Until recently, I’d been riding with the ball of my foot on the pedals. The more I ride, the more I find my feet naturally slipping into a position where the pedals are on the middle of my feet rather than the ball. The second position seems to give me better balance. Is there a correct way?
Not really a correct way at all. Somewhere between the ball and the middle is fine
A lot of pro cyclists set their cleats up towards the front, but there are a few who have theirs REALLY far back. Some unicyclists (I used to do this but don’t anymore) wear shoes/boots with heels that stop the pedal slipping any further back. I guess it depends on what you’re riding too (MUni? road? trials?)
I find boots or shoes with a heel more dangerous. The heel can catch during a upd turning it into a full on faceplant, but maybe that’s just my incompetence!
If your riding distance the ball of the foot should be over the pedal axle. If your feet are slipping your saddle height may be out a bit? Or try stickier shoes and/or grippier pedals? But if it’s still comfortable and you feel in control just stick with what is working!
Ankle articulation when riding on the ball of the foot provides a mechanism to rapidly change the loading on the pedal for sudden corrections. It is efficient because the Achilles tendon can absorb and recover energy.
However the tendon can be damaged by overloading so definitely move to the middle of the foot for substantial drops.
Years of studying the bio-mechanics of bicycling have shown that the ball of the foot over the pedal axle is the most efficient. However, unicycling is not bicycling. I find that having my foot back a little, between the ball and the arch over the axle, is best for me. I’ve noticed that with a lot of other riders as well. This difference is probably because we use our feet to control the balance and steering, not just pedal pushing, which is not the case on a bicycle.
Basically, use the position that feels most comfortable to you. Everyone is different.
Correct, so having the ball centered above the ax of the pedal provides the best control against pedals going to a death point. Opposite as described in the end of OneTrackMind’s post I personally find it the best way to prevent impact on knees and especially spine. But yes, if you have something going on, then putting your feet towards the centre is then the second best solution.
So basicly a +1 to the two previous posts.
Could this be because unicyclists often need to push harder than cyclists when climbing hills, making the optimum effective length of the foot lever somewhat shorter?
What do you mean by a “death point”.
That pretty much sums it up.
Toward the ball of the foot puts more load on the Achilles tendon while towards the heel puts more shock though your body. Each rider must find the best balance between the two to suit their imminent manoeuvres.
Ball of the foot works for me. I find that by rotating my foot slightly so that the toes of my shoes point slightly downward helps me to maintain constant foot pressure on the pedals.
I think, that having the feet perfectly horizontal causes you to lose pedal pressure as the pedal rotates through the top position i.e. the 12 o’ clock position.
Hope this helps.
Neither Lutz Eicholz nor Unigeezer use the ball-of-the-foot position, but they do seem to do OK.
I think he’s referring to the “dead zone,” the 12 and 6 o’clock pedal position.
Correct; a problem that you usually don’t have when riding, but when idling.
When using the “front” of your feet you can pedal such that you can “push and pull” it in the desired direction. Which is impossible when using your “heels”.
Having ridden with Pierre-Yves Billette - freestyle unicyclist - it was pretty impressive how he uses thin sole shoes (Converse) and puts the very tip of his feet on the pedals, allowing to almost grab them with his toes.
Your feet should be on the top of the pedals.
I find that I can go slightly faster using the balls on my feet in the center of the pedal. I have more control when using the arch of my foot.
But feet under pedals is one of my favorite tricks (although I can’t do it)!
My foot placement on a unicycle is the same as on a peg unicycle and this video demonstrates it pretty well:
I would describe it as just forward of center and I like it because it gives me the best mix of balance and power. My feet will naturally find this spot without me thinking specifically about it (although if it’s not too far off I won’t adjust). The mount at 1:20 in the video is a good demonstration of an adjustment.
Foot position depends on two major things, what you’re doing, and the condition of your knees (and ankles I guess). Personal preference is also a factor, but is non-mechanical.
General “best practices” position is balls on spindles, but that’s for basic riding. Riding steep downhill, for instance, favors having your foot more forward on the pedal. Other types of hard impact riding put you at less risk from hyperextension of the ankle, for example.
But the short answer is “Balls”.
Not per se, I’ve seen Colin Schworer and some other rider riding with their feet underneath the pedals.
The way I describe it is that ball of the feet puts the force further from the ankle joint, so the ankle acts like the fulcrum of a lever (and tendons? dammit Jim, I’m a sysadmin, not a doctor!), and all your weight is being supported at the end of that lever (the ball). Moving to the center of your foot for muni moves your weight closer to the fulcrum.
Having said all that, ride what feels best for you in whichever discipline you’re riding
A fair bit of the control of the unicycle comes from putting backwards pressure on the pedals, particularly when you’re hovering or riding downhill. You can apply that pressure more precisely using the middle of your foot than the ball.
If all you’re interested in is all-out speed on a smooth, flat surface then you’ll go faster pedalling with the balls of your feet, but usually the middle of the foot (or somewhere between ball and middle) works better.