How to improve foot stability in the stirrups

Are you struggling to maintain foot stability in the stirrups while riding? Do you find that your feet hover or bounce on the stirrups, or maybe even slide back towards your arch? You're not alone.

Many riders, both beginners and experienced, face difficulties in keeping their feet securely in the stirrups when applying leg pressure.

Girl riding in safety stirrups


In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the reasons behind this issue and provide practical tips on how to improve foot stability for a more secure and balanced riding experience.

Understanding the challenges

Maintaining proper foot position in the stirrups is crucial for stability and effective communication with your horse. When your feet are secure, you can apply leg aids accurately and maintain balance in the saddle. However, several factors can contribute to difficulties in keeping your feet in the stirrups:

1. Incorrect leg position

One common reason for foot instability is an incorrect leg position. Many riders tend to rely on their heels, rather than their calves, to apply leg pressure. This forces them to lift the backs of their legs, causing their feet to lose contact with the stirrups. To address this issue, it's important to understand the correct leg position and use the proper muscles for applying leg aids.

2. Foot position and alignment

The position and alignment of your feet can also affect foot stability in the safety stirrups. If your feet are turned out too much, it may be challenging to keep your toes pointed forward.  It's essential to find the right balance between comfort and stability when adjusting your foot position and stirrup width.

3. Muscular engagement

Engaging the correct muscles while applying leg aids is crucial for maintaining foot stability. When you contract the muscles in your thighs and calves, it can naturally shorten your leg, causing your foot to hover or bounce on the stirrups. Learning how to engage the right muscles without compromising your leg length is key to improving foot stability.

4. Lack of strength and coordination

For beginners, difficulties in keeping the feet in the stirrups can stem from a lack of strength and coordination. Riding requires the development of specific muscles and coordination between different body parts. Over time, as you gain strength and coordination, you will find it easier to maintain foot stability in the stirrups.

Ophena magnetic safety stirrups can help

Ophena's magnetic safety stirrups, Ophena S and Ophena S Pro, can help you tremendously if you have a hard time keeping your foot in the stirrups. 

The magnetic safety stirrups include a magnet that pulls towards the magnet in your magnetic insoles. The magnetic connection helps the rider to keep the foot in the stirrups, making the riding experience more pleasant and safe.

Ophena S and Ophena S Pro also include the following features:

  • Open design for a safer riding experience
  • Excellent treading
  • Stainless steel body
  • Smart Attach™-system for easier attachment and detachment of stirrup leathers 

Tips for improving foot stability

Now that we understand the challenges that can affect foot stability in the stirrups, let's explore some practical tips to help you improve your riding technique and maintain a secure foot position:

1. Correct leg position and muscle engagement

To improve foot stability, it's essential to develop the habit of using your calves, rather than your heels, to apply leg pressure. By focusing on pressing the knobble of your ankle bone inward against the horse's side, you can engage the correct muscles and maintain a secure foot position. Visualize plumping pillows with your legs to achieve a gentle inward bump instead of an upward squeeze.

2. Foot position and alignment

Pay attention to the position and alignment of your feet. While it's important to maintain a relaxed and natural position, try to avoid excessive toe-out angles that can compromise foot stability. Experiment with different foot positions to find the most comfortable and secure alignment for your feet. Additionally, ensure that your stirrups are adjusted to a width that allows for a secure foot position without compromising your comfort.

3. Strengthening exercises

Incorporating specific strengthening exercises into your riding routine can significantly improve foot stability. Exercises that target the muscles in your legs, such as calf raises, squats, and lunges, can help build strength and stability. Additionally, core exercises, including planks and abdominal exercises, can improve overall balance and coordination in the saddle.

4. No stirrup work

Practicing riding without stirrups is an excellent way to develop balance, strength, and stability in the saddle. Start with short periods of riding without stirrups and gradually increase the duration as your confidence and strength improve. Riding without stirrups will challenge your muscles and help you develop a secure and independent seat.

5. Visualization techniques

Visualization techniques can be beneficial in improving foot stability. Imagine your heels pushing down towards the back legs of the horse, keeping your weight flowing through your legs and into the stirrups. Visualize a strong and stable connection between your feet and the stirrups, allowing for effective communication with your horse.

6. Professional instruction and feedback

Working with a qualified riding instructor can greatly assist in improving foot stability and overall riding technique. An experienced instructor can provide valuable guidance, correct any incorrect habits, and offer personalized exercises and feedback to address specific challenges you may face.

7. Patience and persistence

Improving foot stability in the stirrups is a gradual process that requires patience and persistence. It takes time to develop the necessary strength, coordination, and muscle memory. Be patient with yourself and celebrate small victories along the way. With consistent practice and a positive mindset, you will see improvement over time.


Maintaining foot stability in the stirrups is essential for effective communication and balance while riding. By understanding the challenges and implementing the tips provided in this guide, you can improve your foot stability and enhance your overall riding experience. Remember, developing a secure and balanced seat takes time and practice. Embrace the journey, seek professional guidance when needed, and enjoy the rewarding process of becoming a more confident and skilled rider.