Heel Restraints

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What the Water Safety Code says

WSC section 1.11.2 - "All boats where “fitted” shoes are employed, must have effective heel restraints. These must be properly adjusted and in working order."

Guidance Notes section - "Before any outing is undertaken, equipment should be checked to ensure that it is in safe condition and in working order."

... and specifically paragraph e) - "Check that heel restraints are secure and that restraints are adequate and effective, i.e., heels are positively restrained not to rise above the fixed point of the shoe."

... and paragraph h) - "Where “shoes” are fitted in the boat, check that the laces are adequate for their purpose. Check also, when tied, that they are not too tight, thereby immobilising the feet. Check also the condition of shoes and their fixing. Where “Velcro” straps are fitted, check for wear and replace regularly."

Why do we have heel restraints?

So that the crew member can get his/her feet out of the shoes without using his/her hands. In the event of a capsize, you don't have time to fiddle about trying to untie laces.

Key features

How to check

Remember that you must check your boat before every outing.

If each crew member checks their own shoes, this should take only a few seconds before the outing. Don't skip it.


If a heel restraint breaks due to excessive wear, replace it, don't just tie a knot in it and hope for the best. The odds are that the rest of the material is in a similar rotten state to the bit that broke. And mend it properly. On Control Commission you see a lot of very elaborate "Heath Robinson" repairs, and the one thing these normally have in common is THEY DON'T WORK! Go for the simple approach - take off the old broken heel restraint and replace it with a brand new one. Resist the urge to improvise. Some shoes, especially the ones where the original heel restraints are riveted on, can be difficult to repair. You need to think about how to maintain and repair your equipment before a case of normal wear-and-tear becomes something more serious. Don't leave it until the boating raft. Once repaired properly, you won't have to fix it again in a hurry. Bodge it, and you'll be mending it every time you go out.

It won't happen to me

If you're of the opinion that heel restraints matter only in small boats, and that fours and eights don't capsize, the members of this Thames RC four might disagree. Fortunately their heel restraints all worked perfectly, and the crew survived to tell the tale.

Get it right

Here are some examples of what well maintained shoes should look like.

Rogues' Gallery

The purpose of this section is not to "name and shame", but to make you aware of some of the common (and some not so common) faults to look out for. If any of the shoes in your boat look anything like any of these examples, then get out and fix them NOW!