Why is ice skating torture on our feet?
February 18, 2013 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Wife and I would really like to enjoy skating. But damn, it hurts!

I've been skating since I was a kid. I've never been an expert skater, but I can stay upright, build up speed, and stop (sorta). But it's agony on my feet and ankles, and my wife finds the same thing. Last year, we both bought skates and took care to make sure they fit nicely. She even bought non-figure skating skates that were designed to offer increased support and comfort for women. But the most she can handle is five minutes on blades before she needs to stop. I am slightly more tolerant, but my tolerance is usually 20 minutes at the outside, and this winter it hasn't even been that high.

I find skating as an activity to be fun, but never enough to outweigh the burning in my feet and ankles after only a few minutes.

So, my questions: does the agony subside with practice? lessons? different skates (despite the fact that we actively sought out properly fitting skates)? What can we do differently?
posted by dry white toast to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Fitting skates is a science. Even with a professional fitting, I still used lambswool in the toes (as I have girl's feet and my hockey skates were designed for Fred Flintstone's feet.) What happened was, as my skates were broken in, there was more give in the heel, and my foot slid back, causing room in the toe area. Live and learn.

The pain is the adjustment of the leather in the skates and the muscles in your feet and ankles.

CCM used to make Vacu-Tacks which were perfectly sized, via vacuum to fit perfectly. I never sprung for them (cheap Bauers were what I had, that and kid sized gear) but I always thought...one day...

The sad fact of the matter is it takes a while to break them in, and until you do, they hurt. Lambswool can help, thick socks can help and practice will help.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:53 PM on February 18, 2013

I require good arches in all my shoes, so the last time I went skating, I pulled the Superfeet insoles out of my shoes and stuck them in the rental skates and my feet have never been happier skating. This has also saved the day in wading boots and ski boots. I've taken to putting them in pretty much any piece of footwear I need to use.
posted by advicepig at 1:00 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding superfeet or similar insoles in ice skates, roller skates, etc. That and practice.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:06 PM on February 18, 2013

If it starts to hurt right away, I would probably blame the skate unless you've got feet problem in other situations. Longer than that could be the skate or it could be weak ankle/feet muscles protesting, especially if there isn't enough support.

Did you get fitted by a skate shop? When I used to skate and got very nice, expensive skates, getting fitted was a fairly big production, beyond just seeing how they felt when I put them on. Even after that, because part of my heel is higher than normal or something, I had to walk around with them in the house for an hour a day for a week or so before they actually fit me.

Also, if you've only rented skates before, you might not know how they're supposed to fit. I find it literally impossible to skate in rental skates because the ankles are too floppy and the shape of the bottom is weird. Figure skates should be stiff and about the same comfort level as ski boots--not actively painful, but rigid and not really comfortable.

I would try experimenting with different socks and with the laces. Loosen all the laces until they put absolutely no pressure when you've got a foot in the boot and slowly tighten them, maybe standing up and walking around a bit as you go to see if that changes how they feel. Try to wear the skates for short periods of time, more often, so that they can adjust to your feet. If you have plastic skate guards, you can walk around inside and it should be okay for your skate and your floors.
posted by raeka at 1:29 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I was overweight my feet would become so painful in skates that I would have to quit after 5-10 minutes. This went away when the obesity went away.

Are you... uh... a bit heavier than you should be?
posted by unixrat at 1:40 PM on February 18, 2013

Nthing the suggestions of insoles/arch supports and having skates professionally fit (although that's not a panacea). But you might also be experiencing lace bite. Bunga Pads are a pretty good solution for lace bite. There are other DIY solutions, too. Google has a jillion of them!
posted by skye.dancer at 2:14 PM on February 18, 2013

I'm a cross-country skier, not a skater, but I've had similar problems. Lace bite might be the culprit. If it's generalized burning, though, it could be muscle fatigue. Skates and ski boots are less flexible than ordinary shoes and put different strains on leg and foot muscles. You might try some exercises to strengthen your calves and ankles.
posted by brianogilvie at 2:22 PM on February 18, 2013

Are you sure you have the right size skates? Ice skates should not fit like street shoes. Your toes should just touch the ends when you're standing with knees straight, because your feet will pull back into the boots when your knees are bent in a skating stance. You can't trust store clerks at general sporting goods shops to know this. When I bought my current pair, the clerk who was working in the skate department tried to sell me skates that were 2 sizes too big. Also, make sure you are lacing them tightly enough. Not so tight that your feet go numb, but skates that are too big or not properly laced will shift around your feet and make all the muscles in your feet, ankles and calves work way harder than they should.
posted by keep it under cover at 3:37 PM on February 18, 2013

When you skate are you lifting the skate or lifting your foot inside the skate? If you're lifting inside the skate, it's too big or your curling your feet oddly. I suspect you might be curling your foot somehow and that's leading to pain.

Skates are a heavy, awkward thing to get used to having on the bottom of your foot. You need to get used to lifting them a bit.

Also, when you finish rolling your foot on a tennis ball or (my love!) a cold can of soda is good for helping your tootsie recover.
posted by 26.2 at 3:56 PM on February 18, 2013

I think lessons are also a good idea just so someone can look at your form. You could be rolling your ankles too far one way or the other, not be bending far enough, or be bending the wrong way...In addition, they can help you with lacing and check the fit of your skates. If you go to the same rink at the same time on a regular basis, you'll probably start to see regulars who might help you out for free, too.
posted by syanna at 4:22 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

You really need to take those skates to the skate shop and have a review of how they fit. Skate fitting is a specialist job.

All footwear is always possessed by a demon that attacks my foot the moment I put it on. My skates... aren't. Which is weird, now that I think about it. Oh no! You got my demonshoes!
posted by tel3path at 5:07 PM on February 18, 2013

Do you rollerblade? If so, do you have similar pain? It's not exactly the same thing, but the motions and movements are somewhat similar. If you have similar problems doing both sports, its probably inherent to your feet. If specific to your ice skates, it's probably the skates (alhtough, see in the next paragraph).

I'd second the idea to make sure you have good arch support; I find ice skates to be kind of flat, although I haven't had really good pairs myself. One difference between the rollerblading and skating is the amount of shocks the soles of your feet get. Rubbery wheels on asphalt are a lot easier on you than metal blades striking rock solid ice. Adding a gel insert for arch support might help you out with cushioning in that respect.

Disclaimer that I am totally a recreational ice skater only, but my feet are not in agony while I skate. They ARE pretty sore and tired afterward, unlike when rollerblading or pretty much anything else I do, so I think that the balancing on a blade/ice thing is pretty stressful for feet.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:39 PM on February 18, 2013

Brand-new ice skater here. Something is definitely amiss; they should feel stiff but not painful.

In addition to all the excellent advice above, please visit the pro shop of your local indoor rink. They can do a "bake and punch"....soften the skates in a little oven, then, punch out the trouble areas (where your bunions are) for a more custom fit. I had this done to my purchased-on-eBay figure skates, and now they fit like a dream.
If your complaints are ankle-related, that leather should be providing relentlessly stiff support. Take a couple ibuprophen before you get to the rink; it'll help!
And yes, wear them around the house (with guards on, of course) to wear them in and show them who's boss.
posted by BostonTerrier at 5:34 AM on February 19, 2013

I sometimes feel uncomfortable in skates, but could say the same thing about boots and other types of footwear. I think it's all about the design of the footwear and the fit. Try some other skates - more expensive ones will probably be more comfortable. One other thing: sometimes when I first start a skating session my feet hurt but then the discomfort goes away. I'm not sure why.
posted by Dansaman at 6:06 AM on February 19, 2013

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