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How You Work Feet on Cardio Machines Affects Your Thighs

Thigh Time: Heels vs. Toes

After tying our sneakers, most of us don't give much thought to our feet while working out, but how you use your feet affects how you work the muscles in your thighs. By changing your footing you can target the front or back of your thigh.

When using an elliptical, a stationary bike, or a stair stepper, pressing with your toes works your quads more, while pressing with the heels targets your hamstrings and your tush. Pay attention to your feet next time you hop on a cardio machine and feel the difference between your toes and heels.

Join The Conversation
EastVillageAmy EastVillageAmy 9 years
I used to get the numb toes too on the elliptical, I found if I wiggled them a bit while I was working out that didn't happen so much. I love this tip, it explains why my quads are so much cooler than my hamstrings, I'm a toe runner! I'd love to run off of my heels more but I don't want to hurt myself trying to change my natural stride. Any tips?
insanitypepper insanitypepper 9 years
Normally I don't push off from my toes because my calves don't need the extra work, but it's nice to know that that may be helping me keep my enormo quads under control, too.
corduroy1 corduroy1 9 years
oh my god, i thought i was the only one whose toes went numb!!! i KNOW its not from too tight shoes or thick socks. thats crazy! what does cause that to happen?! and kiwitwist, i am the same way too! now i know to use my heels more!
IKindaHeartU IKindaHeartU 9 years
Oh, this is such a good tip! Yeah, my toes go numb too but on the bike.
Deidre Deidre 9 years
I'm so excited that I actually knew this tip! My favorite way to balance out the two feet methods is on the elliptical. I do 5 minutes moving my legs forward (the standard way), which pushes more through my toes, working my legs. Then I do 5 minutes moving my legs backwards, which pushes through my heels to work my butt. I keep alternating until I'm done, and I can always feel the difference!
schnappycat schnappycat 9 years
I noticed this some time ago and try to alternate on the stationary bike. I really should focus on my heels, though, since my quads don't need to get much bigger.
ckeller825 ckeller825 9 years
oo, i've always wondered about this :) Yay My toes go numb too! AND whenever I used the elliptical, I always get a charlie horse in the arch of my right foot. Do you think this could be because my shoes are too tight? (they fit perfectly though...)
cmd0610 cmd0610 9 years
This is a totally true exercise "phenomenon"! I sort of discovered it one day by accident and I love pushing on my heels and feeling the extra burn in my tush! About the toes going numb- maybe you've just tied up your shoes super tight? or have really thick socks on?
ibiteback ibiteback 9 years
In marching band we have to roll our heals, which is when you always put your heels first! Guess that's why during marching band season I have good hamstrings!
Schlem33 Schlem33 9 years
My toes go numb too! ha
Lynne Lynne 9 years
Ha, coincidence for me too, linb! Last night I was on the elliptical (finally joined the gym last night!!!), and I noticed that I had to press with my toes because any other way I end up STEPPING OFF the machine!!!
blondie829 blondie829 9 years
whenever i am on the elliptical, my toes go numb after about 20 minutes! does anyone else have this problem?
kiwitwist kiwitwist 9 years
Now it all makes sense, as to why my quads are so beefy! I always push with my toes.
linb linb 9 years
What a coincidence. Just this morning, while on the elliptical, I decided to try stepping down with my toes instead of keeping my feet flat as I always do. I must have known you were going to write about this today...
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