Should I Get a Foot Brace in a New Solo Canoe?

I’m planning on ordering a new Northstar Northwind Solo. Someone suggested I think about a foot brace. I’ve never had a foot brace before in any of the solos or tandems I’ve owned. I’ve only used them in Wenonah tandems we have rented in the BWCAW. I tend to kneel most of the time when paddling solo unless I’m fishing or taking pictures, and I am not much of a hit and switch paddler, but do some at times and can see the value of sitting more as the years accumulate particularly on longer trips.

Foot brace pros and cons?


Your paddling style sounds somewhat similar to mine. Based on that I’d guess that you might not use the brace much to start with. For me it takes a bit of discipline to lock in when I’m sitting. Advantages are a better lock-in when sitting and a solid load transfer from the paddle to the hull. I haven’t seen any disadvantages other than something else to futz with. I could see potential problems if the canoe was being used for free-style.

In our fleet, the Mad River Independence has a cane seat & no foot brace while the Wenonah Rendezvous has a pedestal tractor seat & a foot brace mounted with thumb screws. the Sawyer Cruiser tandem has a foot brace for the stern paddler that is spring loaded and quicker to adjust.

I am a sit and switch paddler in tandems as well as solos and have installed an adjustable foot brace in every canoe I own, or have owned.
Since you are primarily kneeling most of the time it sounds like you don’t need one.
If you think you might want one some day or on occasion why not go ahead and install one that is easily removable. Then in the middle of a trip if you want to remove it or install it, just remove a wing nut on each side and take it off or put it on.
A home made one is a easy and simple project and I’ll gladly describe how if you want.

Jack L

I have one in my Nomad as it came with one… It does not interfere with kneeling… The Nomad is not one of my FreeStyle boats however… I’d curse a foot brace in those.

I would get one for purely tripping as you get excellent power from your feet braced when you do sit.

I would say the same as Jack, that if you primarily kneel, you don’t really need the footbrace, but it might still be nice to have it for those times when you are not kneeling. Almost everyone who kneels in a canoe takes occasional sitting breaks to get their legs feeling limber again, and if your seat has a forward slope to it (most kneelers set up their seat that way), the footbrace makes that forward slope work really well for the plain old sitting position. In fact, while sitting on a sloped seat with your feet against a brace, you are “locked in” far better than what’s possible with a footbrace and a normal flat seat (I’m talking about bench seats here, not tractor seats). In the end, your boat will be more versatile with a sloped seat and a footbrace.

I learned this by accident after I started out solo paddling while sitting on a flat bench seat. I realized I really needed a footbrace in that situation, and after a year or so when I switched to kneeling and put a slope on the seat, viola, sitting during my occasional breaks away from kneeling put me in a situation that was far more comfortable and secure than it had ever been when sitting on a seat that was flat - all thanks to the footbrace. I sold that first solo canoe and as I got a few others solo boats, I set them up for kneeling and the only reason I didn’t add footbraces to any of them was because, as another poster has mentioned, it would have been an extra thing to futz with, but I do think a footbrace is handy.

Thanks for all the thoughts, folks. They are very helpful.

I found the foot brace they have on the Northstar web site. It looks pretty simple and seems like it would be easy to get the bar out of the way if it was an issue for gear placement or something. As Jack said it appears that it would be just a couple of wingnuts. I’ll see if they will put the foot brace on for me since I’m going to order this one, or maybe the retailer would do it.

Guideboatguy, I do have a sloped seat set up for kneeling in the Mad River Independence. It has just enough room to get the size 12s in and out of. It makes sense that would help with locking when used with a foot brace. I’ll try to replicate it in the Northwind.

Rival51, we had a Sawyer Cruiser for about 20 years!

I have a foot brace on my Sawyer DY Special and no foot brace on my Swift Osprey in Carbon Fusion layup. I like a foot brace but I don’t think it is absolutely necessary for the type of paddling I do. A couple weeks ago a new NorthStar solo in blacklite layup found its way to my garage. It came with a foot brace. If you are ordering a new boat I would have it installed. If you don’t like if it is very easy to remove and then replace if needed.

I have not had a chance to paddle the new NS Solo but it is one beautiful canoe. The new NorthStar synthetic gunnels are true works of art. Can’t wait no spring to arrive in northwestern PA.

@RobF - our Cruiserwill be 29 (with us) this spring. Ruth & I bought it from Raupps with our wedding money. We still have it although it is pretty beat up and doesn’t get out much any more.

I kneel primarily and sit when I need a break. Even so I have braces in all my canoes. My seated paddling efficiency and comfort are noticeably better for it. I install my own as I prefer kayak braces (Sea-Dog brand) to the foot brace bar most commonly used in canoes. I find them more comfortable and I like having the central floor of the boat unobstructed.

Enjoy that new canoe when you get it!

I prefer to kneel most of the time. I added an adjustable foot bar in my Sojourn with the canted sliding seat. I wouldn’t be without it in that boat, even though I don’t use it much.

I have foot braces in most of my solo canoes and plan to put them in the solos that don’t have them, yet. The ones that I’ve installed have been the aluminum Wenonah sliding foot braces, which don’t allow removal of the bar after installation, as the models with bolts & wing nuts allow.