To Flex, Or Not To Flex?

Flexible, twisted, and jointed stirrup irons have become a “thing” in the riding world in the past ten years. Designed for ease on the rider’s joints, it is no wonder that these comfort irons have made their rounds—every rider can vouch for the aches and joint snapping when we get out of bed each morning. It was rare to see a rider in the plain fillis irons (until the new wide-tread irons emerged) and I just didn’t understand the hype. But having had painful ankle flexing issues for the past five-ish years and reading about the magic of jointed stirrups, I thought a pair might make my rides a little easier on my busted ankle so I decided to give into the fad—I was ready to flex.

My ankles issues had always been in my right and the pain and instability subsided after a couple years. I was left with limited flexion and the inability to truly sink into my heels, not ideal for a rider. The pain would come back after an extended amount of time in half-seat, long lessons over fences, or if I fought too hard to push my heel down (which was often), but for the most part the pain stayed away. Enter, the hopefully magical jointed stirrups.

Me: Heels. Down. Now. Ankle: NEVER.

A week into riding with the flexible irons I felt a burning in my left ankle that I knew all too well. I chocked it up to being sore and out of shape after a month of sporadic riding. A few weeks later the pain was only getting worse—I couldn’t canter more than once around the ring without my ankle giving out and wobbling like Harry Potter’s arm when Lockhart accidentally abracadabraed his bones away, I had to dismount onto one foot or the mounting block, and going into half-seat wasn’t even an option. Kinesiology tape helped a lot (that is for another post), but even that can only do so much after a while.

Evil, ankle-breaking, stirrup irons.

Being the oblivious person that I am, it took me over a month to realize that the pain began when I changed stirrups, DUH. The next day I swapped back to my trusty filis irons and voila! No more pain and no more jello-ankle. So the magic stirrups irons turned out to be not-so-magical after all and I learned my lessons the hard way: pay attention and don’t give into fads.

My final decision? Don’t flex.


Published by Terisé

• New England Equestrian Blogger • • Photographer • • Editor •

12 thoughts on “To Flex, Or Not To Flex?

  1. I am the same way! It felt like the stirrups were pushing BACK at me and made everything worse. Wide track helped with my knee and lower back pain, but otherwise I’m in plain old aluminum ❤


  2. My leg swings like a pendulum underneath me in jointed irons – it’s awful. No stability, no base and I feel really unsecure in the saddle. However, I have an undiagnosed injury from three years ago (..two MRIs later) in my right knee and plain fillis irons kill it, plus my whole lower leg goes numb. I’ve found a happy balance in Royal Rider flex irons – not nearly the flex of the Sprenger type irons, but just enough to keep my knee in business, and still keep my leg steady. Aside from not looking the most traditional, I think they’re the absolute best.


  3. Not all flex stirrups are created equal by any means. Some flex a ton, some only flex a tiny bit. Some have a wide footbed, some don’t. I absolutely hate the Herm Sprenger jointed irons (and all the cheap knock-offs) yet I adore my Royal Rider flex. IMO you can’t really make a fair judgement about a design style having only tried one particular model.


  4. I have ridden in flex irons for years and always had ankle & foot pain & numbness but never put 2 & 2 together until I saw a review on the wide-tread composite stirrups that talked about helping foot numbness. I bought the Horze Reflex Stirrups and I swear to you, they are a game changer. Definitely worth trying…


  5. This is why I hate riding in my jump saddle. I have equiwing in my dressage saddle and those are the perfect amount of flex. I dread getting into my jump saddle with the normal type flex because my ankle almost always gives. I’m saving up for some wide bed aluminum so I will want to jump again!


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