Planet column: Skate Coach

“Help! ... I still can’t stop!”

... What You Need Is a Visit With the Skate Doc!

(Part 2 of a 3-part series on mastering the heel stop)

By Kathy McSparran, certified inline instructor

Now that you’ve read all about the three steps to a heel stop in Part 1, let’s see if we can’t diagnose and cure some of the common ailments that plague us along the path to heel-stop heaven.

Symptom: “Doc, it takes me forever to come to a stop and often I feel like my upper body is pitching forward when I try to engage the brake.”

Diagnosis & Cure: The pitching forward feeling is a dead giveaway that your shoulders are getting ahead of your brake. When your shoulders get ahead of your brake, engaging it slows your feet, but not your upper body.

Thus, you end up taking bows all over the place. Furthermore, since a good part of your body weight is ahead of the brake, there’s not a lot of body mass left to push it down into the pavement, which is why it’s taking you forever to stop.

Sometimes the shoulders get ahead of the brake because you are not scissoring the braking foot far enough forward. (See next symptom, below.)

More commonly, though, the shoulders get ahead because the skater is bending forward from the waist in a sort of crouch (which we often do when we’re fearful or nervous). You can fix this by going back to Part 1 and practicing “elevator shaft” bends.

Symptom: “When I try to scissor my braking foot forward, I feel like I’m in danger of falling over backwards even though my feet are nowhere near a full skate-length scissors.”

Diagnosis & Cure: Feeling like you’re going to fall over backwards indicates that your weight is centered too far back on your heels rather than on the balls of your feet. Notice the good forward tilt of the lower legs in the "good bend" photo from Part 1 and the absence of this forward tilt in the "Weight Too Far Back" photo on the left.

To correct this, repeat the “Bend” exercises from Part 1, but concentrate on keeping your weight on the balls of your feet by pressing your shins forward into the tongues of the skates. Try to make your skates creak!

Next try some scissoring, this time keeping your weight on the ball of the non-braking foot. You should feel much more balanced now and be able to get a nice long scissors.


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Want to perfect your heel stop? ... Read all three parts of Kathy's series:

Part 1: How to brake without breaking

Part 2: "Help! ... I still can't stop!"

Part 3: Putting power into your heel stop

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Related reading
Go to the Planet's Beginners Guide to Inline Skating

Read more of Kathy McSparran's Skate Coach columns


Copyright © 2005 by Robert Burnson

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