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Author Topic: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?  (Read 2048 times)

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Offline Query

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I've been thinking about why many kids have so much trouble getting onto and holding their outside edges. This is very noticeable when you try to teach kids to hold outside edges, or to do crossovers and half-swizzle pumps.

Part of this is obviously psychological - if you tilt without control onto your inside edge, the other foot is there to stop you from falling, whereas if you lose control towards the outside edge, you likely fall.

But maybe beginner level boots and blades (which come pre-mounted) are deliberately balanced to make it easier to reach and hold your inside edge. And maybe boot fitters who mount blades do the same thing, then modify that as the skater advances?

I used to have an (ice dance) coach who spent a lot of time making all his students do twizzles, even semi-beginner ones. I discovered that it was easier for me to hold the twizzle position if I balanced my skates so that it took exactly the same amount of muscular effort to reach and hold an outside edge as to reach and hold and inside edges. Also, I balanced them so that as I put weight on a foot, it would not systematically collapse towards one edge or the other. (I do this using a combination of blade offset and insole modification.)

Whereas, when I walk (and I think when most people walk), the outside ("lateral longitudinal") arch collapses more than the inside ("medial longitudinal") arch, at first, after I roll forwards off the heel onto my midfoot. And the inside arch collapses more as I roll onto my toes. That double rockover is sometimes stated to be part of a "normal" walking and running stride, that lets you use some of your muscles for propulsion in somewhat the same way that you do in a power pull.

First off, is making it equally easy to balance and hold either edge, and eliminating assymetric collapse, as I prefer, actually a pathological way to balance feet?

Second, are beginner skates deliberately set up to favor inside edges, and inside collapse?

Third, how do most of you who have confident inside and outside edges prefer those balances and arch collapses to work, for figure skates?


Offline Clarice

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Re: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2015, 08:58:54 AM »
No, I do not think that beginner blades are mounted to favor one edge over the other.  That doesn't make any sense.  Why would you want to make it automatically more difficult for them to find an outside edge?

Long ago I had a clarinet teacher who played in a major symphony.  He would demonstrate on my instrument and sound magnificent, while I just sounded like me.  His point was that equipment can hurt or help, of course, but at some point you just plain have to learn how to play. 

Offline nicklaszlo

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Re: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2015, 10:03:16 AM »
if you tilt without control onto your inside edge, the other foot is there to stop you from falling, whereas if you lose control towards the outside edge, you likely fall.

This is the explanation.

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Re: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2015, 10:22:20 AM »
This is the explanation.

Agreed.  I'm having more trouble with right outside edges than left right now because I'm still finalizing the blade adjustment with the new skates (see previous threads for the saga there…), but once I get that sorted out my outside edges will still suck.  Most of the problem is me and my brain, not the equipment.

Offline Query

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Re: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2015, 11:11:10 AM »
Agreed.  I'm having more trouble with right outside edges than left right now because I'm still finalizing the blade adjustment with the new skates (see previous threads for the saga there…), but once I get that sorted out my outside edges will still suck.  Most of the problem is me and my brain, not the equipment.

From another thread:
I may have figured out some of my problem on the right- it's not just the blade, which I think we sorted out.  I think it's me.  In class we worked on forward and backward snowplow stops (which I always, always do with my weight on the left foot and braking with the right foot, forward or backward).  He had us do them alternating feet, and I really just couldn't do it the other way.  Couldn't get my weight shifted onto my right foot well at all.  I also can't sustain a basic one foot glide on the right.  On the left I can go forever, but on the right I fall onto an inside edge pretty quickly.  I think I even put my weight on the left when I'm standing off the ice.  I'm starting to think that I'm just lopsided.  Or I could be overthinking this.  Any advice?

While practice helps a lot, it could possibly partly still be the skates. Most skate technicians deal with balance issues just by offsetting the blade mounting position to the left or right.

That works quite well up to a point - but there are at least two dimensions to the potential problem:

(1) How easy it is to reach the edges. I.E., how much effort does it take to initially place yourself on the edge, before you have full weight on the edge.
(2) How easy it is to hold the edges after you put full weight on the edge. I.E., does the edge tend to change after you put weight on it?

Both are affected by the shape of your foot and your boot. And both are affected by the relative extent to which your foot changes shape (collapses), on the inside and outside arches, when you put weight on it.

Maybe you can't completely solve this two (or more) dimensional problem by varying only one parameter, like blade offset. But by combining blade offset variation with reshaping the insole, and/or using different materials in the insole under the inside and outside arches, as well as boot shape parameters that control how the top part of your boot presses on the two sides of your foot, you may in theory be able to solve both.

I've noticed that great athletes can overcome equipment problems to an amazing extent by superior technique and athletic training. But some of us are never going to get there, and understanding and making finer adjustments to the equipment can help some, even if we will never play the equivalent of a symphony on ice.

Offline amy1984

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Re: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2015, 03:59:37 PM »
My coach always refers to inside edges as your 'natural' edges, or most comfortable.  Think of how we push off, how we stand naturally, etc.  Add a flat foot to this like lots of kids have now and inside edges will certainly feel more comfortable.

Offline riley876

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Re: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?
« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2015, 05:48:49 PM »
All 3 of my inline skates have had the frame ("blade") factory mounted way too far to the inside of the boot,  i.e. so that they naturally tip you onto an outside edge.   I've ended up either ditching the skate completely (where not adjustable) or by radically moving the frame closer to the outside of the boot, especially at the front.    Though I could well just be a freak of nature.   The 2 sets of old worn out bottom end ice figure boots I've bought (to steal the blades off),  showed this same too-far-towards-the-inside-of-the-boot mounting, so I'm wondering if it's what normal people need.

OTOH my quad (i.e. roller) skates on the other hand, have been mounted correctly from the factory, at least for me.   I think the roller people have this all worked out well.    Real important on roller skates that you are balanced left vs right at the ball of the foot or else steering is problematic,  whereas on ice and inline skate you can still more or less steer with a unbalanced mounting,  though it's obviously hard on the ankles.

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Re: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2015, 04:00:18 PM »
(1)
Part of this is obviously psychological - if you tilt without control onto your inside edge, the other foot is there to stop you from alling, whereas if you lose control towards the outside edge, you likely fall.

Curious.  My coach has been drilling me on achieving deeper edges.  She has a couple of decades of experience.  A couple of weeks ago, she remarked that virtually all her skaters have had a much easier time on inside edges than on outside edges, but didn’t know why.  I gave her essentially the same answer as yours above, with an additional analogy.  Imagine you’re standing at the edge of a cliff, with your blades parallel to the edge of the cliff.  If you lose your balance on an outside blade edge, you will fall off the edge of the cliff.  If you lose your balance on an inside blade edge, your free leg will plant you on solid ground.  She had never heard it expressed that way before, but she thought it made a lot of sense.

(2)
My first question to you is:  What is the quality control on beginner boots and blades?  I believe from other posts that you work at a rink.  As an academic exercise, it would be interesting to look at the rental boots (large sample size of the same models) and see what the variation in blade mounting position is.  We need data as a starting point for this discussion.

(3) 
There may be a simple answer to your title question.  Most blade mounting instructions I’ve seen recommend mounting the blades to the inside of the longitudinal axis of the boot to compensate for a degree of pronation that most skaters have.  They complain, however, that pre-mounted blades generally are mounted centered along the longitudinal axis of the boot (however, see riley876’s post for exceptions); presumably either out of ignorance or because it makes the manufacturing process easier.  In which case, the skater’s foot would tend to drop to the inside edge.  So the mounting would end up favoring the inside edge, but not by design.  This assumes that there is sufficient quality control that the blade is consistently mounted centered along the longitudinal axis of the boot. 

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Re: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2015, 04:10:04 PM »
This is an interesting discussion in as much as if we talk back consecutive edges, it's the inside ones that I find the most challenging. I have less trouble with the back outside edges or either inside or outside forward edges.  The back insides come and go according to their own whim.

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Re: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?
« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2015, 04:21:26 PM »
This is an interesting discussion in as much as if we talk back consecutive edges, it's the inside ones that I find the most challenging. I have less trouble with the back outside edges or either inside or outside forward edges.  The back insides come and go according to their own whim.

Ditto for me.  But I think a major reason is that the push-off for back edges is significantly different from the push-off for forward edges.  In particular, the transfer of force for back inside edges is completely non-intuitive (at least for me); whereas, for back outside edges (as well as for forward inside and outside edges), the transfer follows an intuitive, natural rhythm.

Offline Query

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Re: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?
« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2015, 03:17:19 PM »
(2)
My first question to you is:  What is the quality control on beginner boots and blades?  I believe from other posts that you work at a rink.  As an academic exercise, it would be interesting to look at the rental boots (large sample size of the same models) and see what the variation in blade mounting position is.  We need data as a starting point for this discussion.

There is a lot of variation in rental skate mount position, and when that mount position drives a skater towards the inside or outside edge too much, and they complain, I find them a skate with a different mount position. I don't think the variation is on purpose - more likely quality control just isn't as high a priority as finding the lowest bidder.

But it is very hard to measure this objectively, because whether or not a given skate forces you onto an inside or outside edge also depends to a substantial amount on your personal anatomy, and on the exact shape of the insole, which probably also varies a lot from skate to skate within the same model.

I've also sometimes helped customers who complained by folding and sticking a paper towel or two under one side or another of their insole. I don't like doing that, because it means I have to remember to remove the towel, or it might mess up the next customer, but I sometimes try to please customers who complain, if attendance is light. (Paper towel work better than toilet paper, because the toilet paper won't stay in place.)


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Re: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?
« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2015, 04:55:01 PM »
There is a lot of variation in rental skate mount position, and when that mount position drives a skater towards the inside or outside edge too much, and they complain, I find them a skate with a different mount position. I don't think the variation is on purpose - more likely quality control just isn't as high a priority as finding the lowest bidder.

But it is very hard to measure this objectively, because whether or not a given skate forces you onto an inside or outside edge also depends to a substantial amount on your personal anatomy, and on the exact shape of the insole, which probably also varies a lot from skate to skate within the same model.

Agreed.  The only objective measurements are those of the boot and blade geometry.  The consequences depend on the individual skater.  FWIW, when I look at skaters wearing rentals, their ankles are invariably flopped over to the inside.  Don't know whether it's due to the blade positioning; I suspect more likely it's due to the boots being too big or the laces being too loose.  I don't recall ever seeing someone in a rental with ankles flopped over to the outside.

Offline riley876

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Re: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?
« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2015, 05:01:55 PM »
If the boots are loose enough, you can "flop" (and keep) them onto either edge with the same relative ease,  even despite a mounting that may be way off.   Beginners I think would naturally pick inside edges for a sense of safety.   i.e. to keep their weight most definitely planted in between their evenly weighted and well spread feet.  I think most experienced skaters forget how terrifyingly scary outside edges are for dead beginners.   And the extent to which they'll go to avoid it!

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Re: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?
« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2015, 05:02:45 PM »
The slight inside edge mounting would support pronators. According to Live Strong " Between 50 percent and 60 percent of runners are considered mild pronators while 20 percent to 30 percent are severe overpronators. " So 'normal' people are pronators.
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Offline fsk8r

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Re: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?
« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2015, 02:09:23 AM »
I've recently taken up rollerskiing. I noticed fairly early on that I was dropping to the inside so I've deliberately switched off the "its concrete" side of my brain and turned on the "its ice". So I'm now happily balanced on outside edges (or flats) on them. I've noticed beginners including another skater who drop to the inside. The wheels are broader on rollerskis than inlines so it's actually quite easy to hit an outside or flat, but you hit an inside if your feet aren't under you. I suspect a lot of beginner skaters still haven't working out how to keep their feet directly underneath them so they can get their weight over onto an outside edge.

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Re: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?
« Reply #15 on: November 05, 2015, 12:04:22 AM »
The slight inside edge mounting would support pronators. According to Live Strong " Between 50 percent and 60 percent of runners are considered mild pronators while 20 percent to 30 percent are severe overpronators. " So 'normal' people are pronators.

Running is different than figure skating. I think most people roll all the way from the back of the heels, to an outside roll (supination) in the the center, to a push off from the big toe (pronation). OTOH, we often figure skate in static poses, on arcs of constant radius, balanced on one part of the blade, at one edge and edge depth, with much less roll-through and edge variation, because that is part of the artificial modern "look" of figure skating.

I believe tstop4me is right, and the cheap skates tend to be mounted with the blade down the center of the heel and toe areas (at least it looks that way to me on our rental skates - though they are way out of date), whereas natural weight support while you are balanced over a foot (the "fundamental arch" in athletic training books) is a little towards the inside at the toes (towards the big toe). In other words, I'm actually suggesting that beginner blades are typically mounted slightly centered OUTSIDE (not INSIDE) of your fundamental arch - which drives your feet towards an inside edge while skating.

It makes sense for rental skates aimed at complete beginners, who have enough trouble staying upright as it is. But after the first few weeks of figure skating, when we try to do a variety of moves sometimes balanced on outside edges, I think it stops making sense. And I think this equipment imbalance stops the progress of a lot of skaters in the basic skills classes around BS3 and BS4 - and continues to be a problem for many somewhat more advanced skaters.

But I could be completely wrong about this.

Offline Doubletoe

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Re: Are beginner boots & blades deliberately balanced towards inside edges?
« Reply #16 on: November 12, 2015, 05:27:55 PM »
I think new skaters fall onto their inside edges simply because it's more natural for the knees to come together than open out.  It's just the way our hips our constructed.