Boots a Major Topic at PSA Conference
By Liz Leamy
Boots were a hot topic at the recent PSA Conference, and with good reason, as they represent the sole source of foot and ankle support for a skater and can affect one’s progress, development and success on the ice, regardless of age or skill level.
The seminar, which was conducted by Mitch Moyer, senior director of Athlete High Performance at U.S. Figure Skating; Brandon Siakel, U.S. Olympic Committee strength and conditioning trainer; and Jason Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion; proved informative and interesting.
The panel provided information on proper fit, wear and maintenance with the idea that skaters should be able to train, compete and perform at an optimal level and avoid injury.
According to a recent survey, statistics revealed that many of today’s championship-level skaters have a proclivity toward breaking down their boots at a faster rate than ever before, with many skaters generally being said to go through up to five pairs of boots a year.
In considering these stats among other things, this seminar was a big crowd draw among coaches seeking to learn more about this critical topic.
“The importance of education on boots is paramount,” Moyer said. “A lot of it has to do with planning.”
It is essential, Moyer said, that coaches discuss a boot plan with skaters and their parents.
Some things to consider in this discussion would include having a boot and blade plan, looking at how long the boots might last, understanding how long the boots take to feel their best once acquiring them, figuring the point when they might start breaking down and when to plan on purchasing a new pair.
Brown, 22, (who wears Jackson Elite Supreme Low Cut boots) said it takes him nearly a month to fully break in a new pair.
Moyer said the main points to consider when choosing boots include fit and comfort, support, flexibility and longevity.
In regard to support, panelists said it is important for skaters to try and avoid taping boots and also to tie them effectively so they have good shock absorption, particularly in regard to jump landings.
“The forces have to go somewhere,” Moyer said. “When you talk about a spike happening that fast, the little things help.”
Another important thing to consider is the storage of boots, as they should be air dried, rather than left overnight in a locker.
“If boots get too wet, they’ll break down faster,” Moyer said.
At the same time, proper lacing is essential.
According to panelists, skaters tend to tie their boots too tight and bunch the laces at the top. They also frequently use laces that are too thin, which can cause skaters to lose foot and ankle support.
When putting their boots on, it is vital for skaters to spread the lacing pattern wide so laces don’t move up and down.
Brown demonstrated the proper lacing technique in which he did a double loop at the ankle crease, went up and over the hooks (rather than under and over), then under at the bottom hooks where he conclusively tied the laces.
“The biggest difference I felt from lacing my boots this way is where the bend happens,” Brown said. “It creases where your ankle is and the heel sits better.”
This is a particularly important insight since skaters tend to need more ankle flexion to handle the shock of a landing.
Meanwhile, it is important that coaches make a point of regularly observing their skaters’ boots and maintain an ongoing dialogue with them about their equipment.
Moyer also said that the proper mounting of the blades is also paramount and that they should sit square on the boot.
“The boots tell a story of what’s happening,” Moyer said. “The proper method of tying, having exercises and having a plan for your boots are all key.”
Siakel stressed the importance of having skaters do edge balance as well as toe, ankle and foot strengthening exercises to ensure effective boot wear.
In the end, however, it’s really all about what works best for the athlete.
“It’s about what’s right and what is going to work best for the skater,” said Kevin Wu, western U.S. sales representative for Jackson Ultima. “Everybody is different and the boots have to fit right so they’re happy.”