Hi friends! It’s Petra, and today I want to talk about a subject you don’t hear very often—whether rowing causes foot pain.
Using a rowing machine, in itself, can’t “give” you foot pain, but it’s true that some people may feel some type of pain either on the top of the foot, the heel, or across the bottom of the foot when rowing or after rowing for a while.
Why are you feeling this pain? In this article, you’ll find some easy answers, and I’m going to tell you about how to fix this issue. Wondering if you can row if you have plantar fasciitis? You’ll find that here, too!
Is Rowing Hard on Your Feet?
The short and simple answer is no, it isn’t.
The longer answer is that if you are feeling pain anywhere in your feet, chances are that there is a minor problem, and that there’s a way to easily fix it.
How to Stop Foot Pain When Using a Rowing Machine
Depending on where you are feeling pain, you can try the following tips for stopping that pain dead in its tracks—
- Check Your Shoe Laces: If you feel pain on the top of your foot, check that your shoelaces aren’t too tight and/or that the strap on your rower isn’t too tight. I know no one likes straps that come loose, but the truth is that you don’t really need them except for racing speeds. Try rowing without the straps at all. That should not only stop your foot pain, but it will also improve your form.
- Is It A Stress Fracture: Sports injuries can be difficult to pinpoint. If you are feeling pain on the ball of your foot (not the top but the bottom portion of where the strap should go), it’s possible that you somehow developed a stress fracture (not necessarily from rowing). This is especially true if you have any swelling or redness in this area. Check with your podiatrist.
- If You Feel Pain Near The Heel Area: If you feel pain near the heel only when using your rowing machine, this is often caused by an improper sitting position. Adjust the seat so that you are sitting a bit closer or farther from the edge. Wiggle your butt around until you find a position that doesn’t hurt your feet.
- If You Feel Pain All Over: If your foot hurts all over, or you can’t really pinpoint where it is hurting, it might be due to improper form. Many beginners will find that they feel discomfort in their feet when they first start rowing (read more on feet out rowing ). You can prevent injury to your feet and improve your form by not using the foot straps. Try rowing without them and see if your foot pain disappears.
- If You Feel Ankle Pain: Are you feeling pain in your ankles as well? It’s possible that you need to strengthen your ankles. Try some exercises designed for strengthening the ankles and calves.
- Should You Get Adjustable Foot Plates: Some rowing machine foot plates aren’t very adjustable, to the point of forcing you into an uncomfortable position. Consider buying a rowing machine that has wider, more adjustable footplates.
- Stretching: Try stretching your calf muscles. Tight calf muscles can also cause pain on the top of your feet.
- Are Your Foot Straps Adjusted Correctly: Be sure that you’ve adjusted the straps properly. If you have shorter shinbones, you’ll want to move the footplates lower. If you have longer shinbones, move the footplates higher. In the catch position, your heels should be ever so slightly elevated.
Rowing injuries are no joke. If you take some time to check that the strap is across the widest part of your foot (or stop using it altogether), that the strap isn’t too tight, your calves are well-stretched, and that the footplates are adjusted for your shin length, your problems with foot pain or discomfort can be a thing of the past in minutes!
- Related Post: Can Rowing Cause Bursitis?
Can I Row with Plantar Fasciitis?
Is rowing OK for people with plantar fasciitis? If you suffer from chronic plantar fasciitis you may think that rowing would be impossible, but the exact opposite is true!
A rowing machine is a low-impact exercise, which is exactly what you want when you have this type of foot problem.
You should always stretch before and after your rowing workout, but that’s true before you do any type of exercise or even get out of bed!
Using a rowing machine should actually reduce your pain since you aren’t putting weight on your foot. Rowing will gently stretch that tendon on the bottom of your foot and significantly help reduce the pain.
Always speak to your doctor, podiatrist, or physical therapist before starting any exercise program, but when you do, don’t be surprised if your medical professional heartily recommends using a rowing machine.
Can a Rowing Machine Cause a Stress Fracture in Your Foot?
No, it can’t.
You aren’t putting any weight on your feet when you row, and while you do pull up on your feet, you can’t really put enough stress on those bones to cause a fracture.
Max Secunda (Expert Rower) doing leg stretches before doing a rowing workout
If you have a stress fracture in your foot, chances are that some other type of incident caused this injury, such as a slip and fall, playing another sport, or having something fall on your foot.
The Bottom Line
While using a rowing machine can’t really cause damage to your feet, it can cause pain if you aren’t in the proper position.
Problems with cramps or pain anywhere along the top of the foot or the arches are often due to poor/no stretching and improper foot straps.
Stay active and healthy, friends, and happy pain-free rowing!
Written by Petra Amara – RowingCrazy.com
CEO & Founder of RowingCrazy, National Rower, Coxswain Womens Eight Team, Rowing Coach & Writer
Petra is a Mother of two and owner of Rowingcrazy.com. Petra lives and breathes rowing, she also has a passion for writing which lead her to start RowingCrazy.com to share her rowing experience and expertise with others.