Hello, Mr. Begg: I’m a rec skater and hoping to go into slalom skating. I was wondering if toe-flicking is a problem for me. I’m not a speed skater, so I don’t usually bend low when I skate, although I bend lower and push when I want to accelerate. Nonetheless, I find that my front right wheel wears out super fast on the inside edge (mostly on the right skate). I’m not sure what is causing this. It could be the sliding stops (powerslide, t-slide, etc.) I practice. Or maybe despite my best efforts I still have a toe push. Is the toe-flicking simply what happens when you skate around with no “effort” put towards a lot of extra speed? Thank you. - Tian from London, Ontario
Hi, Tian: Toe-flicking is what happens when you skate in an upright position. When your legs are straight, you can't push effectively to the side. If you try, your wheels simply leave the ground. So instead you have to push to the back which puts most of your weight on your toe wheels. This results in excel wear to your toe wheel, especially on your strong side.
It sounds to me like this is what is happening to you. Doing powerslide t-stops shouldn't wear down your toe wheels. With this kind of stop, you evenly distribute your weight on all the wheels of your braking skate, so you shouldn't have uneven wear. And besides, if you did a t-stop with your weight on your toe wheel, you would probably crash most of the time.
As you know if you have followed this column, toe-pushing is a big issue for speed skaters. It prevents them from getting full power from their push and limits their speed.
I am not an expert on slalom skating, but toe pushing may not be as big of an issue for them. The world-class slalom skaters I have seen skate in an upright position with their weight evenly distributed over all four wheels (unless, of course, they are skating on their toes).
They don't have a big push to the side, but they don't need it because they are usually skating on smooth surfaces. Instead, they develop a heightened sense of balance and an advanced ability to transfer their body weight and use their fast twitch muscles.
As for rec skaters, they can and do get away with toe-pushing, although, as you have seen, it makes their wheels wear unevenly. Less obviously, it probably leads to more frequent falls.
My advice would be for you to try to eliminate your toe push. You'll be a better skater and more capable of generating speed. And you won't look like a Gumbie.