Toe or foot pads for canoe - I can't picture it

Hi all,

I was looking at the NRS site and saw foot braces and toe braces for canoes. I paddle our tandem canoe solo more than tandem, and I am trying to maximize comfort and stability when in the kneeling position.

The problem is, I can’t picture how these work. When I’m kneeling, my feet are behind me, and I can’t imagine having the ankle flexibility to get the sole of my foot on these blocks. Are they intended as a “stop” so my foot does not keep sliding backwards? If so, why not just a small piece of foam? I don’t see how I could fully use the entire wedge of these things. Here are two links to what I am talking about:

If somebody has a picture of this arrangement, maybe I would understand, but I am having trouble picturing it, and I don’t want to get these and then glue them in wrong.

Thanks in advance,

Eric Zwicky
Richmond VA

They are for solo pack canoes where the paddler sits.

So these are not for stabilizing my feet when kneeling? They’re for when sitting?

Sorry if I am asking dumb questions, but I talked to a lady at NRS this morning and she wasn’t really helpful at all… said they do not canoe much around there, only kayaking.

Footbars are used in canoes with the paddler sitting such as in tractor seated canoes. They prevent the paddler from sliding forward. They are used in solo and tandem canoes especially in long tours or races.

Footpegs are more commonly used in canoes or kayak with seating on the floor. Can be solo or tandem. Often but not exclusively in pack canoes.

Correct… not useful at all for a kneeling paddler.

Thanks so much for the quick reply! I will omit these from my shopping list.

Your answer was my first one, which I honestly thought I had updated. I guess I did not. Sorry to both you and Eric, I started something misleading here.

I looked at Eric’s links. The first SPECIFICALLY states that the pads are “For comfort while paddling in the kneeling position. Mini cell foam with a tapered shape provides support and cushion for the foot and ankle. Sold in pairs. Easy peel and stick installation. Includes a 2 1/2” x 4" piece of 100-grit sandpaper for shaping."

The second ones are a little less specific and I am unclear on whether they are supposed to stop the toes from going further back or further forward. I suspect the first though, because the way they are shaped if in front of the paddler they would actually stop the heel rather than toes.

Eric, while I have done many things to try and make the tops of my feet happier I tend to agree… Those pads would not help. I would consider it to be an idea from someone with young and quite flexible feet.

Thanks Celia, I’m fairly flexible at 60, but not that flexible :slight_smile: But along these lines, do you have any tips for me on a toe “stop” when kneeling? Maybe a thick piece of closed-cell foam? Or am I over-thinking this?

I am mainly interested in securing / padding my knees because they are pretty sensitive after a life of tree and pole climbing. But anything to aid in stability so I am not expending a lot of effort just to keep my feet in place would be useful.


Hi Eric. I am not a great canoeist, but frankly it never would occur to me to worry about having a stop for the toes. They lie flat and aren’t going anywhere without my knees moving. And my bony knees complain worse. I have a standard thickness foam kneeling pad, just sits in the bottom of the boat, and wear working-guy level knee pads. Like a number of canoeists I have seen with more experience than me but also bony old knees.

If you haven’t tried knee pads yet get them.

Those look to me like what goes with a pedestal setup. They are NOT for those who kneel on canted seats.

The ankle blocks are for those who put their instep against the bottom of the boat, and they support that natural “gap” area that occurs beneath the ankle when the feet are in that position. Actually, these probably could be used by someone who kneels with their butt on the seat, but I sure wouldn’t. It can be awkward enough getting one’s feet out from under the seat when it needs to be done quickly even if the floor is bare, much less with additional obstructions like these things. With a pedestal, there are no such difficulties.

The toe blocks are used when kneeling on a pedestal and the ankles are flexed so that the balls of the feet are against the floor. They allow you to keep forward-directed pressure pushing your thighs against the thigh straps. They would also give you something to brace against during strong reverse strokes. You would never use these under a standard canoe seat unless you have rather small feet.

The whitewater canoers here have seen far more of these setups than I have, and can either add details or say that I’m wrong.

Oh, to get to your secondary question, glued-in knee pads seem to be preferred by whitewater boaters who are not using full-on whitewater boats. Some are nicely contoured to keep your knees from slipping. I haven’t outfitted a boat that way, but have found a few tricks to keep knees from slipping with regular drop-in pads.

With standard drop-in kneeling pads, it helps immensely to put a few traction strips on the floor of the boat. A wet kneeling pad made of foam will slip and slide like crazy when you perform strenuous maneuvers, but traction strips stuck to the hull will put an end to that problem.

Also, most standard foam kneeling are a bit slippery on the top surface too. To reduce that problem, I painted the knee-contact areas of mine with the same “Plasti-Dip” stuff that’s used to coat the handles of hand tools. On a standard kneeling pad that I often use for whitewater, I also sewed on two canvas loops, each about 10 inches long and stuffed with a piece of pool noodle. It absolutely stops my knees from sliding forward, probably as well as a pair of contoured, glued-in knee pads.

Finally, there used to be a kneeling pad sold by Mad River which is really nice, containing a denser grade of padding, and having both sides coated in a very rough-textured plastic that practically sticks to anything that touches it. It’s the best drop-in kneeling pad I’ve ever seen. I got one about three years ago, but I don’t know if they still sell them.

You can try builders’ knee pads. Some people like them, others hate them. I’m in the hate-them group. Too unstable for me, unless they’re really good ones and strapped on tightly, and I don’t like that feeling, especially all day long. They also don’t grip the floor of the boat well at all, so you have no hope of doing high-effort strokes. I also like to be able to get in and out of the boat frequently to do other things with minimal fuss. Anyway, those are just my reasons, and if you’re a lilly-dipper, they might be fine. And maybe they’d grip the floor if I weren’t such a lightweight (and being heavy gives you a lot of natural “grip” of your butt on the seat - I don’t have that either).

Pads… Sue Audette the Bag Lady sells some if you need cushioning.

These are good but years ago Cooke Custom Sewing had some great t shaped knee pads and those of us that paddled wood and canvas with ribs craft kneeling loved them

Ah yes - these things make much more sense with a pedestal seat. The primarily-kayak person at NRS probably had no idea.

Key to comfortable kneeling is to position your seat so weight is evenly distributed between butt and knees…unless doing aggressive moves I actually prefer about 60% on my rear. Wear long pants to avoid sand grinding your knees to hamburger.

Wow, lots of good advice here, thanks everybody for replying. Guideboatguy, I can envision the toe devices now that you have described them so well, thanks.

There are a number of good kneeling pads available - I have a couple hanging out in my garage. I kneel and sit about equally in a Northstar Magic and prefer glued knee and foot pads. I use 3/8" minicell on the floor under my knees. I doubled it up in the bilge to narrow my knee position and provide a greater traction stick for active water conditions. My foot pad is 1/4" minicell, large enough to allow different positions and afford easy ingress and egress.

My knees and ankles are 63 years old and this system has worked well for me. The beauty is that you can try tour panels out on protected water before gluing them in. I take a roll of mask tape out with me and place small strips to mark locations as I paddle with the experimental pads.

Thanks Holmes, a picture is worth 1000 words. What are those things under the thwart? Bilge pumps?

Those are foot braces, a nice simple version that can be adjusted while you’re in your seat. I have a set in the skin boat I built at Cape Falcon:

Guideboatguy has it. The foot supports support your ankles with the toes pointed back and the instep flat on the boat. The toe blocks allow you to push forward on straps with the toes pointed down. Both would be used with a pedestal. Foot pegs like you see in kayaks are more common than the minicell foam toe blocks above. Here is a whitewater set up with a pedestal, knee pads, straps and toe pegs.

Mike Yee Outfitting

Glued in pads are nice - once they are in you never have to worry about forgetting them or loosing them. For flatwater paddling, I also use a t-pad like this

Very comfortable with the cloth on the upper surface.