Training: Are you ready to toe hike?

Published on October 9th, 2013

By Ari Barshi, Laser Training Center
Preparing yourself for the perfect hiking position.
Sailors have many physical fitness goals: Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Core, Agility, Flexibility, Power, and Balance.  Many replace traditional gyms, with TRX, and Cross Training. For some cycling is the way to reach Laser racing fitness, while others swear that wall-sits is the way.

We will not try to recommend here any particular fitness program, as each sailor requires a unique program designed just for them. But, for keeping the Laser flat in strong winds, all sailors can benefit from an extra 2cm of height and therefore weight outside the windward side of the boat. This can be achieved by hiking off the tip of the toes instead of having the upper arch of the foot under the hiking strap.

‘The perfect hiking leg’, is of a dancer as seen in the picture on the right taken by Roberto Alvarez our Laser Caribbean Midwinter Regatta photographer, during a dance show in Santo Domingo.

Is your ankle ready for toe-hiking?
Ankle flex is an extremely important ingredient for toe-hiking. An easy way to test your ankles flexibility is in a Yoga pose called Vajrasana, simply described as the kneeling pose. (Pic #1). After warming up, get down on your knees, than move backwards and down, while keeping knees and ankles, tight. (Pic # 2).
If you can sit on your ankles, while keeping them touching each other, you are toe-hiking ready.
As you can see in pic # 3, the sailor had to completely separate his ankles in order kneel.
In pic #4, our trainer Maria is kneeling with tight ankles, while lifting all her toes off the floor to demonstrate feet in maximum flex.

The longer you can keep the ankles touching while getting your buttocks closer to your ankles, the better your chances are to hike off your toes, for long periods.

How to train your foot for toe-hiking?
If Ballet classes are available where you live, join some classes this winter. If Ballet is not an option for you, you can add Barre classes as an addition and variety to your strength-training routine.  More information and ideas can be found on

For ankle flex, champion sailors have been known to swim regularly for up to two hours at a time, feet paddling with fins on. The above mentioned Kneeling pose flex test can also be used for slowly converting your feet to a dancer’s feet and to being able hike off your toes during the entire race.

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