The Great Stirrup Iron Conundrum

I have owned and loved my Royal Rider Flex stirrups for over 4 years now with no complaints. Before they came along I had used HS 6 way irons for 9 years, and didn’t realize until I tried the RR just how unstable the HS had made my leg. It was love at first ride and we’ve been together ever since.


Of course now USEF has come along and thrown a wrench in our romance by no longer allowing black stirrups in equitation classes. Really this wouldn’t normally effect me much… my equitation is more reminiscent of Quasimodo than Lillie Keenan, but I have had my eyeball on some medal classes lately. Ya know, personal challenges outside of one’s comfort zone (ie masochism and terrible ideas) and all that. Our local circuit offers a medal at both 2’6″ and 3′, both of which are appealing enough for me to at least want to try it out a few times. Hence that would mean new stirrups. If I’m being really honest I also can’t blame it 100% on USEF – I have to admit that I’m a little “over” the black plastic look. Metal is just so much prettier and more classic.

I have had ankle and knee issues my whole life, and even just 5 minutes in regular stirrups makes my ankles feel like they’re on fire and I slowly lose circulation to my feet. My flexibility is also not that great (read: horrendous). I’ve had a lot of success with the wide footbed and really like the more cheesegrater-esque pad for stability. What I’m not sure about is if the “flex” part of my Royal Riders or the super lightweight composite really makes a difference for me. Hence why I have been ogling new irons like an indecisive lunatic for months now.

I’ve narrowed it down to a few options. I wish some genius tack shop out there offered a trial program on things like this, so I could get two or three different pairs at a time and compare them. Alas that’s not the case so instead I will become maniacally obsessive and take forever to make up my mind. We’re lucky I haven’t made an excel spreadsheet yet. Here are the finalists I’ve got so far:

MDC S Classic


These have the features I’m really looking for: metal, wide footbed, lots of traction. Do I need the 45 degree “forward stirrup positioning technology”? Not a damn clue. Would I like the fact that these have a little more weight to them, like a traditional iron? Also not a damn clue. At $150 I’d call these moderately priced.


Jin Kinko


Also metal, also wide footbed, also lots of traction. But these are aluminum. Again – do I like how lightweight my Royal Riders are or do I prefer more weight? Still not a damn clue. I do like that the footbed is slightly angled, that sounds helpful. But at $265, these things are expensive.


Equitaly Greep


If I were picking based solely on looks, these would be my winner. I think they’re pretty and sleek but still modern. Like the Jins these are lightweight aluminum. Still wide footbed, still super grippy. They ring in around $230… still crazy expensive, but not quite Jin crazy expensive.


Amidale Jin knockoffs


I’ve never been one to shy away from a good knockoff. These are also made of aluminum, have the wide footbed and lots of traction. I like that they offer a kind of a matte/flat metal coating so they aren’t super shiny. But as with all knockoffs the question is – are they comparable to the original or just a sad wannabe? The price on these is really appealing though at only $75.


Knowing me, I will waffle back and forth on this for months before eventually making up my mind. That’s my standard MO for any kind of “big” purchase. Then I’ll compulsively online shop to find the best price, so we’re not looking at any kind of immediate decision here. What do y’all think? What’s your favorite stirrup at the moment and why?


34 thoughts on “The Great Stirrup Iron Conundrum

  1. I am loving my MDC S Classics. I am hoping to get a review up here in the near future. They are very comfortable, reduce my knee/ ankle pain (otherwise known as my feet/ lower leg going numb)… They have a slide dip at the back of the stirrup which I really like. They are not actually graters but I much prefer the feel of this tread to an actual grate. And I am not longer worried that I will cheese grate my new saddle, leathers, or the yet to arrive custom boot tread.

    I will get a post up soon but I would say give them a try. I bought mine from Smartpak so that I could feel confident that the shape/ size would work for me since Smartpak will take returns on “sized” items. Luckily i will be keeping them. I love that they have a classic look too. They aren’t quite as heavy as normal stirrups but don’t feel insubstantial like the plastic or full hallow aluminum stirrups I have tried. 🙂

    The offset eye was a little weird the first ride but now I don’t even notice it and it helps my leathers lay very flat and reduces bulk between my leg 🙂


      1. I used to use bendy Sprenger irons. But my leg was very unstable. I then switched to regular irons with the comfort pads. Used those maybe a year. A few months ago I bought the equiwing aluminum stirrup because I wanted to try the wide track grater style. I hated how light they were because if I lost a stirrup they flew all over the place. They were comfy but that was a deal breaker for me. Additionally I didn’t like grating my leather on accident.


  2. Why not powder coat/spray paint your current black ones? 🙂 Other than that, I have no suggestions – I use composite stirrups and love them. Cheap and effective. Glad I don’t show hunters 🙂


      1. Please don’t do that…. :/ plus if they are saying blacks not permitted are they saying just the color of the idea of composite stirrups. I assumed it’s bc they don’t want plastic stirrups period.


        1. Haha only suggested it because I saw a thread discussing this very thing and they mentioned they knew several people doing that 😛


  3. I guess I’m just super old school I have some heavy ass Lexmark fillis irons. My trainer grumbles about how heavy they make my saddle but if I lose a stirrup there it is weighed down, easy to nab. I wonder can you just spray paint them silver?


  4. I have the MDC Hunter Classics and I love love love love love them. I have a bad ankle and for years was using Herm-Sprenger 2-way knock-offs thinking the extra flex was helping my ankle. Except it wasn’t. My ankle would throb so much that it would keep me up at night after I rode. Last year I rode in a friend’s saddle with the MDC hunter stirrups and I was hooked. I bought my own pair the next day. The wide footbed and the pads bottom keep my feet in place, but they’re not the super scratchy cheese-grater pads so they don’t eat my saddle. I’ve always been a chronic foot-fidgeter with my stirrups, especially while jumping (if they don’t feel right I fuss and fuss and fuss with them, driving my horse bonkers) and that habit is pretty much gone now. I put my feet where I want them, they stay put, no fidgeting needed. My ankle pain has been reduced dramatically – it’s not gone completely but I sleep a lot better and my Advil consumption due to ankle pain is nearly nothing now. I seriously worship these stirrups and have converted several barn-mates to them because they’re awesome.
    I think the only negative is they make a bit of a clanky noise when I’m riding without stirrups and they bang around (I think it’s the part where the footbed is joined to the rest of the stirrup, they’re not one piece). This drives my horse bonkers, but she’s a special red-headed snowflake so a lot drives her bonkers.


    1. Thanks for the input! Maybe I should just bite the bullet and order from SmartPak to try them out (she says, with much trepidation and fear of commitment…).


  5. I have always just used regular irons. I had the Sprenger flexy irons for years but recently I felt like they made my leg a lot less secure.


  6. Bit of Britain has an MDC stirrup rental program:

    I too was a bendy Sprenger stirrup user, until my knees hurt so bad from using them that I could hardly walk after my rides. I got a pair of RR non jointed stirrups and loved those. For some stupid reason I decided to sell them and have been using regular fillis irons with the super comfort pads. Which most days I really like, though I do at time experience some joint pain still. I’m convinced I’m going to fall apart at a very young age. LOL.

    I would be inclined to try the MDC stirrups first. Mainly because of price. Then if I didn’t like those, work up the price ladder. I do like to watch ebay for Jin stirrups.


      1. I haven’t used BoB’s MDC stirrup rental or their bit rental, but I’ve been happy when I’ve used them for other things (such as replacing Charles Owen helmets, since I’m so good at falling off on my head. heh).


  7. I ride in old school fillis irons as well 🙂 Sorry I am no help here haha!!

    But I am very interested to see what you chose!

    I too at times loose the feeling in my feet but it’s because I put my heels down too much- weirdest feeling ever!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I, too, have a busted ankle and found the Sprenger irons did more harm than good. Now I’m just in fillis irons, but I’ve been eyeballing the MDC irons for some remote time in my future when I have spending money.

    I keep reminding myself that my current trainer went around Rolex twice in a Crosby Prix de Nations with regular irons and so forth. Curbs the must-buy-tack impulse a bit.


  9. I have royal riders on my one saddle and on the other I have cheapie jointed irons with thinline stirrup wraps, I have to say, I think they make my legs feel better then the RR’s, and they wraps are only about $20.


  10. Dear god, I need to bookmark this blog post…I haven’t paid attention to my stirrups since I bought them like 6 years ago. Seriously…thanks for doing all the research!


    1. There’s a million and one options out there now for stirrups… these are just the few I narrowed it down to for me! It’s really mind boggling to look at them all.


  11. I just bought a pair from Classic Saddlery for $45. Not sure what brand they are, but they are wide track and metal. They look exactly like the last pair you posted. Might be worth contacting them, they do ship.


  12. I have the MDC Sport Classic stirrups, and I think they have been well worth the $$ for me! Prior to I had plain Fillis irons, and tried knock-off Sprengers. The MDC wide footbed helps reduce my lower back and ankle pain, the rotating eyelet reduced stress on my shins (which I didn’t know was there until it wasn’t) and helps keep my lower leg more stable (especially my weak right leg). The cheese-grater like pads keep me from constantly adjusting my foot in the stirrup too.

    Honestly, I would highly, highly recommend them!


    1. Thanks so much for this review!! So helpful, I’ve been torn between Jin & MDC but leaning towards MDC because I can get the shock absorbers. I’m an adult amature showing in jumpers 3′ & up and looking for more stability & knee, lower back relief. My feet have gone numb ever since I began riding 25+ years ago & would love to resolve this. I’ve been riding my old school shock absorbing stirrups for many years and have only started considering a new design for stirrup. I’ve put the MDC Super Sports on my Christmas list & will update if I’m lucky enough to get them 🙂


  13. I ride in the MDC Sport Classic stirrups – the ones with the swivel top and the 2 inch foot bed. I love them. BUT … I come from the endurance world where I used HUGE stirrups with flexible materials and super spongey foot beds. When I tried out a pair of regular Fillis irons, I thought … yeah, no. I like the MDC stirrups for the swivel top (no torque on my knees) and the wide foot bed with grips (easier to find and keep your stirrups). They are a bit pricey at around $170, but I’ve been using them for nearly four years and haven’t even considered anything else. And as a side note, after four years of nearly daily use (I ride two horses), they still look as good as new.


      1. Super grippy? Well, I still lose a stirrup on occasion so … maybe? Remember, I came from HUGE stirrups with a SUPER thick, foam foot bed. THAT was grippy! I still REALLY like the MDC stirrups though and don’t regret buying them at all; they were worth the money.


  14. I saw your post awhile ago when I was in my own stirrup conundrum, and thought I’d weigh in, having chosen the Equitaly Greeps.

    I’d only ridden in classic fillis irons and jointed irons before my new stirrups. Never had a major issue with basic fillis and still use them on the horses I school (never feel like changing out irons on other saddles). I hate the jointed ones. I thought they’d be great for my ankle and back problems, but my issue is (simply put) hyper-mobility, so they caused over flexion and loose lower legs and thus too much flex in my ankles and the wobbly leg made my back shift too much.

    Reasons I opted out of other brands, for this purchase:

    – Jins because no one I asked could explain why they “loved” theirs, and I don’t like the look. They’re so trendy, I couldn’t find any way to try them first, and I’m not spending that much on just a trend.
    – Jointed, because of above reasons
    – RR – too light; I didn’t want to search for my stirrup if I lost it. Not a huge fan of the clunky look.
    – Never gave much consideration of the MDC, no particular reason.
    – Fillis – my new horse is SUPER sensitive and would get very annoyed being clanged during no-stirrup work, even folded over her shoulders. They’re too heavy.
    -Freejump – I’d love to try these for the safety, but too expensive to justify without trying them.

    I tried the Greep and the Cool in the tack shop on a stand-saddle (definitely worth asking if you can do this, if you take your own leathers with you). I didn’t notice a huge difference in the angled foot bed of the Cool, and wasn’t massively keen on the extra metal. Went with the Greep in black with silver, which are beautiful.

    After about 4 months using them, my review:

    At first, I found the wider foot bed hard to get used to. I honestly thought I’d return them, but didn’t get to it right away. After 2-3 rides, I was fully used to them and love them. They prevent me from over-flexing my ankles, but I never feel like I can’t push my heels down. The footbed has angled grips, so it took a bit to figure out exactly which is Left and Right. They have a flat bit on the bed that prevents saddle scratching (yay!). The angle of your foot has to be truly 45 degrees in the stirrup to properly grip the stirrup, but once my new leathers settled, they’re super easy to position and are very secure. I never feel “locked in”, but also never like my foot slides. The weight is mostly in the foot bed, so they hang nicely and are easy to grab, but not so heavy that they clang on my horse and piss her off. Haven’t lost a stirrup yet, even when she launches over a fence. I ride a 17hh BIG moving warmblood, and use the stirrups for jumpers and schooling dressage. They look brand new after a quick wipe, and are classic but modern looking. All in all, I’m really happy with my purchase!

    Verdict: The Greeps are worth it if you’re not going to break the bank getting them. If you want a specific feature like the extra stability and grip of the wide, metal footbed, I’d recommend them for the angled grip, and the balanced flexion they give me. If you’re just after the style, definitely the Greeps! If you have a sensitive horse that hates no stirrup work, these are a great weight for that, without flapping too much. However, if you’re not after any specific feature and have no real need to switch from classic fillis irons, I’d say stick with the basics and save your money for something you NEED.

    Hope that helps someone – stirrup reviews & trials are so hard to find!


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