Mark Wallace's Black Skiff

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Seven Ways to Make Foot Braces

"Foot braces", aka “Foot stretchers”, “Foot risers”, and “Piggy pedestals” are used by both sliding seat and fixed seat rowers. They are the braces that keep you from sliding aft when you row. 

In terms of design, there are probably as many designs as there are rowers. Following are seven examples, in no particular order. 

Steve Chambers' SOF British Columbia Hubert Evans Handliner
Detail of the Foot Brace and Box Seat

1. Steve Chambers built a SOF British Columbia Hubert Evans 14’ 6” Handliner (4.4m), using a plywood floorboard with a center stiffener strip. Both the box seat and foot brace are grooved to sit over the stiffener strip. Steve says the rope loop (around the back of the box seat and threaded through the foot brace) works well as long as you put equal pressure on the two ends of the foot brace. Distance between the foot brace and the box seat is adjusted by the sliding knot (tautline hitch or rolling hitch?... latter is less likely to slip).


Close up of the Foot Rest and Straps

Rick Thompson's Foot Braces

2. Rick Thomson made these foot braces for his Walkabout (Rick's Walkabout). As with all of Rick’s work, these are elegant and superbly made. Note that Rick uses these for both sliding seat (for racing) and fixed seat rowing. 


3. John Welsford's design for the Walkabout specified a series of about 6 paired ribs (about 12mm square) attached to the side of the air boxes at the same location as Rick placed the notched supports for his foot braces. John’s ribs are angled back from the vertical about 30 degrees and are spaced about 12 to 14mm apart. The actual foot brace is a plank that slides into the slot between ribs. 


Paul Truszkowski's Drop-in Rowing Unit, Integrating Seat, Foot Rest and Outriggers

The Rowing Unit in a Custom 15' 6" Kayak/Rowboat

4. Paul Truszkowski built a drop-in unit that combines foot brace, outriggers and a seat.   


Adjustable Foot Brace Attached to Seat in a Michalak Verio

5. In Paul’s Vireo (referenced in this blog), the foot brace is attached to the seat by adjustable chains. I’ve used this and it works well. 


6. In the model Vireo (pictured at the link above), another adjustable foot brace is shown. It is hooked into the slats of the floor boards, as is the box seat, to allow both to be adjusted for leg length and fore/aft weight distribution. 


Adjustable Foot Brace for a Ross Lillistone Flint

Forward End of the Brace Held in Place by a Wedge

Underside of the Foot Brace

After End of the Brace Showing One of the Wing Nuts

7. For Ross Lillistone’s Flint, I made this adjustable foot brace. The forward end is held down by a wedge jammed under the block screwed to the bulkhead. Two wing nuts anchor the sliding foot brace on the slotted beam, providing a wide range of adjustment. (Note that the only fasteners used are the two wing nuts. All the other joints are held only by Titebond 3 which has held up for two seasons.)

What would I do differently in making this foot brace? 

a. Make the actual brace much taller. I find it more comfortable to have the ball of my foot supported by the brace in addition to the heel. In addition, I’d make the brace wider so that I could brace my feet better (wider) in rough conditions.  
b. Create a better way to secure the front end of the slotted beam. The wedge is just okay, but has a tendency to work loose. 
In the March 2016 issue of Small Boat Monthly, Ben Fuller wrote an article on foot braces, in which he shows 10 different designs of foot braces. With a total of 17 different designs, there should be a style that is suitable for your oar cruiser. 

Rowing ergonomics is the topic for the next blog… how to figure out the relationships among oar length, oar lock, seat, foot brace and oar handle overlap for your rowing.


  1. You are doing a great job with your blog. Full of really useful info, all gathered into one place. Now, you need to do a post on why having speakers on your rowboat is important and fun.

  2. Tell you what, Tom... you draft it, with pics and component names/models and I'll post it, giving you full credit... I think it's a great idea!
    Tom C.

  3. I agree, fun blog!

    Two comments on foot stretchers:
    1) It helps to do a mock-up for personal fit. JW shows an angle for the stretchers on his drawings, but I found a shallower angle better,
    2) Slide seat stretchers often use flexing heel cups. I made my stretchers with a round rod because I had one, and found completely by accident that having the whole stretcher pivot around the ball of the foot felt much better to me than the flexing heel - less strain on the ankle.

    One comment re: speakers on a rowboat: Noooooooo! It's bad enough when one of these things goes flying past

    1. Yes....I do now remember a boat parade where a couple of rednecks had put 2 monstrously big speakers meant for indoors on their boat for the parade and blasted Lynderd Skynerd music for the whole parade. Still...a little music and some beer helps the stress of the day go away. Drink a little, row a little. Sometimes I row as far as half of whatever I am drinking, then row home.

    2. Usually I row to a pub and drink there, but OK I'm willing to try it your way!

  4. I find foot rests that support at the ball of the foot, rather than the heel, much more comfortable... I'm going to make new (or modify) footrests for Raven to replace the ones pictured above in this post for that reason.

    Thanks for the input Rick and Tom... Love the boat in your link, Rick... so over the top.

  5. The floorboards in my CLC Chester Yawl are designed with pairs of fore & aft slots,and little paws on the footrest and rowing stool that fit into these slots.
    That works well, I guess. I lost the foot rest trailering, and, perhaps not being the brightest bulb in the string, I later lost the stool the same way.
    So I built another stool to my own design that holds the oars when trailering.
    As it turned out there is a frame at just the right position to rest the ball of my foot - which is a far better idea than just the heel rest.
    I built another foot rest for the slots for the rare times when I row double, and the #2 needs a better place for his feet than the middle of my back.
    I dislike extraneous gear in a boat. If I can use an actual part of the boat, it is better than something that can be lost overboard - especially when trailering.
    A special comment on the advantages of stools over thwarts: There may be nothing more pleasant than taking a nice lie-down on the floorboards on a hot summer day in the shade of a tree. Of course this will inevitably bring some power boaters to investigate the apparently abandoned craft. Lack of a thwart leads to sleeping aboard, & hence to your questions about #1 & #2, which I will address separately .

  6. Thanks for your experience. It bears out my own rule that everything in the boat, while trailering AND in the water, must be either stored in lockers or tied down.
    Like to see your input on the #1 and #2 issue, shedding light on a topic that everyone must deal with but not a lot written about...

  7. Nos. 1 & 2:
    I used to subscribe to a largely British Openboat group and this topic came up from time to time. A surprising number seemed the think that “bucket & chucket” was all right. I found that disgusting and, as far as I am aware, illegal anywhere in US waters.
    As to #1, I was quite prepared to state that since urine was sterile, it didn’t make much difference. In the interest of truthfulness I did a check and found that that long held theory has been discarded.
    The real #1 danger comes from trying to clear the side of the boat; you likely have read all those stories about drowned fishermen with their fly open. So my procedure is to use the bailing scoop & then dump it overside. If urine was thought sterile for so many years, it is not likely all that dangerous, even if not completely sterile.
    Not so for solid waste. That is loaded with evil stuff. Such as cholera, E coli, salmonella, rotavirus, norovirus, hepatitis A, hepatitis E, giardia, cryptosporidium, pinworms, ascariasis, tapeworms.
    I have used a PortaPotty, but had issues finding a place to dump the liquid filled tank. So I switched to the low tech heavy duty poly bag (trash masher type) in a bucket with kitty litter. The kitty litter dries out the feces and that is a good thing.
    Either the 3 or 5 gallon Homer bucket is OK, if a bit uncomfortable. The snap-on covers that are generally found on these buckets are nuisance to deal with, but just the other day my oil furnace maintenance man gave me a 5 gal that has a screw top. He says they use a lot of them. No idea what came in it.
    As to disposal, I just chuck the poly bag into a dumpster or other trash disposal. My first reaction was that that was not a good idea either, until someone asked me where I thought all those disposable diapers wind up. Not to mention the kitty litter from kitties.
    Change of Subject; a new topic for you:
    Pete Culler is my favorite boat builder guru. He says, “Though not really needed, I think a small sail and very light spars are good equipment to carry in any pulling boat when she‘s taken on a cruise longer than, say, a short harbor cruise . . . not great sail carriers, and don’t have to be, as they move easily . . . instead of making a sailing craft out of a pure rowboat [sails] are simply auxiliary to it.” He calls it a “traveling sail”.
    My Chester Yawl was originally designed to use a sail, and apparently was a good sailer, but that part of the kit never sold, so CLC discontinued it. I would like an auxiliary sail, and for many reasons won’t put in a centerboard, so leeboards might be the answer. I would think that a board, bolted across the forward rowing station rowlock sockets, might provide a good base for one. I would be interested in anybody’s experience before I try to reinvent this particular wheel.

  8. Hi Steve, I'll be adding a post in early June about 'downwind' sails... Michael Storer ( has plans for a drop-in sail with integrated leeboards that may fit your needs... very modifiable to fit the Chester Yawl I would think...