Numb legs in boat-- ideas?? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 08-30-2005   #1
Front Range, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 274
Numb legs in boat-- ideas??

Hi guys,

A handful of you fielded this question over in the "Hosed on Demo" thread (thanks again Don, BSOE, Mountain, and Mike B for your help)... but I was still wondering.... I've been in my boat a couple of times since putting the question out there and I'm still having numbness issues?

I'm a little better than 5'8," and on the lighter side, so my boat (a Jackson Fun) is a *tad* big for me-- I'm too tall for the "smaller" Jackson 2Fun, but we've outfitted my boat so it fits me well.... the backband, the footbag, and the hip pads have all been played with and pretty much dialed in. The only thing I'm still having occasional issues with "fitting" just right is the footbag, which I'm seriously considering trading out for a plain old minicell bulkhead.

I do keep the backband pulled fairly taut to stay forward in the boat, and I like my hip pads a little on the 'aggressive' side to enhance the control element. Not certain if this makes any difference, but my whole leg isn't falling asleep: instead, I'm just going dead from the knees down?

Any suggestion on what's killing the circulation from ONLY the knees down? I looked at the "Happy Seat" option on the jackson website ( and didn't know if anyone might have any feedback or thoughts on whether something like this may help??

If you guys have any suggestions, I'd really appreciate it. My friends here are like, "your legs are numb? welcome to the world of whitewater kayaking!" Normally I'm one to laugh right along, but I'm kinda getting tired of stumbling over my boat and falling onto my buddies BEFORE anyone's even started drinking, y'know?

Thanks for any input, fellas......

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Old 08-30-2005   #2
Portland OR
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 19
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Same problem

I don't have the solution, rather I have the same problem. I have decided that it has something to do with either the angles my legs are at or the back band. When I let pressure off of the back band my legs do not go numb as fast; however I have less control so I usually take the numb legs with rest brakes over the constantly sloppy loose backband. I would love to hear ideas as well.
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Old 08-30-2005   #3
Preacher of the Profit Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 1,074
Hip Pads

One of the most common cuases for legs going numb in a kayak- is the hip pads. Hip pads are one of those things that everyone feels they need, but they do very little to help with controlling the kayak. Try lifting one butt cheek without lifting your leg... really effective eh. Movement and edging comes from leg lift and lowering the opposite knee.

Hip pads only really come into play when you tip over, and they keep you from falling out of the seat. They can also be the reason for a bunch of discomfort and even lack of preformance. Most folks have too much hip pad in their boat. Doing so can force you out of your seat, can limit your range of motion, and can put on do stress on your pelvis bones.

It most likely that your hip pads are too tight. Start by raising them up, so that they hook from the top holding you down to the seat. But, make sure they are not putting too much pressure on the lower part of your hips. This added pressure can restict blood flow (femeral artury) and hinder nerve response (syatic nerve). It's more important to have hook holding you down then pads pressing from the sides.

Hope this helps.
Don @ CK

Note: please don't bash me for spelling mistakes. I tried the spell check and it's not working for me. It's been a long day.
I love to dance, but who needs the music- It throws me off.
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Old 08-30-2005   #4
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 123
I have the same issue, Newby. I tried a LOT of different boats before I chose my Dagger GT 7.8 because in every one, my legs would fall asleep. I'm not flexible at all so I think that exacerbates the problem. My GT is great, and I just bought a riot orbit to use as a playboat and it's really comfortable too!

So, a lot of it is in the boat that you choose. But, a lot of things can be done to improve your comfort once you've chosen your boat.

Several things that help for me:

I am not so tight in my boat that I can't unhook my knees from the thigh straps to stretch while sitting in eddies. If I flex my legs, I am tight in the boat, but if I don't, my thighs don't hit the thigh straps and I can straighten my legs (almost). Having that extra room really helps my legs stay awaks as they should. I expect that a lot of people would disagree with me on this point, but it works for me and doesn't impede the boat's receptiveness. I flex my legs and tighten myself that way when I go through rapids, but I can loosen up and relax when I'm in flatwater.

I find that if I tighten my back strap too much it makes my legs fall asleep- I think it has to do with the angle that my legs are at while I'm in the boat. So, I keep it a bit looser than it could be.

I need to beef up my hip pads on my GT but on the riot they are dialed in perfectly. In my riot, the hip pads are snug on my hips but they don't put any pressure on them either. As Don described, they are there more for keeping me in the boat when I'm upside down and they also help the power of my hip snap transfer to the boat. As long as your hip pads are snug on your hips but they don't put any extra pressure on your hips, they should do the job.

I haven't paddled a fun yet, so people that have may have more tips on your boat specifically. The Craw is helping my boyfriend outfit his fun tonight- he's the local jackson rep. He may have some good advice for your boat.

So, that's what I do to keep my legs from falling asleep.... Hope that helps!

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Old 08-30-2005   #5
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dropzone, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 846
i get numb legs in small boats too. here are my suggestions:

stretch.....a lot.

hip pads -- don's right, don't make them too tight, just so they provide a hook.

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Old 08-30-2005   #6
Join Date: Aug 2005
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Hip Pads

Hip pads can be snug without causing any numbness if you make sure that the pad doesn't go to far foward down low along the outside of your leg. Make your hip pads tight where they need to be tight, hence the name hip pads. If they are tight on the outside of the quadracep you can pinch some stuff that will result in numbness. Think about it, your thigh braces pull your legs outboard and your "large hip pads" force your legs inboard. Just cut out the front of your pad down low, all the way to the seat if you have to! I'm not saying that it will work for everyone but I've always tailored my pads on the water. It just takes a few minutes of paddling to reveal what thirty minutes of sitting in your boat watching TV won't, and not much will cut mini cell foam better than a hacked-up fiberglass Werner paddle blade.
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Old 08-30-2005   #7
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 93
I mentioned the hip pads as the most likely cause in my earlier message. I'd still make sure the one on the side of the numb leg is not too tight. I also agree with Don's suggestion to try raising them. as far as the happy feet, one thing you can do is shape the bean bag chamber to rest your feet against in whatever position is most comfortable, rather than to make a pocket for your feet. That way, you can eliminate them as a possble cause of numbness. I use a toes out, heels together position with good results.

I'm a big believer in the happy seat. It helps with your boat control by making a better fit for your knees and thighs. It allows me to tighten my feet just a bit less and still maintain a snug and comfortable fit. I share one happy seat between 2 boats and never boat without it anymore.

Good luck,
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Old 08-30-2005   #8
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Thought-criminal, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 989
Nube, it's all in tha backband. You mentioned working in an office...if it's a dr's office see if he has a copy of Netter's Atlas of Human Anatomy and give it a look. Look at the sacral plexus...the huge bundle of nerves that exits the distal end of the spinal cord and gives rise to the sciatic nerve.

Contrary to popular belief, a limb going "to sleep" has nothing to do with circulation. Rather, limb paresthesia is due to the constriction of the nervous afferents that service the limb. I don't really see how hip pads could be responsible for this unless they're HUGE and hard as a rock...tehe... but the back band is in the right place to trap that plexus between it and your pelvis. So...loosen up the backband.

I used to have the same problem when I first started creekin. I strapped myself into my blunt so friggin tight so I would stay forward that my legs would go numb. Eventually, you'll learn to adopt an aggressive posture automatically and won't need to rely on the back band to keep you there...just to lend you some support.

If all else fails...cut off your feet. It's not like you need them to ride a snowboard down there anyway.
I hope in the future Americans are thought of as a warlike, vicious people, because I bet a lot of high schools would pick "Americans" as their mascot. -Jack Handy
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Old 08-30-2005   #9
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 112
Try the seat cushion. My legs went to sleep in my boat, which is big. I used the seat cushion and it helped a bit. I have poor circulation from smoking, I guess. It's not the hip pads because I don't have any.
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Old 08-31-2005   #10
Front Range, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 274
Hey folks,
Thanks *EVERYONE* for your responses.... I'm supposed to be going out tonight to make the most of our getting waterlogged from Katrina, so I'll play with the pads and see what happens from there. I've *absolutely* been of the mindset it's not the boat, it's me (why does this sound like some lame break-up line? ) from the get-go, though; for whatever it's worth, I paddled alot of boats before deciding on my Jackson, and I think I'd be having the same issues (if not worse) no matter what I was in.

Don, you and Lauren are probably right on about the hip-padding. Since my combat roll is far from "bombproof" still (running about 50/50 on success rates... thank god I do a pretty good job of staying upright...! LOL), I probably am a little snug and trying to make the most of that snap. We paddled some cooler water a couple of weeks back, so I broke out the hydroskin shorts that afternoon and *swore* by the fact I had, what another 3 mm total?, snugging me down that tiny bit more in my boat. I know, it's goofy! I blew an entire day of paddling after tinkering with my hip pads a few weeks ago though, getting on the water that morning and not feeling like I had that same level of responsiveness... so I think I'm equating a snug fit = control, whether it's more of a psychological/ reassurance thing or an actual response/ control thing, who knows....???

BSOE and OcoeeKip-- thanks for the anatomical insight. Luckily, BSOE, I was able to make it thru your post without having to look up a single word! :P I don't think I'd considered much about the physiological implications of kayak ergonomics (dear god.... someone get me OFF the big, self-important vocabulary here! ) before your post, but it does shed some light on it.

And Mike B and Chaddy Mack: Jackson Kayak is now $45 richer thanks to you guys' feedback. I placed the Happy Seat on order and we'll see if that doesn't alleviate some of the alignment and pressure point issues.

Thank you all for taking the time to lend a hand, folks.
looks like it's back to that whole trial-and-error process again.... <*sigh*>
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