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Fixing a rider's turned out toes.

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  • Fixing a rider's turned out toes.

    I have a major "confirmation flaw" in that I have fallen arches that cause my toes to turn out when I ride. I wore orthotics and did extensive physical therapy as a kid to be able to walk comfortably with my toes straight ahead and not turned out to the sides (like a duck). But, I haven't been able to get them to stay straight while I'm riding.

    Really the only way I can make my toes straight, parallel to the horse's sides, while I have my feet in the stirrups is to roll my foot so that all my weight is on the outside of each foot (along the bone that attaches to the pinky toe). Its impossible to keep this position past a walk, and as soon as I put weight in my heels, my toes flare back out.

    The problem doesn't seem to be too bad on the flat, but I just got back some photos from my last hunter show, and the head-on shots over fences show how bad the problem looks when I have all my weight in my stirrups. My toes look turned out practically 90 degrees, especially my right foot. Not pretty.

    I've asked my chiropractor about it, and he doesn't think there is anything I can do to "fix" it. Is this something that anyone else has struggled with, and successfully corrected or at least minimized?

  • #2
    I am by no means an expert, but my personal understanding of feet issues is that often the problem originates much higher up. It's possible that with your arch issues you're focusing on the problem being your foot, as that's the problem when you walk. But try focusing farther up your leg -- even up to the hip. How does your leg come out of your hip? Is your knee rolled off the saddle as your foot goes to a 90 degree angle?
    Try repositioning your whole leg (you may need someone to do this for you) so that the flat of your thigh is against the saddle. Not sure if this makes sense. Mary Wanless talks about how to reposition our leg. I know that many don't like her methods, but it might be worth a look just to consider.


    • #3
      I think you have a mistaken idea of where your feet are supposed to be. If your toes are parallel to the horse then you can not use your leg effectively. Toes should be at somewhere between 30-45 degrees based on the individual rider. This way you can effectively use your calf as needed or be able to bring your spur to bear. A parallel foot can not use a spur.


      • #4
        I have the same problem as you. Honestly? You really Can't do that much about it... You are built that way, it might be able to be fixed with a chiro if you wanna spend the $$. I have been able to slightly fix it, I used to turn out REALLY bad. I basically concentrated on it. Rolling out onto the outside of your foot is NOT the way to go. Hurts like he11 after a while and can wreck your tendons there. Sucks. I just paid attention to not over do it.


        • #5
          I agree with RAyers. It is not necessary for your toes to point straight. Besides the fact that you can't use your leg correctly, you also loose the ability to keep yours ankles flexible. I have taught a lot of riders who complained of pain in the outside of their legs just above the ankles from collapsing their ankles to the outside as you described. You need to learn to feel what is normal for you. Not past 45 degrees though, or else you have the back of your leg on the horse.


          • #6
            I used to have a similar problem as you, except I don't have fallen arches. I just had fallen into this nasty habit of turning my toes way out. I have finally fixed this problem. It took a lot of consent reminding myself to turn my toes in. For me it was about retraining my muscles to be in the correct position. I wish you luck!
            "There are only two emotions that belong in the saddle; one is a sense of humor and the other is patience."


            • #7
              roll your thighs in as far as possible so that your knee is pointed straight forward and you'll feel your leg very strongly against the horse- this allows your lower leg to hang straight and subsequently your toes straight as well. literally take your hand behind/underneath your thigh, and pull the thigh muscle back and roll the rest of your leg in.
              definitely takes time and practice to keep it there while you're riding though.


              • Original Poster

                Crazyhorses and WBmare, what exactly did you to do teach yourself to keep your toes more forward? Just worked on keeping your ankles rotated? Or was it more of a hip, thigh, or knee adjustment? I'm not going to be in the saddle for another week and a half, but I'd like to start trying different things to see if they help. I'll also try what hollyhorse and cadance suggest, all with my trainer's help.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by RAyers View Post
                  I think you have a mistaken idea of where your feet are supposed to be. If your toes are parallel to the horse then you can not use your leg effectively. Toes should be at somewhere between 30-45 degrees based on the individual rider. This way you can effectively use your calf as needed or be able to bring your spur to bear. A parallel foot can not use a spur.

                  Also, keeping your toes turned out that far gives you a total death grip on the horse's side if you have decent leg strength (not making that up from my own experience, GM says so too! ).
                  Trying a life outside of FEI tents and hotel rooms.


                  • #10
                    My daughter had one stubborn left foot that would always turn out too far. She got some fishing line, that would break easily, and tied her stirrup to the girth just tight enough so that her foot was as angle she wanted. It took about a month to correct and occasionally she has to do a refresher on that foot.


                    • #11
                      I stopped giving a crap about how far my toes are turned out when I realized that at 45 my conformation was pretty much set.

                      Then something weird happened. After about a month and a half of riding four to five days a week, my toe out angle has decreased quite a bit.

                      So long as your leg aids are effective, you can press your calves on the horse, and you are not spurring him on accident, where the toes point is good.


                      • #12
                        Please don't harm yourself!

                        Originally posted by sandycrosseventing View Post
                        I agree with RAyers. It is not necessary for your toes to point straight. Besides the fact that you can't use your leg correctly, you also loose the ability to keep yours ankles flexible. I have taught a lot of riders who complained of pain in the outside of their legs just above the ankles from collapsing their ankles to the outside as you described. You need to learn to feel what is normal for you. Not past 45 degrees though, or else you have the back of your leg on the horse.
                        THIS. Very definitely, this. I have worked with too many riders who are either in tears from the constant frustration and pain, or who have, even at young ages, sustained real, lasting damage to their knees. As other posters have so accurately pointed out, by torqueing your feet and ankles, you lose all flexibility in your ankles... and you also lose flexibility in your knees and in your hips! And all of those mis-used joints are taking a beating that will catch up with you later in life. Honestly, putting all that twist and torque on your joints is just not worth the long-term damage.

                        Plus, consider the fact that your ankles, knees, and hips ALL share the task of absorbing shock. Even if you're one of the rare people who can manage to stiffen and twist ONLY your ankles (and we're talking one in many thousands here), by removing one of your three sets of shock absorbers you're making the other ones work overtime, with nasty results - more serious damage in the long term, and stiffness in the saddle - making you a less effective rider - in the short term. NOT WORTH IT. (Ask George Morris, he'll tell you the same thing.)

                        In general, toes follow kneecaps - if your toes are pointing in a certain direction, your kneecaps are usually pointing in exactly the same direction. The only safe way I know to try to change someone's toe-pointing direction is to have them practice, over and over, some gentle, safe stretching exercises that use the entire leg. The basic idea is to achieve a stretch and rotation from the HIP - if you've ever done any ballet, think of ballet turnout (ouch) - for the hunters, you want ballet turn-IN. It may be possible for you to achieve a straighter foot, but you'll need to loosen your hips enough to achieve this safely (keeping ankles and knees and hips flexible, with kneecaps and toes in line). You'll need to practice that turn-in, and also remind yourself - every time, every ride, many times per ride - to do the excellent exercise that someone else mentioned (sorry, I'm not yet very adept with multiple quotations). This is the one where you get into a half-seat (2-point) then reach back with one hand at a time, grab the big muscle BEHIND your leg, and pull it straight back so that it's lying behind your leg instead of between your leg and the saddle. It's an old cavalry exercise and it's hard to do, especially for women because we have different articulation (femur angle) and we also tend to have rounder thighs. But some of us can make this work if we persevere... and it really is quite a different sensation when the INSIDES of your thighs are lying against the saddle.

                        If you try the exercise, be careful - warm up first, and be aware that if you are very stiff in the hips, you might cramp. Ow.

                        Also, try to pay attention to the direction/position of your toes and kneecaps, before and after you shift those muscles out of the way. The change is often dramatic. It's also often very difficult to maintain, but if you can keep reminding yourself and practicing, it will make a big difference to your position and relaxation and effectiveness, as well as to your toe-pointing direction.

                        Mostly, I'd suggest that you not beat yourself up if you can't achieve a "perfect" position, because we are all different, and not every rider's conformation will allow those toes to point straight forward. In fact, in 35+ years of teaching, I've seen only a handful of riders whose toes are pointing straight ahead, all the time (mostly male riders, and an occasional young female rider with very thin thighs).

                        SOME riders can do this on SOME - not all - horses. The issue isn't always JUST the effect of an individual's conformation! Horse conformation (well-sprung ribcage or slab-sided?) and saddle design (CC or dressage models can make this job a little easier because there's less saddle bulk under the rider's thighs) also have an effect on a rider's leg position. So do some other factors, such as (I am not making this up) the tightness of their breeches!
                        Home page: www.jessicajahiel.com
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                        • #13
                          Good post from pasde2.


                          • #14
                            For the last three lessons (and again this morning we will) we've been working on trying to keep my toes forward. My problem is wanting to use the back of my leg and my heel to squeeze, rather than the inside of my calf. I roll my toes out to use my heel/back of leg, and lose all support in my inner thigh (which drops and drives my butt into the saddle. It also allows my back and sides to collapse as they have no support from my legs). My trainer will say to lift my knee, increasing the angles in my legs (hip and knee). She won't say drop my heels, but lift my toes. When I try to drop my heels it makes my leg brace and stiffen.
                            We do lots of no stirrup work. ("Eek" face here) donno when this became such a problem for me, but I think I fix one thing only to exchange it for something else!


                            • Original Poster

                              Thanks for the replies all. I'm going to try some of the suggestions, especially the using the inside of the thigh one since I've read about it multiple times. But I guess the bottom line is that I shouldn't be overly concerned if my toes point out further that the next rider, as long as everything else is working correctly. The replies made me feel alot better about something I had assumed was a problem that would hold me back as a rider. Thanks!!


                              • #16
                                your toes should not point straight ahead!

                                If your toes point straight ahead then you cannot use your leg properly. Toes should be pointed OUT about 30-45 degrees.


                                • #17
                                  from a centered riding point of view

                                  Sally Swift felt very strongly that this a result of how the thigh comes / is attached at the hip; if you can find a Centered Riding instructor have them do some bodywork on you while mounted; a good sports massage therapist ,

                                  cranial sacral therapist / a Feldenkrais practitioner could all help you with this I had a similar problem and with the help of the aforementioned practitioners was able to move beyond it, though now with the "problem" leg affected by the stroke, plus broken hip and ankle on that leg also; it once again needs help. but, I am not riding does your foot point out on the ground as well?
                                  breeder of Mercury!

                                  remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans