In-light of Yamaha's Eli Tomac announcing his return to racing in 2024 despite a significant achilles injury in 2023, we thought we'd ask our MX Ed Lee Horgan, what is the right foot positioning.
Back in my day, I hate to admit it but we really didn’t have much of a clue when it came to foot positioning. You only have to look over some of the pictures from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and most of the time you’ll see a bunch of decent riders with their feet all over the shop. Yes we used to get back to the balls of our feet while going through Supercross whoops but other than that we really weren’t too particular with our foot placement.
I’d even go as far as saying that in one of the greatest periods of our sport when living legends Ricky Carmichael, Chad Reed and James ‘Bubba’ Stewart went head to head, that their footwork wasn’t anywhere near as refined to that which we see today from the likes of Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence, Ken Roczen and Chase Sexton. That’s just to name a few of the most obvious ones that come to mind.
If you watch any of these riders listed above not only do they spend a heck of a lot more time with their feet on the pegs, but when they do their feet are positioned flush up against their frame and perfectly parallel with the bike. You can almost see from their foot positioning that they’re squeezing that hard that they’re trying to squeeze the motor out of its frame.
There are two benefits to this! Firstly the control you get through the lower half of your bike is massive, but one of the most important factors is that you minimise your risk of injury to your ankles and knees when you don’t have ‘duck feet’ pointing out to the sides. It seems to me that we have evolved massively with our latest generation of gun riders with foot placement and grip.
WHAT HAPPENED TO ELI?
Tomac ruptured his Achilles tendon while racing for the Monster Energy AMA Supercross on May 6. He entered the race as the series leader, with two races to go and an 18 point lead over Chase Sexton, and underwent surgery in Vail the following day. Tomac was unable to explain what happened saying “I’ve over-jumped plenty of other jumps just as hard, if not harder, and have been totally fine”.
He will return next year as Yamaha Motor USA has announced that Tomac has signed a contract extension with Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing for 2024, which will be his third season with the team. On the Racer X Podcast Tomac confirmed it’s the same deal as last year: SX-only with option for Pro Motocross and SMX Playoffs.
When asked about how things were going with the healing process Tomac said “My recovery has been going very well and is ahead of schedule in terms of the protocol. I believe I will be back on the motorcycle around the six-month mark in preparation for the 2024 racing season. We were so close to the championship, but accidents happen and that’s racing. I’m eager to get another shot at competing for the championship!”
Once again, everyone has their own opinion but one thing I can promise is that we can’t all be scared to shuffle back to the balls of our feet when the time is right just because Eli injured his Achilles tendon. What happened to Eli was a bit of a freak incident, but it is still explainable. When we get back to the balls of our feet we give ourselves a bit more height when needed from our bum to the seat and we also give ourselves a bit of a suspension effect on our ankles. However, that leverage can come at a price when we have a big impact and something has to give.
When Eli folded his ankle back I think it was a combination of two main factors. He slightly over-jumped and landed in the G-out section at the base of the next jump taking him by surprise. If he could do his time again I’m sure he would have landed with his foot further forward to help with the massive impact. I honestly think it took him by surprise and he didn’t have time to adjust his foot positioning.
To put it into context, I’ve had times on the bike where I’ve been riding reasonably well and finessing my way around a track when a sharp bump has taken me by surprise and I’ve nearly blown my hand off the bars because I was consciously trying to not hold on too tight. Does that mean I need to hold on tight everywhere? Or maybe be more alert for those big bumps? Or just accept that sometimes we’re going to make mistakes?
Either way, when it comes to foot positioning, one thing is for certain and that is that you won’t find many top level riders in Australia, America or Europe that don’t spend a lot of their time on the bike dancing between the arches of their feet and the balls of their feet to get the most out of their bike! But don’t just take my word on it! I thought I’d get some of our experts here in Australia to give us their take on the topic!
For the full feature, check out issue #530 of ADB.
WORDS LEE HOGAN || PHOTOS VARIOUS