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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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May 4, 2011

What To Do About Fallen Arches?

QHi, Bill: What is your opinion of the following: A semi-seasoned pro skater — me— whose legs and feet go numb from the glutes down while skating and is diagnosed with piriformis syndrome/sciatica. Skater goes to chiropractor, acupuncture and sports therapy. Skater endures many weeks of therapy. Skater is diagnosed with fallen arches, which are said to cause pronation, and told to use orthotics with arch support in skates. Skater is also diagnosed with nerve and muscle strain from years of skating/fitness training and told this will take weeks to correct. Do a lot of skaters have orthotics in their skates? Is this just a result of faulty technique? Thank you. - RM from MN

Hi, RM from MN: A skater can be knock-kneed and pidgeon-toed and still roll with the best of them. On the other hand, dealing with fallen arches can be tough. But don’t get discouraged. With proper treatment, fallen arches can be cured or at least corrected.

Speed skating became a very technical sport when inlines arrived on the scene. With inline skates, you have to transfer your body weight over the support leg to get a good underpush. And that means getting on your outside edges. But with fallen arches, your ankles are likely to collapse when you get on your outside edges.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. With proper treatment, fallen arches can be cured.

Some clinics, like the Dani Grab at the Inline Center in Switzerland, make special insoles to match the contours of problem feet. And some skate makers, like E-Tech in China, can create boots that are designed to correct foot problems.

You may be able to find something like this in the USA, although I don't know which companies are doing what.

You won’t be alone if you start wearing orthotics. I wouldn’t say that a lot of skaters use orthotics. But some do.

Better than orthotics, I think, is getting a custom insole designed to counteract your fallen arches. The trick with this is making sure the insole does not push up your ankle too much in your boot.

If you can’t find a boot maker to help you with custom insoles, visit some running stores. Typically, they have the tools to analyze foot problems and create custom inserts.

But before you start spending big money, try adjusting the angle of your frame by inserting little tabs of sandpaper between your plate (frame) and your boot. Place the inserts on the outside of your frames, front and back.

Also, make sure your frames are aligned properly. That means the back of your frame should be directly below your Achilles tendon and the front of your frame between your big toe and second toe.

If you decide to see a doctor, make an appointment with a sports physician, not a general practitioner. A good sports physician will know how to help. Most general practitioners will have no idea.

You mentioned that you were also diagnosed with sciatica. That may not mean much. Doctors often diagnose sciatica when they don’t know what’s going on.

A few years ago, three different general practitioners diagnosed me with a pinched sciatic nerve. In fact, the trouble was that I needed a new hip.

Cheers, Bill

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