Do You Lift Your Heels on a Cross Trainer?

Cross trainers are an accessible and relatively forgiving piece of gym equipment, requiring no specialist knowledge or extensive training to operate safely. Nevertheless, it’s always worth paying attention to proper foot positioning, including whether or not to raise your heels when using the elliptical machine.

But do you lift your heels on a cross trainer? In order to minimise the risk of injury and maximise the effectiveness of your workout, aim to keep your feet as flat to the foot pedals as possible during your cross trainer workout. That being said, some small heel raises are an inevitable part of the elliptical motion, especially when your foot reaches the rear point of each stride and starts making its way back forward. 

Cross trainers might look a bit strange if you’ve never stepped on one before, but most people find they get the hang of the elliptical motion in just a few minutes of use. 

Today, we’ll be thinking in a bit more detail about why keeping your heels as low to the pedal as possible is a good way of enhancing your elliptical workout, keeping your motion strong, smooth and confident. 

Here is my favourite cross trainer with comfortable foot pads:

Sunny Health and Fitness Elliptical Machine
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Last update on 2024-06-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Should I Lift My Heels on a Cross Trainer?

Although it can be tempting to shift your balance onto your toes during an elliptical workout, you should not consciously lift your heels while you are using the cross trainer. You should instead aim to keep them as close to the foot pedals as is comfortably possible. 

Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to avoid all heel lift entirely. This is only natural – since the elliptical motion roughly mimics that of a walking or running gait, it’s to be expected that when your foot reaches the end of its backward stride the heel lifts slightly in order to propel you forward. 

You don’t necessarily need to fight this small heel raise, but be conscious of not shifting your balance too far forward on your feet.

Some users find themselves putting the majority of their weight through their toes and come completely off the heel, particularly if they are trying to push faster or through higher resistances. 

Do You Lift Your Heels on a Cross Trainer?

Instead, a rolling motion of shifting pressure from the midsole to the heel of the foot and back again, without the foot really leaving the ground, is a more realistic aim.

This still mimics the natural gait of walking, in which pressure placement shifts backwards and forwards with the rise and fall of each step, whilst preserving the fixed foot benefits that a good elliptical workout can provide. 

Are your Heels Supposed to Come up on An Elliptical?

It’s only natural to feel your heels lifting slightly when using the elliptical, particularly when your feet are at the back of their respective strides and beginning to push forward once more. 

You may hear some people saying that you won’t burn any calories, or hardly any, if your heels remain raised throughout your elliptical workout.

This isn’t the case – the cross trainer still requires you to exert energy in order to drive its momentum, even if you are on your toes much of the time!

However, there are a number of benefits to keeping your feet as flat to the pedals as possible throughout the elliptical motion. This can also help guard against certain injuries. Let’s think about these benefits now. 

Should Your Feet Be Flat on a Cross Trainer?

Keeping your feet as flat as possible during your cross trainer workout comes with a number of benefits. 

Keeping your heels down will help stretch out your calves during your workout, potentially avoiding cramps that can occur if you spend too much of the session on your toes. 

Many people report that their elliptical workout feels far more effective at working the muscles of the lower body when they concentrate on keeping their heels down and driving through the whole of the foot. This is because a lowered heel encourages more activation of the glutes, hamstrings and quads. 

This targeting of the lower body muscles is often a reason why people sometimes find themselves switching to a more ‘bouncy’, toe-balancing stance on the cross trainer.

When our muscles get fatigued we often switch to balancing on our toes, especially if we want to exert more short-term ‘drive’, or try to give our muscles a break. 

Reebok ZR8 Cross Trainer, Black

There are also weight distributing benefits to keeping your heel as low as possible when using the elliptical.

A flatter foot means a more even weight distribution throughout the lower body. This is also the reason why plenty of other exercises – including squats, yoga, and body-weight workouts – require you to focus on keeping your weight spread through your midsole and heel, rather than just the toes.

The risk of raising your heels and relying on your toes for balance is that the knee joint and muscles of the front leg are forced to take the majority of the downward strain.

This can result in knee injuries, shin pain, and other forms of lower limb discomfort.

Foot Position on Elliptical Machine

Foot pedals on elliptical machines come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They will also frequently be much larger than your own feet. 

This can make it difficult to know where exactly to place your feet when you start your workout, particularly if you are using an unfamiliar machine or a model at your local gym. 

You should trust your body when it comes to finding an ideal foot position. Find a point on the pedals where you can comfortably and smoothly flow through the whole elliptical motion, whilst being able to keep your feet as flat as possible to the pedals.

If you find that your knees are knocking against the arm handles or any front part of the machine, this is a sure sign that you’re too far forward!

In terms of safety and comfort, try to ensure that your feet are parallel with the foot pedal sides so that you are driving the machine at a straight rather than an awkward angle. 

It’s also a good idea to try to ensure that your feet are in the same position as each other on their respective pedals. This will help keep your hips equally spaced and balanced, aiding with proper posture and avoiding back pain

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An ex-triathlete, fitness coach and writer with a Masters in Sports Physiology. Fitness is my passion and I've had my fair share of home fitness equipment tried and tested!