you have a boat with a pretty robust bulkhead - glassed in or something equivalently strong - you can cut foam blocks into a shape that resembles the profile of your boat in the forward cockpit area, then lay the block(s) against the bulkhead inside. To adjust for different leg length/tightness you cam just have one or two inch wide blocks that you move in or out to accomidate other paddlers or a lightly clothed day for you.

I’ve heard that the cutting of the original form takes some time or trial and error (our boats came with the blocks already shaped from MIKCO), but it can be done.

This allows you to move your feet into different positions while you paddle, and feels a whole lot more secure than the foot pegs. The only downside is, if you are a fan of wet re-entries, that’ll take a little bit more planning because you can’t just shoot your legs way forward then slip back into position.

wet re-entries?
“wet re-entries, that’ll take a little bit more planning because you can’t just shoot your legs way forward then slip back into position.”

More planning? Seems like less to me. I prefer to look at that as not being able to slip past and then get hung up on, bruised, or cut by protruding foot peg/rail hardware! I find no need to slip past. If you can slip past then you have extra volume forward that will need to be pumped out too. Foam bulkhead style foot brace surface seem safer to me in several ways. Too bad this is only an option for non-ruddered boats.

Definitely far more comfortable than pegs!

(My surface has about a 15 degree forward tilt not visible - a nice suggestion from BNystrom.)

Agreed on Footpeg issue, Greyak…
I have the same problem with my Outer Island boat. It is low volume with a low front deck, and once I tried a re-enter and roll and was able to get in, but just couldn’t get my feet out from behind the pegs. PAINFUL!

I had to essentially wiggle out of my boat - risking capsize, and then re-enter to put feet on pegs.

I have since contacted Pat from Tidleline Boatshop/Onno Paddles and ordered his Carbon Footbar system minus the gas pedals. This system attaches to any footpeg brackets, is extremely light (carbon) and allows me to tilt it forward for comfort and never worry about getting jammed behind footpegs again.

Here is a link if you want to check them out. (PS - his carbon skeg system looks awesome too)

kajaksport superwide foot pedals
i have a kajaksport and find those pedals super comfy–i believe they sell them separately for other boats.

however, i’m not sure that’s going to solve this gentleman’s problem though. a wide surface will put pressure on the heel and that can be a source of pain.

Re-entry, Thinner
Comes down to size. My size 6.5 feet and attached legs couldn’t get caught behind the footpegs of the Squall if I tried because of the size of the cockpit. And yes, of course it was easier because of that relative size issue. I find the very low deck of my LV with the foam block to be another to be another matter - I have to get my legs positioned thru the middle of the keyhole, then catch the thigh braces and the foam block in a second discrete move.

It really depends on the boat, and a quite low deck like on my current boat will require more flexibility from the paddler than a higher decked design.

Tried Pat’s system in Hex’s EFT
If you have a rudder - it’s not a bad way to go.

Maybe a dumb idea but…
If a rudder (thus limiting the foam block options) - there were things out at one point called “Yak Pads” that fit over the pedal and place gel between the base of the foot including the heel.

I don’t know if the company is still around, and as I recall there were some pedals that were too big for them to fit over. But if you find anyone with a pair to try out you may be able to at least use them to get a sense of how much padding will be needed to reduce the problem. And maybe their running under the heel could also be good?

Stiff shoes
Not sure if I saw mention of your footwear. My opinion: if flexible sneakers or neoprene booties are used, the pressure of the peg is transmitted directly onto the foot in that area. If stiffer footwear is used, it is spread out a large amount, maybe decreasing the plantar problem. Worth trying. I use lighter weight running shoes with smaller heel supports, allowing my 10.5 feet to have some clearance.

Had it bad …
in my right foot. Began the week after I bought my first boat in October 2003. I was at a demo day the next weekend and could barely walk around the place. It had nothing to do with kayaking - I believe I got it from playing ice hockey. I ignored it for a while and it ended up that I couldn’t even finish skating a game. I’d have to quit after the second period because I couldn’t stand the pain. Kayaking didn’t bother it too much, but getting out of bed in the morning was the worst. Anyway, to make a long story short, I realized about a month ago I no longer have any pain in my foot.

Here’s what I did: In the late fall of 2003 I bought some over the counter footbeds made by Sole for my ice skates. These really helped and I could skate the entire game agian after a couple of weeks. My foot was 90-95% better when skating, but still hurt a lot after hiking/walking. In the summer of 2004 I bought another set. The first pair replaced the footbeds in my skates and the second set for my everyday shoes (I move them from running/walking shoes to light hiking shoes to winter boots, whatever I am wearing). Basically, I wore these all the time this past summer, fall and winter and my foot has completely healed. Never did see a doctor, so this was self diagnosed, but I feel your pain! The Sole footbeds run about $40 a pair - best money I ever spent. I continue to wear them everyday for fear the pain will return. OK, I don’t wear them in my water shoes/mukluks when kayaking, but whenever I am walking or on my feet all day.

Here’s the website:

BTW, I was advised not to heat them to shape, just wear them to shape. Heating may break them down sooner (Advice from sporting goods store where I bought them).


Probably work well for some. Not sure how the original poster paddles.

For me that sort of add on stuff is for rec boaters who mostly poke around and want a piece of their living room on the water (Translation: Yakpads should have a big market).

Paddling harder, over more distance, or rolling and such - I find stuff like that is in the way - and just extra complexity and weight. My cockpit is Spartan - my seat pan unpadded - my comfort level is the best I’ve setup yet - by far.

Counterintuitive maybe - but cushy stuff reduces mobility and restricts motion (prevents decent stroke mechanics) leading to stiffness and a host for other complaints. What feels good now can hurt you later.

Seats are the worst. People with back issues tend to go for lots of cushion and high backs that impede rotation (forcing all the stress to one point & reducing circulation) and then wonder why they get worse. My hard smooth seat & stiff small low back band have cured the problems I used to have.

Feet are another thing of course - but funny thing here too: If you get your feet comfortable the benefit goes all the way up from there. What little back issue I still had disappeared completely when I ditched the foot pegs. That fixed problems I didn’t even know I had.

Rather that asking “What can I add” I’ve gone to a model of seeing what I can take away, reduce, or simplify.

Anyway, all I’m saying is the basic setup should be right - not covered up or patched to make OK. Trying pads and such is fairly harmless - but I find it’s better to use padding to address fit for long term comfort than to soften things for short term comfort.

As always - depends on paddler and paddling.

While on this topic…
Has anyone heard of the gel covers for footpegs… I was on a website last night that supplies gel type seat covers and also sell the gel pads for your footpegs… I was wondering if anyone has tried these out and if they are worth the money.

(Sorry, cant remember the website.)

footpegs are very uncomfortable
Footpegs are in fact killers for many people with knee, foot or hip pain. It just ain’t natural for some to have their feet and lower legs in this position. The foam bulkhead idea flat out works for many. If that’s not an option-get your foot pegs adjusted exactly where you like them, move them ONE notch forward (towards bow) and then carefully screw a measured section of marine plywood (1/2 in thick) between the two pegs. If you are an aggressive paddler doing a lot of rolls etc; make it 3/4 in. Make sure you round out the edges of the plywood where it’s near the sides of the hull so the pegs can still move and make sure you make the plywood platform wide enough so that you won’t trap your feet underneath the “crossbar” you are making. This will let your feet-hips-knees find their own angles and saved me from giving up kayaking.Wish I had pictures from my old boats to post-now I use the padded bulkhead. What this post REALLY points out is that kayak companies have to come up with a factory system like Old school boats used (sliding bar). My old Walden Vision had one and it was very comfortable.


They make a cover that also has a heel pad built in.


Got them for my husband, but he never ended up using them because both of our first touring boats were converted to Smart Track before they left the dealer. At that time anyway, the YakPads wouldn’t fit over the larger Smart Track pedals.

If you are considering these, call the company and confirm they’ll fit over your pedals.

As to safety - we weren’t going for more advanced skills at that point, but they anchor well. If you are a normal sized woman in what passes for a small to medium sized person boat by most manufacturers, the boat has been sized for a guy so you should have a decent amount of room.

All that said, the piece of wood sounds like the best idea of all.

Concern over a wood foot brace
Don’t have em, don’t use 'em. For a touring kayak I’m sure that the foot board modification is very comfortable, but in the WW world foot braces in the form of bars are considered to be dangerous from an entrapment point of view. If that touring boat was ever used in a surfing situation, pearling or an ender might expose the paddler to a potential foot entrapment.

Just mulling this over…


I think Jim is right–as convenient

– Last Updated: Apr-29-05 2:00 AM EST –

as a wood cross-bar is, it poses a risk of foot entrapment.

Like many others here, my preferences are for foam footrest or Kajaksport footpegs, which really are a different animal from Prijon or Yakima ones. I've never tried the gel pads.

To cut a foam bulkhead quickly, I taped a piece of paper inside the boat at the footpeg location, then traced around the inside on the paper, then transferred it to thin foam (1"). I put the foam in the boat and pushed it with my feet to the perfect angle, marked the angle with a bevel gauge, pulled it out, and cut a piece of three inch foam to match the angle. Then I shoved the 3" foam in with my feet and glued 6 small foam blocks behind it to hold it in place (my boat has no bulkhead). The end result is a soft and comfortable footrest that is strong and poses no risk of entrapment.

Once you get used to having a large area to place your feet, and being able to press with heels or toes, or stretch your legs into the center of the boat, it's hard to got back to regular footpegs.

A downside to this system, however, is that you no longer have adjustability. Brian Nystrom wanted to try my boat, but he's taller than me, so it didn't work. In some group situations, I imagine this could pose a risk.


Paddling Podiatrist’s response…

Yes, I really am a paddling Podiatrist…

Plantar Fasciitis can be a stubborn problem but it’s not unbeatable-- I deal with these cases every day.

It’s an inflammation of the ligaments that support the sole of the foot. The problem is usually caused by the biomechanical functioning of your foot: the way the bones move and adapt as you walk or run. Something like paddling is not likely to CAUSE it, but once you have the condition the footpegs could be a bit of a problem.

One major contributing factor is tight posterior calf muscles, with a tight Achilles tendon. This pulls upwards on your heel bone, which in turn pulls on the Plantar Fascia, causing strain on that set of ligaments. Doing some good stretching exercises for those muscles every day can make a huge difference.

Overweight is an aggravating factor.

Other sports and activities can also make this worse, but that part can be controlled. Over the counter arches sometimes help, and custom made orthotics are an ideal, but somewhat expensive long term solution. “Cortisone” injections to the heel are a help too, but not a long term solution. In the long term, ya gotta control the functioning of the foot.

I would recommend (naturally!) a visit to a Podiatrist. If you can get your Plantar Fasciitis under control for your dry land activities, I don’t think it will bother you much while kayaking. Feel free to contact me off the board if you’d like further information or help.

Thanks for the explanation
Don’t have it at the moment, but past 50 a lot of things can start showing up that are new… Thanks to the paddling podiatrist for such a good explanation.