According to the Drumming System, the majority of drummers play heel up. While the heel down technique uses your ankle and your foot, this technique uses your entire leg. This is the power stroke for bass drum technique. Despite this, several drummers, such as Dom Famularo and Marvin “Smitty” Smith can play heel down and play louder than many people play heel up.
So how far should your foot be up from the footboard? There is no right answer to this except, if it works for you, go for it. Some drummers are comfortable keeping their foot really high, almost to an extreme (way past 45 degree angle).
The Drumming System suggests staying as relaxed as possible, and lifting your foot just an inch off the plate. I have found great success in doing it this way. I find it to be very natural. It allows me to comfortably throw the weight of my leg into loud notes.
When practicing, I think it’s really important to use a metronome with beat subdivisions. This will allow you to develop maximum control, especially when adding accents. Bass Drum Control by Colin Bailey is a great book for developing your technique.
Building stamina is one of the challenges to mastering this technique. I have found that my stamina improves when using ankle weights. Think of how a baseball player puts a weight on their bat and swings it while warming up. Ankle weights will definitely improve your bass drum stamina.
Ankle weights are also an effective way to take your double bass drumming to the next level!