When you get in to drive a new car, what’s first thing you do? Probably adjust the seat, right?
So your first job when you encounter new skates is to do the same – set things up to suit your needs. Whether they’re new or borrowed, everyone’s feet are different, everyone skates in different ways. There is no ‘one size fits all’.
Here’s just a few quick ways skates can be adjusts so that they work for you.
On quad skates, the direction of movement can be controlled by putting more pressure on the inside or outside edges of the skate. More pressure on the left side of the skate will cause it to steer leftwards; same with the right.
Adjusting the tightness of your trucks will change how much pressure you need to apply in order to cause the skate to move.
Tighter trucks will feel more stable and less sensitive to accidental weight shifts.
Looser trucks will feel more responsive to small weight shifts, meaning quicker turns and more agility.
Tighten your trucks if…
- You struggle to balance on one foot
- Your skates turn inwards or outwards unintentionally
- Your skates feel unstable or wobbly, especially when you go faster
- You feel like you can’t control your skates
Loosen your trucks if…
- You are more confident balancing on one foot or crossing over
- You feel resistance when turning or cornering
- You feel like you can’t swerve or weave quickly enough
- You get pain on the inside of your feet from applying pressure
Toe-stops on most skates are adjustable, meaning the height can be altered so that they sit higher or lower depending on preference.
The height of the toe-stop will change the angle of the skate when the toe-stop is in contact with the floor.
A high angle is achieved by screwing the stop further into the bolt hole. This means the stop sits quite high up on the skate, and therefore your foot must be tipped up at a higher angle in order to make the stop come into contact with the floor.
A lower toe-stop means the skate will sit at a lower angle, making it easier to balance, and therefore put less pressure on the toes of your feet.
However a lower toe-stop may feel less secure and could even drop out due to not being screwed far enough into the bolt hole.
Low toe-stops may also get in the way as you skate, because they protrude further and are more likely to catch on the floor when picking up your feet.
As a rule of thumb, your back wheels ought to be around 3 inches off the floor when raised up onto your toe-stops. But do whatever feels more comfortable to you.
Lower your toe-stops if…
- You have trouble balancing on your toe-stops
- You get pain in your toes from using your stops
- You find yourself dropping back onto your wheels unintentionally
Raise your toes-stops if…
- They sometimes catch on the floor when you skate fast
- If they feel wobbly or loose
Lacing seems trivial but has an enormous impact on the way the skate fits your foot. Many different lacing techniques can be used, or even combined, to ensure that your feet are supported and snug.
There are many ways to tie laces to resolve specific issues. Aim to minimise any gaps between the inside of the boot and your foot, but be careful to ensure that there is not too much pressure applied to any particular area.
Tighten your laces if…
- Your heel picks up from the bottom of the skate when you lift your foot
- Your arches are cramping or aching (this is a sign you are trying to ‘grip’ the bottom of the shoe with your toes)
Loosen your laces if…
- You experience a pinching or sharp pain on the top of your foot
- Your toes feel crowded or cramped at the front of the skate
- Your foot feels squeezed in at the sides
- You get persistent blisters certain places
In derby, there is a definite ‘sweet spot’ when it comes to wheel hardness.
Hard wheels are described as ‘slick’ or ‘slippy’, as they typically don’t grip the surface you are skating on. This may result in the wheels easily sliding sideways no matter how much pressure you apply.
Soft wheels are said to be ‘grippy’ or ‘sticky’ and create a lot of friction on the floor, meaning your wheels may not slide sideways at all.
Ideally you need a wheel somewhere in the middle, which gives you enough slide that you are able to plow stop and dig into your edges. But which has enough grip to prevent your feet skidding all over, especially around corners.
Harder wheels if…
- Struggling to pick up speed — wheels feel ‘sticky’
- Difficulty plowing and T-stopping — skates juddering
Softer wheels if…
- Lacking power/traction in plow stops
- Skidding out when crossing over/cornering
- Playing on a very slippy surface e.g. varnished wood