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Hanna-Barbera produced the popular Flintstone cartoon tv series where Fred was known to use his feet as the brakes for his prehistoric car.

We laugh at that and perhaps we have even done it ourselves at times in the past on some types of vehicles. We might have even gotten away with it, but I caution you not to attempt it on a tadpole trike as you may very well regret it. The results could get quite ugly, most serious and painful. LEG SUCK is not something anyone would want to  have happen to them. Leg suck is where the rider of a tadpole trike literally runs over their leg as the leg folds back under the crossmember (cruciform) of the trike frame. I saw it happen once to a friend of mine. It was hard to watch. He was fortunate. He only experienced considerable pain which took several days to get over … nothing got broken. I have myself had this happen a couple of times and experienced the pain of it. Fortunately my pain and suffering was over much quicker. The bottom line is … it is not worth it … keep your feet on the pedals. Certainly it is best to use some sort of means to keep your feet on the pedals so they can’t fall off and come down onto the ground. Tadpole trikes are a lot of fun to ride, but we need always to use common sense and good judgement. Be safe, enjoy the ride and …


FREE GIFT awaits you!


Heel Slings With Heel Pads

Anyone who reads the postings on Recumbent Trikes Group on Facebook have probably already seen my recent posting there about heel slings. For some time now I have considered buying them to try. I finally did about a week ago and have been using them. At first I didn’t care much for them, but I figured out that part of my problem with them was simply getting them “tweaked in”. The pedals I am using probably are not ideal for use with them. I simply used a pair of pedals I had on hand. After studying the pedals and the routing of the cables thru the pedals I decided to reroute the cable. That made a big difference and helped a lot. Now as I ride with my feet in the heel slings I really like them … so much better than using the SPD shoes and pedals. Yes, heel slings get my vote! As for the pedals I will probably buy some other ones which are better suited for mounting these heel slings to.

I understand the danger of “leg suck” while riding a tadpole trike even though I personally have never had an issue of my feet going down onto the ground if and when they come off of the pedals. That being said I know it ‘could happen‘ so it is best to do something to prevent it. I know most people turn to SPD shoes and pedals and really like them. I am not a fan of them myself as I don’t like having my feet locked to the pedals. So that rules out SPD, rat traps, and straps. I find SPD shoes to be uncomfortable to begin with. I need to wear shoes/sandals I am comfortable in. I also need to be able to move my feet around on the pedals a little bit as I ride. With the use of heel slings I can do all this.

Please note: When I originally wrote this article I wrote about the JSRL heel slings product as it was the only such product available I was aware of. Then TerraTrike came out with their version of heel slings which didn’t much impress me. However, more recently they have a new design they offer which I really like. I bought them and use them. I highly recommend them over the JSRL heel slings.

If you are looking for the TerraTrike product be sure you don’t get confused and buy the older version which is still available.

Here (below) is a picture of the JSRL heel slings.

Heel Slings rear view

Although it is claimed that heel slings can be used to pull back on the pedal much the same as can be done with SPD pedals I would argue that doing so is not as easy nor practical. The main reason for this is because the foot is not attached to the pedal like it is with the SPD system so when you pull back against the heel sling with the back of the foot the foot lifts off of the pedal. At least that is what happened when I tried it. Supposedly one is to point their toes downward as they pull back on the heel sling with their foot. That seems ridiculous to me. Going thru all that isn’t worth it. For me it is a non issue thankfully since I don’t pull back on the pedal using SPD pedals.

Here is how the cables and hardware are installed:

heel sling pedal installation

(Remember – you can click on any image in WordPress blogs and have them open up in their own window. Often times they will be larger so you can see more detail. To close the window of the image just use your browser’s back button.)

heel sling on pedal

The cables are adjustable for different size shoes and it really is important to get the adjustment right. Since cables are flexible and sag down under their own weight the further they are extended the more they will sag down. This makes it more difficult to get one’s feet into them. I personally think they need some means of preventing them from sagging down as it would make it so much easier to get into them. My shoe size is small enough that the sagging is not as much of an issue as it would be if I wore larger shoes.

At first I found it a bit difficult to get my shoes/sandals positioned properly into the heel slings. However, with the tweaking I did and with a little practice now I can get in and out of them fairly quick and easily. And getting out of them is so much quicker and easier than it is with the SPD system. I no longer have to concern myself with my feet being fastened to the pedals should an accident occur or a roll over take place. That is something I think about as it could happen. And if it did happen I might not be able to get my feet loose from the pedals. Also someone coming upon the scene of an accident is not likely to know how the SPD system releases. Lastly, it could be very painful and even dangerous to move the feet and legs to release them from the pedals. Yes, heel slings get my vote!

heel sling pedal rotated down

The one thing I think would greatly improve this product would be for the pedals to be counter weighted so that they would be positioned in the ready position for use instead of rotating way around due to the weight of the heel slings hanging off of them. This would take considerable weight however … unless it was hung way out in mid air on the opposite side of the pedals. Even with this problem I still found them fairly easy to use once I got the hang of it. In the picture above the cable is adjusted most of the way out …. must be for the BigFoot Monster … so the weight is considerable and the pedal is rotated way around to where it is upside down. My pedals are not rotated nearly this much.

John Lawrence sells his heel slings thru his website, JSRLDesigns, LLC. Here is the basic kit he sells. Heel pads are optional and recommended if you wear sandals. John seems to be a nice guy to deal with and genuinely sincere about helping his customers and giving them total satisfaction.

heel sling parts

With the use of my heel slings I will be able to …


(without concern of leg suck)


Leg Suck” is a serious matter and concern as it can result is a very bad and painful injury … one which could cripple you for life and cause considerable pain and suffering … a horrific ordeal to go thru. To prevent this from happening it is highly recommended that a rider of a tadpole trike use some means of keeping their feet on the pedals. SPD shoes and pedals are probably the most common means, but there are also others. I currently use SPD sandals and pedals, but I am seriously thinking about getting heel slings to use and get away from the SPD. I don’t like having my feet locked into the pedals. I don’t feel safe with this going on. Should I upset or have a wreck I want my feet to come free readily.

I also like the idea of being able to wear whatever footwear I choose to including boots in the winter time.

Heel Slings to the rescue. I started out using JSRL heel slings which I really liked at first. A few years later I came across the newer design TerraTrike offers and bought them. I have to say I much prefer them over the JSRL heel slings.

The ones offered by TerraTrike just work better. They are easier to use and hold ones foot in place better. And they look nicer. I caution anyone attempting to buy the TerraTrike ones be aware that they still have to older model they are selling which are inferior to the newer design. They are shown on right in picture below.  I would advise against buying them even though they are less money.

Please note that when I originally wrote this article it was about the JSRL heel slings as  the TerraTrike product didn’t exist to my knowledge. So from here on down you will read quite a lot about the JSRL heel slings. And it was written with my full support and endorsement of the product. As stated above I can no longer recommend it as my first choice as I find the TerraTrike product superior.

As to the JSRL product HERE is a link to the website. A single individual makes and sells these heel slings. His name is John Lawrence. Here are some pictures of what he offers …

heel straps 2

A pad is available for the slings for comfort when wearing sandals.

Heel Slings With Heel Pads

Here is an excerpt from his webpage:

“Do you want to keep your feet on the pedals, add power/speed, reduce your fatigue and do so without spending a bundle on clipless pedals and shoes? Well, Heel Slings are what you want.

This simple yet ingenious design allows you to:

– Ride with regular athletic shoes (or sandals if you prefer).

– Pull on the approaching pedal* using your calf muscle (not your shin muscle, like clipless pedals) for less fatigue and more power.

– Eliminates the need to push on the approaching pedal to maintain foot contact which decreases pedaling efficiency.

– Ride safer because it helps keep your feet on the pedals and not under the trike. Large reflectors on the Heel Sling platforms add visibility. Rapidly moving pedal reflectors are VERY visible!

– Quickly and easily lift your feet off the pedals without twisting or turning your foot to disengage the clipless pedal latch.

– Reposition your feet while pedaling for increased comfort. Try that with clipless pedals!

* point your toe slightly and pull with your heel.”

John writes that he will work with those with special needs which is very good of him. I am impressed with his website and what he shares on it.

I take issue with the part about using heel slings to pull back on the pedals like a rider can do with SPD shoes and pedals. Using heel slings to try to do this is extremely impractical since your feet come off of the pedals when pulling back on the heel straps.

Using heel slings could not be any easier or faster …

There are, as I mentioned, other types of devices to accomplish the same thing although I personally would not care for them. They tend to lock your foot in again and are more time consuming and troublesome to use than the simplicity of the heel slings. Also some of them are monstrous sized which doesn’t appeal to me. Here are a couple of examples of other ways to keep your feet from going down onto the pavement:

I reckon’ this one above would be okay for someone who needed them as she discussed in the beginning of the video.

I am sure there are those who don’t object to using the toe strap type devices so if you are one of those by all means go for it. I just don’t like using them.

Having your leg and foot get ran over and pulled back in a position it was never intended to be in is not something anyone would want to experience. We all need to do something to prevent it from happening so we can …