Proper Kneeling Position ???

I have always had serious foot pain when kneeling in my Wenonah Argosy. The pain is on the top of the foot from the ankle down to the start of the toes. If you sit in a chair, straighten your leg out, and then point your toes down and forward you can feel the area that I am getting stressed.

For reference, the Argosy has the height adjustable seat and for kneeling I set it with the front and rear at the heighest settings which leaves the seat slanted slightly forward. It is probably between a 1 and 2 inch drop from the rear to the front. I have tried kneeling with my toes pointed straight back and feet separated, with my legs pointing inward so my feet are almost touching, and with the legs spread wide and the toes pointing slightly outward. Pain develops the same in all the cases.

If I just kneel on the carpeted floor with my thighs vertical (front of shoulders almost directly over knees) then I have not pain. If I lower my butt down and back I start to feel tightness in the top of my foot. If I go low and far back enough I start to feel the pain. If I do something similar in the canoe I find that if I kneel with a little angle to my thighs (butt slightly lowered) and supported by contact with the front edge of the seat on the back of my upper thighs I am perfectly comfortable. If I try to sit back more so that I am more or less sitting on the front 1/3 of the angled seat I start haveing the pain. If I sit all the way up on the seat (as I do when sitting) my knees come off the bottom of the canoe and I feel I am losing the use of my knees for balancing the canoe.

Now for my questions:

  1. Should I have the support contact be from the front edge and at my upper thighs or should I be kneeling such that the support contact is from the top of the seat and on my butt? My center of gravity is definitely higher in the first case and I do feel less stable (although much more comfortable) this way.

  2. How far above the bottom of the canoe is the front edge of a seat used for kneeling? I paddled a Bell Yellowstone Solo which had a more “normal” flat seat nearer the gunnels and found it very comfortable for kneeling

  3. Do you sit on top of kneeling thwarts or get support more on you thighs from the front edge of the thwart?

  4. Is it generally considered less stressful to kneel with the legs inward, straight back, or outward?

  5. Were can I order “ankle blocks”? In the past someone suggested these might help with my pain. I assume these are placed so the support press is on my shin right at the ankle rather than on the instep just above my toes.

    I really like the way kneeling gives me a feeling of control (much like in sea kayak) but I can only take it for very short periods. Switching positions often between rapids is something I would like to avod.

    Thanks for any help you could give me.


I cant help as I am a comfortable
kneeling with the Argosy seat configured as yours.

But that might not be high enough for you. The support of the front edge of the seat goes on your ischial tuberositites.

Not supporting your thigh at all.

People differ widely in kneeling styles. Some kneel toes down with the pressure on the ball of their foot. Some kneel with the top of the foot on the floor. Some kneel with the latter posture with toes touching…

I have trouble when wearing shoes…I get cramps. So I often wear shoes (when I have) to with flexible soles.

It takes time to develop kneeling comfort. While I can kneel for two hours comfortably with a good pad the season never starts with more than ten minutes without discomfort.

You have probably answered your own question. Take the meaurements of the YS seat from the floor and bolt that Argosy seat in place. Thats what I did but for another reason.

common problem

– Last Updated: Sep-11-11 5:58 PM EST –

This is especially common in folks who paddled decked whitewater canoes (C-1s) which typically have pretty low pedestals and require the feet to be pointed straight back so that the heels don't contact the rear deck.

Personally, when I kneel in a boat using a canted seat or kneeling thwart I have my rear end just sort of resting against the seat or thwart rather than sitting on it. I have seen others support more of their weight on their butts, however.

How high your rear end is above the hull bottom in an open boat is largely a function of comfort and stability. The higher you are, the more comfortable it usually is (although more weight is placed on the knees in that position). But the higher you are the less stable the boat becomes.

Whitewater pedestals in open boats typically have a seat surface anywhere from 6 to 10 inches high relative to the hull bottom with 8 to 8 1/2 being most common. C-1 pedestals are often lower, sometimes as low as 4" high or so. But C-1 boaters are frequently unable to walk when they get to the take out.

Some people are more comfortable in a kneeling position with the foot flexed about 90 degrees relative to the leg. This is no problem in an open boat because there is no rear deck. But to comfortably maintain this position you need to have foot pegs or blocks to brace your toes against. Wearing booties with a fairly stiff sole also sometimes helps.

If you have your toes pointed, most folks find their comfort level is markedly improved using ankle blocks. I use minicell foam and cut out a cylinder about 3 inches tall and about 4 inches or so in diameter. Slice that down the middle and you get 2 hemi-cylinders, each about 3 inches wide and 2 inches high. Glue these in so that the high point is situated right where your shin joins the anterior part of your ankle. Some prefer an ankle block higher than 2 inches and some lower. You can easily build up the blocks by gluing on thin sheets of minicell with contact cement, and you can trim them down with sandpaper, Dragonskin, 3M Sandblaster, or Stanley Surform tools.

I had the same problem and eventually
had to give it up. Take the pain seriously because your body is telling you something.

Helped a friend with this prolem…
Put a piece of closed cell foam (1/2"- 1") on the seat and get a fat pool noodle to put under your ankles. or roll a fat beach towel. If the help under the ankle works, invest in ankle and knee blocks. Shave them to the size you need after experimenting with the towel, etc. What we figured out is that reducing the pressure on the nerves at the back of the thighs and stabalizing the whole lower leg helped more than just ankle blocks. Also, exercises for plantar faciitis helps. One is to stand on the stairs facing up the stairs, balls of both feet on tread and heels hanging over edge. Slowly let your weight do the stretching. Never bounce. Then do some quad stretching exercises. Hope you can work it out.

I kneel all the time

– Last Updated: Sep-11-11 8:07 PM EST –

I wear soft sole shoes. even running shoes are too stiff for me to kneel...not comfortable at all.

try a foam block under the ankle. sometimes I lay one foot over the other while I am paddling, using the ball of the lower foot to support the ankle of the other.

my kneeling thwart is tilted forward. One doesn't sit on a kneeling thwart, they rest/lean/half-sit against it.

my stern seat when I paddle tandem is also tilted forward. I can sit or kneel. the seat has to be high enough for feet as well as knee comfort. pure sitters can have a lower seat level, but kneeling does increase stability.

Okay... I kneel "almost" all the time

Kneeling and Flexibility

– Last Updated: Sep-11-11 9:35 PM EST –

As usual, pblanc made his points very clear. He's becoming my favorite poster when it comes to dealing with canoe questions. My reaction to what you wrote in your third paragraph makes me think that a lot of this is simply a flexibility issue. The fact that sitting progressively lower and moving your butt back and down toward your feet causes the stress to become worse suggests a flexibility problem. I experience no discomfort at all in the kneeling positions you describe, but there are other ways of pushing my limits where increased flex on one joint increases the amount of stretch in a muscle controlling "the next joint downstream". In this case, it sounds like your quads are too tight, so that tightly flexing the knee makes your knee want to "spring open", and resisting that opening force with your extended foot is where the problem lies. I don't know if it's possible for the average person to increase the flexibility of the muscles that stretch when your foot extends (muscles on the front of the shin), but it probably would be for someone with overall limited range of motion. Wearing flexible-soled shoes helps a lot though, and especially a shoe on which the top surface of the toe is not hard and difficult to bend. Anyone can loosen their quads by stretching. A long-term stretching program takes some dedication if you aren't into that sort of thing already, but I bet it would help. Along the same lines as what you describe, way back when I first got into martial arts, all our "sitting and listening" time was spent kneeling with our butts on our heels, and feet extended (toes pointing back). The little book the instructor gave us when we started out said that it was common for "Westerners" to be unable to kneel in that position without pain, and it sounds like you are one of them.

As to your questions,

1. I normally don't have my thighs on the seat when kneeling, but with the proper seat angle I'm sure you could. I'd say do what's comfortable and adjust the seat to make it work.

2. I don't know how high the front edge of the seat "should" be, but on my three canoes, the top of that front edge is 8.5", 8.75", and 9.75". All are comfortable, but the higher seat is better when wearing stiff shoes because there's "just" enough room to flex my feet now and then, with the balls of my feet against the floor and heels up. With stiff shoes, it helps to be able to move your feet to different postions that way (it so happens that I can lock myself to the seat this way too).

3. I've only tried out a boat with a kneeling thwart, and rather than "sit" on it, I simply leaned back against it for support, really about the same as I do with the front edge of my regular seat.

4. Regarding leg position, are you talking about upper legs (thighs) or lower legs? For me, my upper legs point outward as far as they can go in the particular boat, so that that my knees can't spread apart anymore on account of the canoe's sides. In that position, my lower legs can either point straight back or inward, and I tend to move them around as comfort demands. Having lower legs pointed inward at the same angle as the upper legs point outward is most comfortable for me, but sometimes with one lower leg "more in" than the other. To make the lower leg point straight back when kneeling this way is "not natural", but can be done if the thighs are medially rotated to put orientation of flex of the knee in proper position.

5. Ankle blocks would help with the pain your describe. Others will know where to get them, but of course you could make them, just like people make their own whitewater saddles.

try paddling…
for about 45 minutes or an hour 2 to 3 times a week. The pain should go away.


Flex and seat setting
What do you wear when kneeling? if it won’t flex well upgrade. how high you set the seat and the angle can help. you would be suprised at how high you can sit and still feel control and balance given time.

seat is too low
I also have an Argosy which I find painful to kneel in for any length of time. I believe the seat, at its’ highest setting, is too low. I kneel successfully in several other boats where the seats or kneeling thwarts are set several inches higher off the floor. Kaymedic has it right; raise the adjustable seat, bolt it in place and just rest your bottom against the forward edge.


For me it depends on the boat
In my Yellowstone Solo, I have the short drops which put the seat at about 10”. I just lean against the seat when kneeling, knees in the chines, toes pointed back on a nice comfortable kneeling pad. I know a lot of people like ankle blocks, but they have never worked for me. It does take a while to get use to kneeling, and I think stretching helps a lot. Once your feet start to hurt, there is nothing wrong with sitting on the seat, but sit with your feet forward, not under the seat. Its more comfortable that way :wink:

Just went and measured
the height of the front edge. It was 9". By accident I happened to drop the rear of the seat to the “level” position instead of the tilted position. The front edge of the seat actually came up higher. It was 9.5". This might be just enough to make it comfortable for me.

Early today I tried out some variation in my position. By getting my butt a little bit higher I was able to do about 45 minutes worth of kneeling before I had to quit. I was not really comfortable, but it was not unberable. At that position I still felt stable and could heel the canoe easily. With some more stretching I might be able to use this position without other aids. I will report back when I get to try the “level” seat position and some of the ankle block ideas.

Thanks for all the helpful ideas.


One of my complaints about the Argosy
seat is that it self adjusts mid lake and I can’t readjust it.Whether its my deficiencies or the set up of the seat is to be seen but I think that if you push back against the seat as one does during normal paddling it’s bound to dislodge upward and backwards and settle on another level.

Anyway when the seat does its own thing independent of what I want…I do notice.

Rather than ripping out the thing which I was thinking of doing during my last swear session, I just settled on a position I liked and drove bolts through the hangers. I can remove them for resale and the seat will be ala factory specs.

I am fiddly fussy about cant angles. I find that the rear of the seat has to be one inch above the front otherwise kneeling is literally a pain on my knees and ankles. I found this out not through repeated iterations of fixing the seat but by using a Ridge Rest (it folds) giving me several different front-rear elevation differentials.

Try seat angles first. Then ankle blocks. Pool noodles ought to be on clearance now so you can shove one in under your ankles for 99 cents to see if it makes any difference.

Some muscle/tendon systems in the
leg cross more than one joint. That’s probably why when you kneel on carpet, you feel the tightness in your foot even though you haven’t done anything with your foot, you’ve only closed your knee to some acute angle. Some TV-room stretching exercises may help.

Otherwise, pblanc’s suggestion of ankle blocks is spot on. But if you don’t get the tops of your legs stretched out over all joints, ankle blocks may not work as well as they should. Ankle blocks do close the knee joint somewhat, which may partly defeat their purpose.

Google: joint reaction force and
incongruence to see what kind of permanent damage you could be doing to yourself.

i did that
and got a bunch of medicalese garbaldi-guck for returns. Made zero sense. Are you saying that kneeling in a canoe can perminantly injure someone? Can you explain in layman’s terms?

How about providing a link?

– Last Updated: Sep-13-11 12:00 PM EST –

I did as you said, and nothing pops up in the search that is relevant. How about showing us an article that discusses what you are talking about?

Right now I'm guessing that you are talking about the extreme stress that takes place in the knee when it's loaded while in a tightly flexed position, and yes, this DOES sound like what the original poster is describing. If that's the case, barring some joint injury or deformity, stretching should eliminate that high degree of stress, right? After all, if the muscles are not tight (which they will not be when simply kneeling IF the muscles have enough working length), there will be no stress whatsoever imposed on a normal knee joint regardless of its position. If the knee joint becomes loaded when flexed, but NOT due to tension in the muscles, there's something wrong within the joint itself, and in that case, yeah, stop doing that (I have had such a problem at times due to torn cartilage preventing full "closure" of the knee joint, but at those times the problem was clearly within the knee since it simply wouldn't bend all the way regardless of leg position). However, if it's a muscle-tightness problem (and it probably is since this is terribly common), sure you can damage the knee by that kind of stress, but it makes a lot more sense to eliminate the source of the stress by stretching the muscles than taking your advice and deciding never to kneel again. However, I would say that for a person not able to determine "what's going on" in a situation like this, visiting a physical therapist or sports-medicine doctor would be a good thing, because naturally you want to know the exact cause of poor flexibility before trying to fix it (and also before doing what you say and giving it up as a lost cause).

Just to clarify
I have no pain at all in the knee and don’t even feel any stress in the knees. All the tightness and pain is in the top of the foot particularly right at the ankle.

With this in mind do you think I am stressing the knee as well as the ankle?


I think the thread wandered
and don’t fix what is not broken. Pay attention to what your ankles are telling you.

When I paddle Canadian Style the typical stance is knees bent all the way and there is tremendous pressure then on the ankles. I cant do it. So I made a little raised bench to relieve pressure on my ankles. There are a lot of tendons in the front of your ankle. By not having my knees bent so much the pressure on the ankles is reduced.

I would recommend stretching as in wearing high heels but I doubt that would appeal to you!

The discomfort you feel is due to stretch in the tendons of the muscles of the anterior calf compartment (tibialis anterior, extensor digitorum longus, and extensor hallucis longus) that run down across the anterior ankle joint, and possibly also some stretch in the anterior ankle joint capsule and its associated ligaments. These structures are placed in tension when the foot is maximally plantar flexed.

If you have your forelegs (calves) in a natural position while kneeling, and you point your toes straight back without inverting or everting the feet, neither the knee joints nor the ankle joints should be placed in an incongruent position.