Squat vs. Vertical Jump – What They Tell Us About Foot Position on the Bike

As the creator of the Catalyst Pedals I get asked a lot about foot position. And this is to be expected – as the first and only pedal designed to optimize the mid-foot position it seems to defy a lot of the common logic used when discussing foot position on the bike.

When talking about foot position on the bike people often point to how you push through the ball of the foot when you jump. The assumption is that since you are doing this to create the force to jump you need to do it as well to create the force to pedal your bike.

Along with this they will point to the fact that you touch the ground first with the ball of the foot when landing from a vertical jump, which they say means you need to be on the ball of the foot to use the ankle when absorbing impacts on the bike.

On the surface this makes sense and it has led to a lot of riders and coaches using and recommending the ball-of-the-foot position. The problem is that while all of this is true for a vertical jump, there is another movement that is basically the same thing, but you never push through or absorb energy through the ball of the foot.

The bodyweight squat uses the same basic movement pattern as the vertical jump but has you create and absorb force through a balanced, mid-foot position and avoid coming up on the toes. The same movement pattern with two different foot positions being used and the only thing that separates them is one thing:

With the vertical jump your foot comes of the ground but during the squat it stays in contact with the ground.

The foot acts in two different ways depending on that one thing and when you look at how our foot it interacting with the bike you see that it is not coming off the pedals and is instead staying in contact with them during the entire pedal stroke.

This means that pedaling your bike is more like a squat than a vertical jump, which means you want to use the same mid-foot position so you can apply force through the whole foot, especially the back of the arch.

In this video I look at this further and demonstrate how the same movement can have two different foot positions and actions. Understanding this and how it applies to riding your bike is one of the keys to getting out of your training and riding.

These is a very important reason that all of this matters – if you are going to do any type of strength training to improve your riding then you want that training to transfer to the bike. It makes no sense to train the body one way in the gym and then ask it to do something different on the bike.

In the gym you are applying good movement principles and that should be the goal on the bike as well. Tradition can be a strong influence but if you look into the science and movement principles for yourself you’ll see that the ball-of-the-foot position and the examples used to promote it don’t hold up.

It’s a new year, be a new rider with a better foot position. Check out www.pedalinginnovations.com to learn more and get a pair of Catalyst Pedals to try out for yourself. Apply a better foot position to the bike and improve your performance and fun on the trail.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson
MTB Strength Training Systems & Pedaling Innovations

Stay in the loop...

Sign up for insider updates from Pedaling Innovations — including, news, pre-release special offers, and pricing for our early adopters!

We’ll keep your email safe and you can opt-out any time.