By Dr. Roman Burk
The Winter Olympics are upon us, and many eyes will be watching the figure skaters. You can enjoy skating even if you’ll never make the Olympic team. (Here’s an article from Sports Podiatry on how the sport affects the feet of world-class figures skaters). Skating is great exercise and a lot of fun! However, pain in your feet while taking laps around the rink? Not so much. If you are experiencing pain when you skate and it continues when you’re off the ice, take a break from skating and think about what you can do to solve the problem. Here are some things to consider.
The Right Boot for Skating
If you only skate two or three times a year, you can probably get away with a rented pair of boots. However, if you skate regularly, you should go to the expense of having your foot measured and fitted by a professional. Ice skating boots need to fit snugly, but you should still be able to wiggle your toes in them. A loose-fitting boot is just asking for trouble. If you can’t find a pair of boots that’s just right for you, consider investing in custom boots that will be made to fit the exact shape of your foot. Read this report on boot problems put together by the U.S. Figure Skating Boot and Blades Subcommittee.
Maybe You Need a Lighter Skating Boot
Unless you are a competitive skater, you don’t need a heavy boot designed to give you maximum ankle support when landing double axels or triple toe loops. Here’s how to assess the weight of your boot:
Weigh yourself and then weigh both boots together. Do a little basic math—divide the weight of the boots by your body weight, then multiply the result by 100. This gives you a ratio of the weight of your skates to your body weight. If the ratio is greater than five percent, your boot is too heavy and gives you an increased risk of foot pain and injury.
Molding Your Skating Boots to Your Foot
In order to protect your ankle while executing turns, spins, and jumps on the ice, figure skates are designed to be very stiff. Heat molding is the process used to soften the hard leather. The boots will be placed in an oven to warm them up. When warm enough, they will be placed on your feet where they will mold to your feet as they cool. If you begin with a good-fitting boot, heat molding will help shorten painful break-in time, prevent foot pain and get you on the ice quickly. Inquire at your rink about heat molding. Here are a few other things to consider:
- What to Wear in Your Skating Boots – Heavy socks are out – your boot won’t fit your foot naturally, and your foot will sweat. Wear only light socks or skating tights. You want to feel that your boot is a natural extension of your foot. However, don’t skip socks altogether – if you do, you are just asking for corns and blisters.
- How to Lace Up Your Skating Boots – Your boots should be laced up to achieve a snug fit, but they should not be so tight that your foot hurts. You don’t want to get lace bite, a sharp foot pain caused by compressing the tendons so that they feel chomped on.
- Choosing the Right Skating Blade – There are different blades for different ability levels, so make sure you have one that’s right for you. The blade must be the right size for the boot and must be mounted correctly.
Coping with Foot Problems When Skating
If you have a foot problem, such as a pronating foot, an orthotic can keep your foot in the proper position and help to eliminate or reduce foot pain. Because your body will be in correct alignment, your knees and back will also be supported. Be sure to only use an orthotic prescribed by a professional podiatrist.
So, get on the ice and enjoy your skate and your cup of hot chocolate when you’re off the ice. And Happy Winter Olympics watching!