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Ask Bill Begg!

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World renowned speed coach Bill Begg shares his vast knowledge of skating every week in his "Ask Bill Begg!" column on the Inline Planet.

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Should I Shim My Skates?

QHi, Bill: I have experimented with frame placement over the years, but I always come back to centering it on my heel and between my first two toes. I know that frame placement cannot compensate for faulty technique, but lately I have been considering using shims to help correct what may be a physiological tendency to pronate. I have heard that pro skaters and even pro cyclists use shims to correct foot alignment. What are some guidelines that I should follow in determining whether or not to use shims and how much to shim? Thanks for your advice. Jamie Duerksen, Waco, Texas

Hi, Jamie: It sounds like you've got your frame in the right place. The standard alignment for banked-track and road skating is to have the frame directly under the achilles tendon and between the big toe and second toe (see frame alignment drawing).

Frame-foot alignment

Standard frame-foot alignment for inline speed skaters

This is accepted as the best practice. In fact, most indoor skaters around the world use this alignment, though not in the USA, where skaters fiddle with the alignment a bit. (If you want to learn more about that, check with one of the U.S. indoor experts, like Tony Muse or "living legend" J.L.

As for shims, you are right: most pro skaters — I'd say 90 percent — use them. They often spend a month at the beginning of the season, after they get their new boots, experimenting with different shim configurations.

And it's not only racers who use shims. Many skate shops, particularly in Switzerland, install shims on new boots to help customers prevent pronation and find their outsides edges.

Before trying shims, you should first rule out the possibility that your boots are causing you to pronate. Check to make sure your boots sit straight up and down and that the mounting blocks are level.

You can easily make your own shims. We generally cut ours out of sandpaper, starting with very fine grade. But you can also use various materials, including pop tops from soda cans. (Just make sure your shims are secured firmly enough that they can't fall out as you skate. If they do, your frame bolts could loosen up, causing your frames to fall off.)

Place the shims on the outside of your boots between the mounting blocks and the frame. Start with one shim and go for a test ride. If you suddenly find it easy to get on a nice outside edge, you're on to something. If not, add another shim and try again. You may be surprised at the difference a millimeter or two can make.

Frame-foot alignment

Shims go between the mounting blocks and the frame.

You'll know if you've added too many shims because you'll feel excess pressure on your ankles. This can make you feel insecure, as though your feet might fold under you. (Originally posted: June 2009)

Cheers, Bill

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