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I'm a 115lbs 35-year old male and I've recently put aside my weight training to focus on cardio. I've always jumped rope to warm up but now I'm really trying to focus on it and I've noticed something...what seems to limit how long I can jump for is my feet. Is that normal? It's not my arms, not my breathing, not my heart, but my feet. If it weren't for my feet it, feels like I could go all day.

I jump at a rate of 2.5 jumps per second barefoot on a carpet floor with 3/4 thick foam mats on top. That gets my heart rate up to about 120 BPM. I can only do sets of about 300 jumps at a time before I have to rest my feet. Although recently, putting everything else aside for jump rope seems to have increased to 400 and sometimes 600 jumps per set.

I'll do a set and wait a minute or two before doing another (sometimes I end up waiting way too long). And this will continue for 30 minutes to an hour or so (the longer it goes on for, the more likely I'm waiting too long between sets). Regardless of how long I actually do it, I don't think I ever get more than 3000 jumps in total because I probably start slacking as time goes on and take longer breaks.

Conventional wisdom seems to indicate that with proper form your arms should get tired first but this doesn't happen. Nor does it feel like I'm out of breath or that my heart is beating too fast.

What gives? I tried Googling but literally every result is about your arms getting tired and not your feet.

And suppose my feet didn't get tired, does the fact that neither my breathing nor heart make me feel like I have to stop mean I should jump even harder?

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    At 115 lbs I have to wonder whether or not you're eating enough to properly maintain joint and bone health. If your feet are the limiting factor I can't imagine too many other things going on outside of it perhaps just not being biomechanically favorable for you (meaning that being barefoot just puts too much stress on your feet). – JustSnilloc Oct 6 at 11:35
  • Well 115-125lbs. It varies a bit but 115lbs is on the really low end. Eating is a problem though due to more than a decade of orthodontics. – DKNguyen Oct 6 at 13:08
  • What do you mean by your feet get tired? As in the arch in your foot starts to ache? Your toes hurt? Your heels swell up? Also, what are you doing for recovery? Stretching calf muscles? Foam rolling them or the arch of the foot? – Dark Hippo Oct 19 at 7:18
  • @DarkHippo Usually it's the foot arch. More so the right than the left, at least before I got mats. Now it is more spread out and less severe amongst both feet. For recovery I do calf stretches. Never occurred to me to use a foam roller on the arches though I would probably use a spiked half-ball instead. – DKNguyen Oct 19 at 13:18
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Wearing proper shoes will keep you feet secure allowing you to jump longer and safer. But even if with shoes its still your feet that's the constricting element, its simply about the ratio of whats in best shape. for me, my calves are usually the thing that starts to feel the most strain, while for others, its their breathing. Its just about what has been trained more in comparison to everything else.

But use sneakers to jump rope, its much safer and you can go for longer

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Same issue occured to me, here is what happened:

  • Feet were killing me (plantar fasciitis)
  • Calves were getting a killer workout but prevented me from jumping
  • Forearms could get tired

How to fix:

Feet- get HIIT shoes or shoes specifically for jumping, with good pads inside. Mine have orthotics but the shoes also have two huge rubber ball point$, one at each end of the shoe, that puts a spring in your jump and takes tension off.

Calves-the shoes might help but otherwise you could try strengthening your calves in the gym to tolerate this. Otherwise there are plenty other cardio exercises to do that don't hurt your calves. This will get better with more exercise but if they are hurting before you get a good workout you can also try jumping on a slight downslope which takes pressure off, and wear good shoes!

Forearms-therrs several different types of jump ropes.. buy a lighter weight one if your forearms are getting too tired.

Breathing-great! It's an aerobic/anabolic exercise this is the desired outcome.

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  • It's a working progress. I've found that I can go for progressively longer as my foot gets stronger. I'm alternating between a the rope and a bike every other day to give the foot some more recovery time. – DKNguyen Oct 15 at 21:07
  • That's good. As long as they aren't in pain. Feet aren't supposed to be sore so just be careful – Ace Cabbie Oct 20 at 21:54
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Your question cites many parameters, but the crucial one seems to be:

I jump […] barefoot

Simply do not do that. Jump with shoes on, on a proper surface, as seems to be the case ("thick foam mats").

Jumping rope barefoot, especially for long periods like those that your report, requires impeccable technique, excellent surface and unusually good bones, muscles and ligaments/tendons if you want to avoid injury.

The signals you are getting from your body (from your feet) are pretty clear: stop pushing your feet towards injury point. Jumping rope is a low-impact activity, but that does not mean that you should not take some basic precautions to preserve your feet, but also your ankles, shins and knees.

Jumping rope with shoes will not tamper with your cardio goals at all.

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  • Even with floor mats? Part of the reason for no shoes is this is in my house on carpet and the ceiling is low enough as it is without added height from shoes. – DKNguyen Oct 5 at 22:04
  • Even so, yes -- you do not get the same exact benefits from surface and shoes. The latter will provide extra support to your bones and tendons, which are probably not yet used to the shocks and strains of jumping rope at your current frequency and intensity (on that aspect, I'd of course also recommend shorter sets and more rest, along with more warmup and more stretching -- the standard procedure to lower injury risk). – Fr. Oct 7 at 1:50

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