Friday, June 27, 2014

Skater, Feel Thy Feet!

Picture it:  You are about to skate for 5 minutes to determine whether you will remain a rookie for another season or skate your way to rollergirl.  You made sure to hydrate, eat well, and have adequate time to warm up, yet after only a few laps, a familiar sensation begins to creep from the tips of your toes through your feet, and soon, it will be making its way up your lower legs.  You know something bad is about to hit you...hard. 

Today we are going to discuss an issue that plagued me, as well as many of my teammates, during the first few years of our Derby careers.  Can you relate to the scenario described above?  Even if you have never actually experienced this exquisite pain, I'm sure you have skated with someone suffering from it.  The unique combination of foot/lower leg pain and numbness is often only relieved after taking your skates off, which means you'll have to spend the rest of practice watching from the sidelines.  If you haven't yet found other ways to prevent/relieve this problem, such as stretching your calves and shins before and after practice and icing inflamed areas, you may only need to make a few simple adjustments to your laces to get the pain to subside. 

But before we get into some preventative measure lacing techniques, let's take care of an administrative issue.  In the previous G Spot post, I announced the 6 lucky "Shocker's Box O' Goodie" winners; however, only 2 of them have e-mailed me their mailing information.  I have yet to hear from:

  • Ashley Dawn
  • Tracy
  • Amanda Brown
  • Amanda Duncil

If you know someone on this list, please shock them with a cattle prod and let them know they need to email me their information.

For June, I'm going to give away one (or a few if I'm feeling generous) of my popular DerbyPunk Wine/Liquor Bottle Stoppers to a follower of my new Etsy store, The ShockerKnot.  When you stop by my store and click on the "Favorite" button, why not check out the Roller Derby inspired items I've created?  You may find the perfect gift for your favorite Rollergirl/guy, or even yourself!  New items are added all the time, so visit often and get the jump on the latest creations.

Now, back to painful problems.

Lace Your Way to Pain Free Practices

In the last G Spot article, "What a Tangled Web We Lace," we discussed various skate lace attributes such as length, material composition, and color availability.  Now let's talk about how you can use different lacing techniques to reduce/relieve discomfort when skating or prevent pain from occurring in the first place.

Double Up
The "Double Up" method is a simple lacing technique involving 2 pairs of shoe laces (not skate laces) each about 45" in length.  As depicted in the following photographs, the bottom half of the boot is laced with one pair of laces while the other pair is used for the top half.  Each lace is tied off with a bow or appropriate knot and is not connected to the boot's other lace.

First one laced and tied off.
Finished Product
Second lace added.

This technique is useful for skaters who need to use different tensions when lacing their boots, such as needing to lace the bottom half as tight as possible while leaving the top half loosey goosey (oh yeah, I went there).  If your boot presses against the nerves in the foot or ankle, it can easily cause serious discomfort; however, if the skater is able to pinpoint the area where the skate irritates her nerves, this technique can help to keep the laces loose in that specific spot while still being able to tighten the boot enough that her skate doesn't fly off the track without her.  This method also allows skaters to show off twice as many crazy/cute laces, such as these ------------->

Uncrossed Laces

If you tried the double lace method and are still having pain when skating, you may need to avoid lacing over certain parts of your feet entirely by using a technique I like to call “Uncrossed Laces.”

To do this, you will end up with your skates laced normally (horizontally) above and below the area causing you discomfort, but will lace vertically in order to avoid putting pressure on the sensitive area.

How to lace boots using the Uncrossed Laces technique:

End Uncrossed Lacing

Suspected Problem Area
Begin Uncrossed Lacing

Return to Normal Lacing
Uncrossed Lacing Completed

Lacing Through Tongue Loop

As you can see, once you reach the sensitive area, instead of crossing the lace to the opposite side, you thread it through the next rivet on the same side. You lace vertically through one or two rivets, but I wouldn't recommend more than two because the tongue could end up popping out or sliding to the side. After you are done lacing vertically, resume normal lacing through the rest of the rivets and the tongue slot.

If the tongue in your boot bunches or slides to one side, make sure you have laced through the slot in the tongue if you have one, not all tongues do (I could make a dirty joke here, but that would be out of character).

Something else that may help is warming up without tightening your laces.  As in, after you put your skates on your feet, you don't touch your laces at all before you start to skate.  You may want to tuck in your laces so you don't end up rolling over them and if you have an ankle strap, it's helpful to velcro it back on itself to get it out of the way.  

I started warming up this way about a year ago and noticed a huge difference in how my feet feel during/after practice. If your skates fit properly, you should be able to skate fairly normally after slipping your feet into your boots. After warming up for 5 to 10 minutes, lace up as usual; not too loose or super tight. You should notice that your skates suddenly feel like extensions of your body, as if long lost orphans have finally returned to their place of birth. It's an awesome feeling which is difficult to describe.  When I lace my boots after warming up, I suddenly feel like I can jump, turn, and juke like Suzie Hotrod.  My feet become more responsive and my shins/calves don't cramp like they used to. 

If you end up trying this out, give yourself time to get used to the feeling and mechanics of skating like this. It may take a few practices, but once you get to the point you feel comfortable skating "unlaced," you'll be able to get the most out of this technique.

If you find that your heels tend to slip out of your skates, even after you tighten your laces, you're in luck!  The next G Spot post will go over some tips for keeping your heels nice and snug in your boots.

Until we skate again!