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Ask Bill Begg!

Skating's top coach answers your questions

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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.

Find out more about Bill Begg and his column.

July 3, 2007

Speed or Marathon Skates?

QHi, Bill: I started speed skating last fall. I have been practicing with a group of local skaters and am looking forward to skating my first marathon this fall. Before the race, I plan to upgrade my old rec skates. But I'm not sure what to buy: low-cut racing skates or marathon/fitness skates (e.g., the Bont Semi-Race). I don't expect to win any races, but I do hope to continue to refine my technique. One of my questions is whether marathon skates with their higher cuff and added padding would significantly limit my technical development? - Thank you very much, Ben

Hi, Ben: If price is a factor, you might consider the Bont Semi-Race skates or one of the other so-called marathon skates. These skates are getting better all the time.

But if you are a serious speed skater, you will find that low-cut racing boots are better for developing top technique.

Their lower cut makes it easier to get down in the "power" position. It also allows you to lunge (hawk) without restriction.

Good luck and great to see you putting some thought into next season! - Bill

What Should I Do About Ankle Pain?

QHi, Bill: My speed boots are rubbing my ankles raw. I didn't have this problem with my old soft-boot fitness skates. But it has followed me through three pairs of speed boots (Bont Assassin, Luigino and, finally, custom boots).

I can't seem to conquer this ankle bruising. It's always the inside of my ankle (both feet). Could I be supinating too much? - Thank you, Jane

Hi, Jane: You are suffering from one of the most common problems of speed skaters. In fact, I would say that even at the top ranks of the sport, 99 percent of skaters contend with some kind of foot bruising or blistering.

In the early days of inline speed, this wasn't as much of a problem. The boots back then (e.g., the Bont Sharkies) provided lots of comfort once you broke them in.

But unfortunately, appearance and weight is what drives the skate market and, as a result, today's boots, while light and fast, tend to be hard on the feet. Low-cut boots focus more pressure on problem spots, like the ankles. The result: more pressure points.

One of the best ways to relieve the pressure is with foam doughnuts. To make them yourself, cut doughnut shapes out of hard foam. Then tape the doughnut over the pressure point, with the pressure point under the holes. This takes the pressure off the sore spot.

Another fix is to use a heat gun to reshape the inside of your boot. When one of my skaters has a problem like yours, we try and squeeze a little more space for their foot inside their boots by heating the boot and then pushing it out with the head of the screwdriver.

As far as whether you are supinating (turning the feet in) too much, that is possible. But without seeing you skate, I couldn't say.

If you think you may be supinating too much, try putting some sandpaper wedges between your boot and the frame. (Most top skaters play around with their skates this way.)

I hope that helps. Unfortunately, I don't have a simple answer for ankle pain. If I did, I'd be a millionaire. - Bill

Where Do Those Wedges Go?

QBill: Could you explain the position and the purpose of the shims placed between the frame and the boot? I am a little confused about which side of the frame they would be installed on. - Thanks, TB from Chippewa Falls, WI

Hi,TB: The shims go between the boot and the frames on the outside of the boots. That helps get you on your outside edges, which is the key to top-end speed.

- Cheers, Bill


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