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Author Topic: Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'  (Read 2581 times)

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Offline AgnesNitt

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Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'
« on: September 13, 2015, 10:24:36 AM »
http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB114014691681476717

Interestingly, I've heard two high level coaches talk about how that when figures went away, skaters stopped building up the strength of their ankles and feet, and started 'forcing' their jumps with incorrect technique.
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Offline riley876

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Re: Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2015, 04:00:04 PM »
http://www.asbweb.org/conferences/2006/pdfs/344.pdf  would seem to indicate somewhat lower force results.

I'm quite interested in this.   I skate exclusively in articulated boots (being that my ice skates are just repurposed articulated inline boots with figure blades attached), but I've never had a decent skate in traditional leather boots to compare them with.    Nor do I jump more than a about an inch!

There's a really good skater at my ice rink that skates articulated Jackson Proflex (which I only noticed when she took them off, they're not obvious at all on ice).   They're clearly well used, so she obviously likes them sufficiently, but I must ask her what she thinks of the differences to traditional boots.

I would think a major practical advantage is that articulated boots can be engineered so they won't EVER break down.  And they can be made super stiff side-to-side and yet still have totally free flex front-to-back.   i.e. a boot suitable for all skating levels.    Can't imagine the boot makers would like this idea though ;)

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Re: Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2015, 04:51:21 PM »
I remember hearing that lots of skaters have weaker feet and ankles than you would expect.  However, despite the strong boots we wear, if you look at people actually landing high level jumps, they tend to lace looser to have ankle bend available to them. So who knows.

As for the flex boots (Jackson) they sort of died out because most people didn't like them.  They're not made anymore.  It seems like such a good idea because we always hear about encouraging ankle bend.  But I guess there's something about the more typical boots that work better for skaters even with the stiffness and lack of ability to bend.

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Re: Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2015, 11:48:58 PM »
This is a very important topic.  I recommend that the Admin move it to The Pro Shop, where it would have more visibility.  Here are my thoughts.

(1)  I agree that technical advances in boot design have been extraordinarily slow.  But I’m optimistic that the pace of development will speed up:  mainly because boot development cannot proceed in isolation from blade development.  Historically, boot designers have gone their own way, and blade designers have gone their own way, without much coordination (analogous to hotdogs and hotdog buns coming in mismatched sizes and package quantities).  Now that Jackson and Riedell manufacture both boots and blades, there is at least hope that there will be coordinated design efforts.  As a simple example, consider the crude manner in which blades are mated and mounted to boots.  Improvements require joint redesign of the boot and the blade.

(2)  I skate with Jacksons, not Edeas, but I’m impressed that Edea has taken a fresh look at many aspects of boot design.  They at least realize that traditional leather is not necessarily the best material for various parts of the boot (especially the sole and heel).  They’ve even designed special screws for mounting the blades onto the boot.

(3)  There has been gradual progress over the last 20 years or so, though.  The introduction of heat-moldable boots by Jackson was a major improvement.  But even minor improvements such as multi-piece contoured tongues, flex-notches, and padded ankle collars are welcome.  I bought my first pair of boots (Riedell 220) in the late 60’s.  The Riedell line didn’t change much at all through the mid or late 90’s, I believe, just some minor tweaks (the line-up pretty much stayed 220, Silver Star, Gold Star, and Royal, with an ill-fated model above the Royal that was too stiff for practically anyone to break in).  I switched from an old pair of Riedell Royals to Jackson Elite Suede last year when I started to devote more time for skating (previously just could make weekend public sessions).  Wow!  What a difference.  The Riedell line also has been thoroughly revamped.

(4)  Another reason for slow progress lies with figure skaters themselves, though:  in particular, the insistence of form over function.  I remember when I was trying on a new pair of Royals in the early 80’s, and I remarked to the skate tech that I wish Riedell would design a boot with rounded toes, conforming to real feet, instead of pointed toes.  He told me that a European company had tried to market such a boot, but it didn’t sell because skaters didn’t like the way it looked.  Jackson has had good success with their rounded toes, but my current skate tech tells me that many skaters won’t even consider them because they look too clunky.  He also tells me that the most popular blades in his shop are Ultima Matrix.  Not because they are better performing than MK and Wilson, not because of the tighter quality control, and not because of the advantages of stainless steel runners over carbon steel.  But because the girls just absolutely love all the pretty colors.

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Re: Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2015, 05:13:24 AM »
As for the flex boots (Jackson) they sort of died out because most people didn't like them.  They're not made anymore.  It seems like such a good idea because we always hear about encouraging ankle bend.  But I guess there's something about the more typical boots that work better for skaters even with the stiffness and lack of ability to bend.

The other issue is how long does an experienced skater with many years of muscle memory formed with traditional boots take to retrain with a radically new design such as articulated boots?  There is grief simply switching from one traditional model to another, such as from Riedells to Jacksons or from Jacksons to Edeas.

For comparison, anyone familiar with how quickly technological changes in other sports, such as skiing or tennis, were accepted?  Was there less effort involved in retraining on new equipment?

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Re: Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2015, 05:42:59 AM »
I remember hearing that lots of skaters have weaker feet and ankles than you would expect.  However, despite the strong boots we wear, if you look at people actually landing high level jumps, they tend to lace looser to have ankle bend available to them. So who knows.


If this is true, it wouldn't surprise me one bit.  I wonder if the same would have been true in the days of softer boots and figures?

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Re: Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2015, 12:42:20 PM »
I have a feeling that most of the comments re: skaters are weaker due to boot design and/or lack of figures practice applies to folks doing double jumps and beyond rather than rec skaters like myself.  My current Jackson Freestyles (my second pair of the same model boot) are streets ahead of my former Riedell  Gold Stars (from the '70s) at least in terms of comfort and probably also support, and barring some unforeseen leap in boot technology will probably be what I stick with for the remainder of my time on the ice.  Are they making my feet weak, or is that just the unstoppable tick of of the clock?  The one innovation that might make skate boots more convenient would be replacing the laces with buckles that remember your exact tension preferences.  Sort of brings to mind the old ski boot commercial:  "Are you still lacing while others are racing?"

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Re: Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2015, 02:46:50 PM »
I have a feeling that most of the comments re: skaters are weaker due to boot design and/or lack of figures practice applies to folks doing double jumps and beyond rather than rec skaters like myself. 

Yes, you are correct.  There was a USFSA committee report addressing the increasing rate of injuries for competitive skaters, not recreational skaters.  One of their conclusions was that the trend towards stiffer and stiffer boots was one contributing factor to injuries.  The recommendation was for skaters not to depend on stiff boots, but to train to strengthen their ankles.  There has been some progress in this area.  Previously, if you wanted a better fitting boot, and a boot with more features, you also had to buy a stiffer boot:  that is, as you advanced up the product line, the boots also got stiffer.  Not true anymore.  For example, the top-of-the-line men's Jackson Elite Supreme comes in 4 different values of stiffness.

Offline AgnesNitt

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Re: Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2015, 04:55:04 PM »
Yes, you are correct.  There was a USFSA committee report addressing the increasing rate of injuries for competitive skaters, not recreational skaters.  One of their conclusions was that the trend towards stiffer and stiffer boots was one contributing factor to injuries.  The recommendation was for skaters not to depend on stiff boots, but to train to strengthen their ankles.  There has been some progress in this area.  Previously, if you wanted a better fitting boot, and a boot with more features, you also had to buy a stiffer boot:  that is, as you advanced up the product line, the boots also got stiffer.  Not true anymore.  For example, the top-of-the-line men's Jackson Elite Supreme comes in 4 different values of stiffness.

That's interesting to note.

And if anyone cares here's some office exercises for the feet and ankles from Runner's World.
http://www.runnersworld.com/training-video/feet-ankle-workouts
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Re: Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2015, 07:06:05 PM »
Let's get paint-on boots. :) Perfect fit every time.

You remove them with a solvent.

Or all future figure skating can be in virtual reality. You imagine doing the routine, and the computer generates a video. The best video wins. No injuries.

Offline jbruced

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Re: Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'
« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2015, 08:42:46 PM »
Or all future figure skating can be in virtual reality. You imagine doing the routine, and the computer generates a video. The best video wins. No injuries.
I would suffer a severely sprained brain :-)

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Re: Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2015, 09:12:11 PM »

(3)  There has been gradual progress over the last 20 years or so, though.  The introduction of heat-moldable boots by Jackson was a major improvement. 


I can see where the heat-molding has been an improvement - especially when it comes to break-in and especially in the feet and ankle area - BUT I really have a problem with the heat-molding material entering the uppers - I have complained over and over on this forum about my heat-molded SP Teri Dance boots that after 10 years are still not broken in - cannot bend my ankles in them yet to save my life - and I am a life-long not too shabby skater!

So it struck me in thinking about this that maybe they should keep the heat-molding in the lower part of the boot and maybe around the ankle bones (only!) but go back to regular leather without the heat-molding material for the uppers! 

Maybe they have done this already...

But I still miss my old SP Teri Super Teri's - no heat molding, real leather, can get real bend.

Of course there was the poster that mentioned that maybe I am just fighting again - at 61 still on the ice but can do less and less and less and less at speed, etc. - maybe I could never bend my ankles much and now it is just... worse...  who knows???

And of course I won't get another boot - too cheap!!

Good discussion.

Offline AgnesNitt

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Re: Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2015, 09:56:47 PM »
A coach I know wanted the boot makers to stop putting extra stiff leather over the toes. It would be more expensive, but oh, heavenly to break in.
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Re: Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'
« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2015, 10:45:38 PM »
I can see where the heat-molding has been an improvement - especially when it comes to break-in and especially in the feet and ankle area - BUT I really have a problem with the heat-molding material entering the uppers - I have complained over and over on this forum about my heat-molded SP Teri Dance boots that after 10 years are still not broken in - cannot bend my ankles in them yet to save my life - and I am a life-long not too shabby skater!

So it struck me in thinking about this that maybe they should keep the heat-molding in the lower part of the boot and maybe around the ankle bones (only!) but go back to regular leather without the heat-molding material for the uppers! 

The heat-moldable thermoplastic layer is not inherently overly stiff:  depends on the particular implementation.  I have no experience with SP Teris.  In the Jacksons, the stiffness is largely a function of the grade of leather.  The thermoplastic layer allows the leather to be reshaped and maintain that shape without relaxing into its original shape.  Your overly stiff boot is probably specific to your model of SP Teri's.  I haven't had problems with deep ankle bends in my Jackson Elite Suedes.  I was pleasantly surprised with the relatively short break-in period:  the flex-notch, the pre-punched ankle pockets, and the contoured tongue really did the trick.  Most of the flexing occurs around the ankle bones, and the thermoplastic layer needs to extend above the ankle bones to form and hold the ankle pockets.

Edit to add:  Prior to the availability of heat-moldable boots, Riedell at one time introduced a traditional leather model above their then top-of-the-line Royals.  My skate tech told me he stopped selling them because they were so stiff, even the advanced skaters were having great difficulty breaking them in.  I believe they were yanked from the market after only a year or two.  So again, the thermoplastic layer is not inherently the culprit for an overly stiff boot.  You can have rock hard boots with or without a thermoplastic layer.  And you can have boots with the proper combination of support and flex with or without a thermoplastic layer.

Offline AgnesNitt

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Re: Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'
« Reply #15 on: November 14, 2015, 09:04:42 AM »
My experience with heat moldable boots is there is a layer of leather, a layer of heat moldable plastic, and a layer of leather. I have actually cut boots open to make them fit, and this was what I observed in both Harlick and Jacksons. The stiffness much be from the leather, the plastic just holds the shape.
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Re: Figure Skating Boot Designs a 'dead end'
« Reply #16 on: November 15, 2015, 07:44:45 PM »
A coach I know wanted the boot makers to stop putting extra stiff leather over the toes. It would be more expensive, but oh, heavenly to break in.

As an engineer-type, you also know it would be a lot heavier. Arches, such as those over the toes, are a fairly efficient way to create lateral support. To create lateral support at the ankles, it helps to have a very stiff toe box, and a very stiff back stay. You also need other stiff elements to transfer resistance to lateral motion to the ankle area.

Perhaps even more than that, the toe box is what provides support for toe jumps, and edge jumps (most of them) that take off from the toe. It's near the fulcrum, and must therefore be much stronger and stiffer than stuff farther away, just like you need very strong and stiff material all around the lower periphery of the boot.

I have claimed that figure skates haven't advanced as quickly as hockey and speed boots, and sometimes exaggerated (just) a bit and claimed they hadn't advanced much from the riding boots of the dark ages and renaissance. But that doesn't mean that they are a dead end, or that there hasn't been some progress. E.g., in terms of materials, take a close look at what Avanta says they do.