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Is it necessary to use foot orthotics in skates?

Is it necessary to use foot orthotics in skates?

Podiatrist

In skate sports, good balance is essential, given the low grip of the ice surface combined with the narrow width of the skate blade. What’s more, the stiffness of the skate boot can easily become uncomfortable if the shape of the skate doesn’t match the shape of the foot [1]. Balance and comfort are key to good skating speed. To meet this demand, a number of skate companies have launched insoles (foot orthotics) that are sold directly by the store. They are often sold under the pretext of increasing comfort in the skate, or to increase speed and balance during sporting performances. So it stands to reason to ask: What is the state of knowledge in this field? Are they really worth it?

 

The only study on the subject was carried out at the University of Calgary on a group of seven female figure skaters. The study concludes that foot orthoses improve balance and ankle stability. It’s important to remember, however, that orthotics are made to the prescription of a healthcare professional and are very different from those found in stores [2]. However, for those who sometimes feel unstable in their skates, in-store foot orthotics can represent an interesting cost/benefit ratio. On the other hand, for those who have enjoyed their experience with store-bought insoles and wish to improve their stability or feel better arch support, it is possible to consult a health professional specializing in this sport to assess whether custom-made foot orthotics could be of benefit to you. It’s important to remain critical, however, as it’s clear that not all skaters need foot orthotics. If you have no pain in your feet, ankles or knees, your skating stability is good and you feel comfortable in your skates, you probably don’t need foot orthotics. On the other hand, if your stability is less than optimal, if you experience discomfort or pain when wearing your skates, and despite strengthening and balancing exercises your problems persist, you may be a good candidate [3]. A biomechanical analysis of your skating technique using your speed profile, an objective measurement, is an interesting way of assessing your skating needs.

 

In short, it’s impossible to conclude that wearing store-bought foot orthotics is beneficial for everyone, so there’s no need to buy them outright. Your personal comfort, history and stability are important factors in deciding what to do. So, before embarking on a costly and time-consuming journey, get yourself professionally assessed. Then you’ll know how to improve and reach your goals.

Written by Dr. Dominic Chicoine, podiatrist
Member of the Ordre des podiatres du Québec and member of Podformance

References
1. Jaworski, C.A. and S. Ballantine-Talmadge, On Thin Ice: Preparing and Caring for the Ice Skater During Competition. 2008. 7(3): p. 133-137.

2.Grewal, G., et al, Effect of Custom Foot Insoles on Postural Stability in Figure Skaters While on Ice. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 2016. 25(3): p. 255-262.

3. Mattew B. Werd, E.L.K., Paul R. Langer, Athletic Footwear and Orthoses in Sports Medicine. Second ed, ed. Springer. 2017. 480.

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