Monday, December 17, 2012

Toe stop, or no toe stop: that is the question.

Shocker During Her Rookie Year

Sure Grip Super Grippers
When I first started skating 4 years ago, the only toe stops easily available to us up here in AK were the Sure Grip Super Grippers as seen to right right in pink (and in red and black in the photo above).  These worked great, but only because I didn't know what I was doing and I didn't know what I was missing out on.  As time went by and I went through quite a few pairs of these during my first season of skating, I knew there had to be something better out there.

This article isn't a review on the many toe stops on the market, rather it is an overview of different options and styles available and how they fit into the Derby World.  One of my next articles will be a product review of the half dozen or so toe stops I've tested over the past few months.

Adjustable vs non-adjustable
RC Non-Adjustable Toe Stops
There are quite a few children's skates that have non-adjustable toe stops on them.  Also, some low-end adult skates and rentals come with them.  These have a different size screw going into the plate than adjustable toe stops, so they are not interchangeable.  If you can't avoid non-adjustable toe stops, go with a better stop like RC Target Toe Stops because they are softer than many of their competitors and will actually help you stop, not just slide forever on a hard plastic stop.

Stop or Plug

Formac Dance Plugs
Jam or Dance Plugs are not only used by quad figure or hockey skaters.  Some Derby skaters wear them and I always have a pair with me in my practice bag.  A couple of years ago I had the great pleasure of attending a boot camp where B-Train led a "Going Stopless" class.  Side note, this is where my Derby crush on B-Train began.

It's nice to take your toe stops out for a practice or even just an hour to reinforce certain skills.  If you find that you are always putting your toe stops down when you are just trying to transition from skating forward to skating backward, this will definitely help cure you of that!  Also, it's good to be able to adjust to not having a toe stop for those (hopefully infrequent) times where you lose a stop during a jam.  I lost one of my toe stops TWICE during one of my last bouts because it had been stripped and because I had practiced without my toe stops I was able to adjust for the rest of those jams and still be an effective blocker.  I've actually seen skaters skate off the track during a jam to replace their toe stop, leaving their team down a player until she got that thing back in her skate.  Definitely not the best use of your time on the track.

So, to prevent freaking out when you lose a toe stop, just practice without them every once in a while.  Jammer plugs are always nice to have on hand for these "stopless" practices so dirt and gunk don't get into the toe stop screw threads.  They also keep your toe guards in place so they don't flap around.

Standard Stem vs Short Stem
Short and Standard Stem Gumball Toe Stops

Some adjustable toe stops come in two sizes like Gumball toe stops.  The longer ones (standard or long) are usually the ones Derby players tend to use because of how much we use our toe stops for things like running, side stepping, and stopping.  However, some skaters prefer the short ones because they feel the longer ones get in their way.  It's a personal preference, but I really push the longer ones for Derby players for a couple reasons:

1) If your toe stops are too high your ankle ends up in a very unstable position, and

2) Having your toe stops closer to the track forces you to have better form when skating the track.

Crazy Bloc Toe Stops
Colors vs Natural
You might have noticed that a lot of toe stops are coming out in a beige color, such as Gumball and Bloc toe stops.  When I asked if GRN MNSTR was going to make their Gumball toe stops in different colors because, come on, women love color choices.  It was explained to me that the material wouldn’t be as strong, and if you have ever had a toe stop break or come off the stem in practice or a bout, you know how annoying and frustrating that can be!  Other companies who make colored toe stops like the Powerdyne Moonwalker must have a different formula because there are some with very pretty colors out there.

Well, that's about all I have on toe stops for now.  Like I said, later I'll be able to do more in-depth reviews of many of the toe stops used today in our sport, so stay tuned.

Until we skate again,


  1. I love the blog so far, Shocker! Keep up all the great work! I suggest adding a way to have followers/subscribers on your blog. Then when you update, it'll automatically notify your followers!

  2. Finally figured out how to make it so you can subscribe, just for you :)

  3. At a recent practice I found myself constantly putting my toe stops down, when I really should've kept moving and not stopped. I then realized I am one of the people you mentioned above, relying on my toe stops! It really has become a habit but at least I can do something about it now :) One thing I've been concerned with is stripping the threads. Any suggestions on avoiding this? Any tips on keeping them from getting loose (I'm constantly having to tighten them)?

    1. If you are able to tighten your toe stops well enough, the threads shouldn't strip. You have the screw on the side of your plates right? I've seen where these end up not working anymore and skaters end up using a toe stop nut instead.

  4. Our floor is markable, so we have to use natural rubber toe stops. And white pads or tape (and tape is obnoxious to fall on.) I didn't know there were other options to Gumballs - so thanks!

    1. we also have white replacement caps for 187 knee pads that might work for you as well add the Crazy and Bionic toe stops.


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Until we skate again!