Measuring feet/heel height
What is it?
The depth of the heel below the lowest point of the seat.
Why do we adjust it?
We adjust our feet or heel height to get into a biomechanical position that gives us our best performance.
How do we measure it?
With a straight edge ruler across the boat (Figure 1.1) measure the height from the bottom of the ruler to the base of the heel inside the shoe. Write this number down.
Now move the ruler above the seat and measure down to the lowest point of the seat (Figure 1.2). Subtract this number from the heel height number and you will get your feet/heel height.
There are many different types of seat tops. There are different shapes and they come in varying carriages. These can vary within each boat, and each seat height should be measured in each seat.
What is normal?
15-18cm is a typical range. We see feet heights range from 12-22cm. Taller and less flexible athletes will need a lower feet height. Shorter athletes will row with a higher setting.
What if the feet height is set too low?
If feet are set too low, the athletes will be likely to fall over at the catch or go for too much length out the front.
What if the feet is set too high?
If the feet are too high, the athlete is too restricted coming forward. This will make it difficult to get the required length out front.
Common issues faced by schools and clubs.
Big shoes for small athletes - It is important to have a shoe that fits each athlete, whilst an athlete might fit into a larger shoe size they are unlikely to be able to get set up in a biomechanically efficient position.
Heels of shoes making contact with the hull – This can cause serious damage to the hull in a short session. If an athlete needs more room for their heel height than the stretcher will allow, then their seat should be packed up higher using seat packers or a seat pad.
Smelly shoes – wear socks.
Stretcher angle is another important adjustment that is made in conjunction with setting heel heights. Again this is to enable a range of rowers with differing flexibility to get comfortable. Rowing should be an enjoyable experience so comfort is important for both enjoyment and from a technique point of view. The general range of adjustment for foot stretchers is 38-45 degrees. As a standard our factory set default is 42 degrees as this suits most rowers with reasonable flexibility, but it is common for Masters rowers and women to have a flatter angle around the 38-40 degrees.
Angles can easily be checked using an angle finder, digital pitch gauge etc. always remembering to check the incline of the hull before measuring the stretcher and account for the difference if using a tool such as the easy angle finder shown below.