Kneeling in a MR Freedom Solo

Well, I finally settled on a solo canoe and bought a Freedom Solo. I like it, and am pretty pumped about becoming a better paddler.

One problem. I have size 13 feet, and it is difficult getting my feet under the seat for kneeling. I found it more comfortable to push my feet all the way through so they not actually under the seat, but behind it. Getting my feet and legs back out from this position is very difficult. My fear is that if my legs are essentially pinned under the seat and if I tip over, I’ll be stuck and drown.

Anyone else with this problem? Should I keep my feet under the seat and just live with it?

Sounds like you need to raise the seat
If you are a kneeler you’ll probably have to raise the seat as much as an inch. It should be canted forward so that the front is slightly lower than the back. In some boats this can make it a bit tippy when sitting. But in the Freedom Solo you should have no trouble at all. It’s a very stable boat.

Position of your feet

– Last Updated: Apr-07-12 6:08 PM EST –

The seat may need to be higher, but even then there might not be room to put your feet in a toes-down, heels-up position. Can you kneel with your insteps down flush against the hull? That's my foot position about 95 percent of the time. I'd suggest you do that, and then your heels will only be a few inches high off the floor of the boat. Wearing stiff boots can be a problem, forcing the top of the boot's toe against the floor instead of the instep, and causing the rest of your foot to act as a bridge, and that's uncomfortable. Wearing flexible footwear solves that problem though.

Front edge about 3/4 to an inch lower
than the back edge.

Don’t settle for a dangerous seat height. Get a saw and start shortening the risers…go slow and test for comfort and fit each time.

Usually your feet will twist sideways on your ejection but give yourself some clearance anyway.

I agree with most but not all
The foot position you indicate is not what I use. I am a top of the foot on the floor paddler when kneeling and find that with the right footwear clearance is pretty easy.

Boots however have heels that can catch and without a flexible sole I am guaranteed cramps.

What part did you not agree with?

– Last Updated: Apr-07-12 6:37 PM EST –

Seems to me you said the same thing I did, except for the part about your foot position being different, that is. Your actual description of foot position was sure the same.

semantics maybe
My understanding is that the instep is on the underside of the foot. Sure I have friends who assume the position of kneel and have the balls of their toes and the instep(the bottom of the foot) toward the floor.

My instep is upwards facing with the top of the foot on the floor. I need sox as otherwise I get abraded on the top of my foot.

As people can do both ( especially in FreeStyle) I just wanted to elaborate.

My Freedom Solo is rigged with a
minicell pedestal, on which I can either kneel or sit. The “center” thwart is moved to the back edge of the pedestal, where it helps hold the pedestal down. My size 15 feet only extend partway under the thwart, and my lower legs would come out readily in a wet exit.

I have other solo setups where the pedestal is held down at the front by the “center” thwart, so that it helps hold down my thighs as I kneel. The pedestal is high enough for comfort. With this setup, however, it is not possible to change to sitting position unless one moves one’s butt back a full position, because otherwise one’s knees and lower legs would have to extend over the “center” thwart.

I’ve put “center” in quotes, because with pedestals, it is often necessary to move the center thwart from the “geographical” center.

Thanks for the thoughts so far. I want to learn to paddle kneeling in order to get the most out of the boat.

I thought of the stiff boot problem. When I tested the boat I was wearing Keens. It was tight, but not unbearable. After I bought it, I took it out wearing mukluks. I noticed the difference immediately.

As for insteps down, my leg flexibility is not good, and can be painful. I’ve had a few serious lower leg injuries (a badly broken lower right leg/ankle, and ruptured Achilles on the left), and the wheels are not what they used to be which is why I started paddling. I honestly don’t know if my right ankle will allow me to do that.

I think I’ll take it out again in a day or two with different shoes and see how it goes. I’ll probably end up raising the seat.

As for pedestal, that might be in the future, but I want to get used to the boat before I start making big changes.

More on seats and footwear
If you are on flatwater and have on a PFD you are not likely to drown if your feet get stuck for a while. If you are paddling whitewater, the danger goes up exponentially and I would recommend a saddle or pedestal.

I don’t like high seats so have my seats very low, and wear 10.5 shoes. I almost always canoe with very thin, flexible and light booties or water shoes to maximize my ability to flatten out my feet and the ability to slide my feet under and out from under the seat. In cold weather and water I may use NRS neoprene mukluks, which are still flexible enough. If I’m going to be portaging long distance when using thin canoe shoes, I’ll take some other land shoes with me.

That explains it.
I have always called the top of the foot the instep, so when my “instep” is against the bottom of the hull, my foot is in the same position you were describing.

I’m in the same situation, and often
wear NRS rodeo socks to which I’ve added both sole padding and padding to the top surface.

Someone with a history of leg injuries and tight legs may have to use ankle blocks so the ankles don’t have to be retroflexed so severely while kneeling.

My pedestals in my open canoes are in the 8 to 10 inch range for long term comfort, but when I was paddling decked c-1s, my pedestals were a bit under 6", a challenge for a 6’ 5" person.

An unappreciated source of knee discomfort when kneeling can be insufficient control over the knee moving inward or outward. Foam knee cups were not enough for me. On all my OC-1s and C-1s I have put in knee wedges to keep my knees from swimming around. It helps quite a bit with comfort and ability to tolerate kneeling.

For a Mad River Guide/Freedom Solo, I suggest not going for “tight” outfitting like that used by paddlers in all-out whitewater canoes. Get knees under control and the rear end properly perched on the pedestal, but leave some wiggle room so it is possible to get out easily and to change to sitting position. Padding against the sides of the boat, maybe even a little “thigh hook” for the legs when sitting, plus some sort of a foot brace, can make paddling in a sitting positon pretty secure up through most class 2.

Simple solution…

– Last Updated: Apr-08-12 8:28 PM EST –

Raise the seat a little, and wear more flexible paddling shoes. Foot entrapment should not then be an issue then.

I wear size 13 shoes.
I have owned & paddled MR Guides/Freedom Solos for many years. Never a problem.

Did have problem once with seat height on Bell Wildfire, but it only dragged me about 3 or 4 canoe lengths over a rocky shoal before I got it stopped & extracted my foot.


My understanding

– Last Updated: Apr-08-12 5:15 PM EST –

My understanding of foot terminology is that the instep is the top of the foot from the base of the toes to the top of the ankle joint. The arch is the bottom of the foot from the ball of the foot to the heel.

I have a high arch, very high instep, and a big wide 5E foot. Makes kneeling uncomfortable and when kneeling it is tough to get my feet out quickly.

Although I did a lot of kneeling going through the rapids of the San Juan River in Utah and somehow managed to avoid getting my feet caught under the seat when we dumped on some of those rapids.

Our insteps are not in step
Well, I will confess that I was confused about the anatomical meaning of “instep”. I wonder if the word is used in relation to shoes and boots in the same way it is used in relation to foot anatomy. What is the instep of a shoe? That could explain some of the confusion.

According to the following foot anatomy diagram, I think I would say I paddle kneeling with the tops of my toes and metatarsus flat against the bottom of the boat. My instep might not be touching the bottom.

ankle blocks
I would definitely raise and cant the seat as others have suggested but you might consider ankle blocks. Many whitewater open boaters use them. They are less commonly used by flat water boaters, but there is no reason they cant be.

Ankle blocks are simply small, shaped foam (minicell is best) supports that are placed under the lowest portion of your shin and the front part of your ankle joint. They are usually only a few inches high but they support the ankle and take some of the tension off of the tendons that cross the front of the ankle, and off the ankle joint capsule itself.

If you decide to try them take a piece of minicell foam roughly 3" wide and 3" tall by about 4-5" in length and shape them so the top surface has a curved contour. Kneel in your canoe and paddle for a while to determine the position in which your feet and ankles will be most comfortable. Slide the blocks under your lower legs and ankles and fiddle with the position to find where they are most comfortable, then mark their position on the hull bottom with a Sharpie.

Glue the blocks in with a good, waterproof contact cement like DAP Weldwood. Use multiple coats (2-3) of glue on the foam.

I have the short seat drops from Bell
in my Yellowstone Solo. The drop is an 1 1/2" in front, and a 1/2" in back. That puts the seat at 10" in front and 11" in back. Its great for kneeing, but is makes the boat feel tippy when sitting. In flatwater, sitting is fine. If I get into waves or current, I have to kneel, which is fine with me.

That’s always been my impression of the instep.

kneeling in a Guide/Solo
A few thoughts from my experience with that boat:

1)If you go to a pedestal, you will need to move or add a thwart. Removing the seat without replacing some stiffening between the other thwarts will make the hull too flexible mid-ship. After trying a pedestal, I went back to the angled seat, I think that works better.

2) Ankle blocks help a lot if your legs are “tight.” Before you glue anything in, I simply cut up a pool noodle into short lengths and tried that temporarily. Helps alot!

3) I also agree that padding on the hull up past the chines for your knees helps on the comfort factor.

my $0.02

Try foot blocks and semi thigh hooks
for sitting, as if you were in a kayak with a high seat. Might help to add something to the seat to keep your butt in place. Also, everything should be set so that, when you’re kneeling, the boat is just a little bit bow up, while when sitting, it’s trimmed near dead level but not bow down. If the boat gets bow down, unlike ww boats which are more tolerant, the Guide Solo will tend to roll around the bow and it will be tippy.

But you knew all of that, or the parts that might be true anyway, and just were too busy paddling, like me, to make the changes.

Sorry it’s so dry up there. SE has been darned dry too.