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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.

Find out more about Bill Begg and his column.

Dec. 19, 2007

Do High Boots Cure Pronation?

QHi, Bill: My question is about pronation. When I see photos of the World Championships, I notice that many elite skaters have their ankles in a pronated (turned out) position near the end of their push. Is this bad? ... I understand that Bont has raised the height of their boots to help prevent this. Is that true? As always, thanks. - Mike Borofsky

Yes, Mike. It's true. I've noticed the same thing.

But usually the problem is not with the skater as much as with the equipment, specifically the boots, which may be too soft. Soft boots give when you push. The result is pronation, especially at the end of the stroke.

Pronation is always a problem because it reduces the power that you are able to apply to the skating surface.

Stiff boots help skaters maintain a non-pronated position. But with heavy use, boots soften up. The sad fact of life for top skaters — who usually train about 10 times a week — is that just when their boots start to feel comfortable, they become too soft and need to be replaced.

I was alarmed when I saw my son Wayne's photos at Worlds. He appeared to be pronating a lot. It turned out that he had been unable to wear his new boots and was using his old ones.

Another factor with Wayne is his boot preference. He likes them low cut. (So does the French champion Yan Guyader.) Low-cut boots provide less support and the result can be pronation.

But that's not to say high-cut boots are necessarily better. Some skaters, especially those who get on extreme edges, say high boots cut into their legs above the ankle, particularly on banked tracks.

There's no one-size-fits-all answer. It all depends on the shape of your leg and ankle.

As for Bont boots, you can order them in different heights. The trick is figuring out what works best for you. Whatever you do, beware of mass-produced boots that use poor quality materials and might not provide enough support.

On the Forum: How long did your boots last?

Ski-skating and Cross-training

QDear Bill: I am a 45-year-old rec skater with a half-marathon time of 57:41. I am hoping to get to the point where I'm ready to shift to racing skates. Meanwhile, I would like to know if using ski poles is an effective cross-training method for skaters? In my experience, ski-skating has not lower my times — perhaps the upper body workout saps too much energy. If not ski-skating, what sports are good cross-training for inline skating? Thank you. - John Tollefsrud, Burlington, Ontario

Hi, John: Ski poles may be useful for general fitness, but I doubt they'll help your skating. Two things that will are plyometrics (with or without a weight program) and interval sprint training once a week. (For sprint training, 200 meters is a good distance.)

I would also recommend cycling, particularly on hills. Cycling is excellent for cardiovascular conditioning. Another plus is that it uses a different leg action than skating, so you get to spread the workload a bit.

The Canadian winter probably restricts the amount of cycling you can do. In that case, use a stationary bike. That way you can push yourself hard without having to worry about the next corner springing up on you.

You will probably experience your biggest performance gain when you switch to racing skates.

Racing skates will help you sit back in the power position. Most rec skates do the opposite, which is why there are so many toe-pushers in the world.

Toe pushing is easily learned but slowly forgotten. So once you get your racing skates, make curing your toe push a top priority. (See: Curing a Toe Push)

Cheers, Bill

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