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Foot/ankle pain in western stirrups

1624 Views 9 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  MeditativeRider
Every time I ride in a western saddle for about 1.5 hours, I get an ache on the outside of my left foot below the bone that protrudes. My right foot/ankle is fine. I don’t get this when I ride in an English saddle. I’m thinking maybe I don’t have enough flexibility in my left foot/ankle, or maybe I am tensing it when I keep my heels down.

Wondering if anyone else has this and any stretches or exercises I could do either before or during rides to help with this. I rode for 2.5 hours today - on trail and in a lesson - and the only thing hurting now is my left foot/ankle. It’ll be gone by tomorrow but I will notice it about halfway into my next trail ride. If I could sort this out, I’d be so much happier.

Note: it’s something about my positioning of that foot when riding in western saddles. I have no foot pain otherwise and don’t wear down my shoes unevenly or anything like that.
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Do you have your stirrups long enough? And are you even in the saddle (not leaning a little to one side and pushing into one foot more)?

I have never had a sore ankle in Western but have in English on a 5 h trail ride (the ankle started hurting at about 3 h, followed by the knee) and it was because my stirrups were too short.

When I rode on a trail ride recently (2 h) in a Western saddle, I found the stirrup length the lady set them to was a bit longer than I would usually ride in English in a general purpose saddle but not quite as long as in a dressage saddle. One of knees started hurting after about 30 min and she checked my stirrups and found I was slightly off to one side (right) and pushing into that foot more and that is what was hurting my knee. Once I recentered (and shifted the saddle back to center) it was fine for the rest of the ride.

Also, take your feet out every so often when riding at a walk and roll and point/flex your feet.

In terms of determining if anything is up with your ankles, you could try go through these videos:



 

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If the stirrups aren’t rolled I can’t stand riding the saddle. It’s the first thing I get fixed.
 
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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Thanks @Knave. Possible I could be putting more weight in that side. The saddles are well broken in and the stirrups do hang perpendicular ie turned so I don’t think that’s an issue though possibly stiffer on the left?

@MeditativeRider I do sometimes get knee pain if my western stirrups are too short. The stirrups were a bit on the long side today as they were on the highest hole and still a bit longer than I would usually have them and I still had the ankle/foot pain. Thanks for the exercises - I have never tried strengthening my ankles so I’ll give that a try.
 

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I started doing general foot/ankle strengthening stuff with my daughter because she does ballet and had to go to the podiatrist a lot between ages 7 and 12 for various things when she was not quite strong enough in her feet.

These ones are also good. They kind of race through the exercises so you need to pause it to get your number of reps in.



 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I get the same if I ride on a western saddle for longer than 2 hours. Only one side. Never with English saddle. My whole foot starts throbbing. Such a mystery. I suspect I lean or one leg is longer than the other.
Interesting. Is it your non-dominant leg? I’m right handed and it’s my left foot that gets the pain. I’m thinking I don’t have the same strength in my left leg/ankle to counterbalance the twist of the stirrup or something but will look more closely to make sure they are even.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Is it any Western saddle or a specific one or two?
It’s the leather ones. All different types, none new - well worked in.

There is one synthetic leather saddle that is way more comfortable (and I never get the pain with that one). That saddle fits two wider horses that are suited for less experienced riders, and also preference for that saddle is given to the riders with shorter legs so I don’t get that one often as my legs are pretty long so I can fit other saddles (but if it is available I definitely go for it),

Actually now that I think of it one of the saddles was sent away for a repair and got some new stirrup leather. Maybe thats the one I have been choosing. Will take a closer look and try to avoid that one just in case.
 

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Your dominant leg and dominant hand are not necessarily on the same side. I am right handed but my dominant leg is my left, and my daughter is the reverse (left hand and right leg and dominant). You figure out most what your dominant leg is for things like kicking a ball and pushing on a scooter.
 
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