I think if someone rides enough, they will just naturally assume the proper foot position. When I started, the ball of the foot seemed awkward, so I just pedalled on the arches. 1000 miles later, I noticed I was doing it the proper way. I don't really know when it happened, but if you ride enough, I think you will naturally adjust to the most efficient position.
In the old days, we used to do what was called "ankling"
If you didn't have toe clips, you could push backward and pull up on the pedal just after Bottom Dead Center (6:00 position, whatever). You could only do this if the balls of your foot were on the pedals.
there is no 'proper' position. it's whatever works for the given rider......
actuly there is a proper foot position and its where your feet are if you use clipless of toe clips. It is the proper position because in this position your pedaling is the most efficent. When i started out i was pedaling with the arch of my foot like every begginer. When i switched to using toe clips i say to my dad wow these are great they make pedaling better except its weird having your foot touching the pedal at the ball of your foot, at which point he tells me that the correct position is actuly the ball of your foot. Well i move on to spd's they are even better, im wondering weather i would stick to this position if i took of my spd's
There's a "notch" just ahead of the ball, I guess it's the large bone of the big toe, and that's where the pedal bar ends up under for me, using that position I can ride in just about any shoe no need for special shoes etc. and ankling ends up textbook perfect. I'm surprised they teach anyone to position their feet any other way.
One thing I've noticed though, my right foot wants to toe-in a bit, only ever bothered me when I thought about it.
I used to do a 30 km round trip for four years with no shoes. It started when it rained near the beginning and I had to spend the rest of the day in bare feet. No lockers availab le. So I started riding with my shoes in my backpack. It was cold sometimes
So I would ride with sort of spikey aluminium pedals, ball on the axle. This would allow me to grip the front of the pedal between my toes and the ball and have some lift of the pedal, not much, but a little.
Many told me that I was a more than a little mad riding with bare feet, but never had an accident. I do ride in shoes now though.