What is The Windlass Mechanism of The Foot?

As part of my new video blog, I’ll be uploading regular Q&A style videos. Where better to start than with the foot…?

In the Haile Gebrselassie Running in Slow Motion video I shared a few months ago, I mentioned ‘The Windlass Mechanism’. A few of our subscribers have asked for more info on this function of the foot. Hence the above video!

In addition to this video explanation of this important mechanism, I’d also suggest heading over to Craig Paine’s blog to read his article named: ‘The Windlass Mechanism of The Foot

As always, I’d love to hear your comments and feedback.

I hope you find this video helpful 🙂

Last updated on January 10th, 2019.


  1. Hi James, I’ve noticed that as I run more, and especially when doing cross country in spikes with a thin sole, that I get tendon problems with my third and fourth toes (if big toe is first toe). I have very flexible feet 😉 but wonder if I am maybe running with my toes pointing a little inwards, esp in my spikes, which may be overflexing my 3rd/4th toes as you mention towards the end of the video. Any suggestions, hints, tips?
    Thanks, Tina.

  2. Hi interesting video
    I have completely flat feet would that mean my mechanism isu not as efficient
    As someone with a normal arch

  3. Hi James,
    That was a great video on the feet.
    A couple of years ago, I was having severe pain in my right heel. I altered my gait so I was running more on the lateral sides of my feet. I saw a couple of doctors to try to figure it out. My regular doctor tried a round of oral steroids to see if it would help. (It didn’t). I consulted a Chiropractor who was working a triathlon. He was also certified in ART. He figured out my first ray was stuck. He did some mobilization and recommended a lower drop shoe. I continued seeing my chiropractor for foot adjustments.

    All that leads to my question – What can I do to prevent the first ray from becoming immobile again? I started having calf cramps at night or when I have a stretch reflex. Dorsiflection is limited.

    Massage helped and I have been rolling my caves per you video. I also took a week off after a failed 100 attempt. What more can I do?

  4. Hi James,
    my husband describes himself as an ex-runner (having run several half marathons and the London Marathon twice in the past) as he now suffers from plantar faciitis. Does this really mean that he has to hang up his running shoes or are there exercises that he can do to remedy this (as I know that he misses running)?
    Many thanks.

  5. James,

    Great demos of how the windlass mechanisms works and good to use actual feet in WBing and non WBing. Your topic was windlass mechanism….but you did not explain that. You said basically think about it like it was a pulley. It is not a pulley, it is a windlass. Review your simple machines and possibly re-make your video. A windlass is basically a wheel and axle, there is a mechanical advantage. The best example is a hand crank on an axle to pull a bucket out of a well. The wheel or crank is your 1st phalange and the axle is your MTP joint. The rope is your plantar fascia and the bucket is your calcaneus. Turn the wheel and it pulls up the bucket. Go into 1st MTP extension (is the correct term, not dorsiflexion), that pulls on the plantar fascia and draws the calcaneus anteriorly as we push off and supinate and this helps form the medial longitudinal arch of the foot so it becomes a rigid lever to get effective force transfer during the toe/off/push off phase.

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