I’ve been off-skates for a few weeks. Sunday morning I got my skates back.
I’ve owned three pairs of skates in my time as a skater the last couple years; an old pair of two sizes too large skates with some unknown plate and an older boot with any branding warn off, A newer set of skates, a Riedell 465 boot with a Revenge plate, and my latest set of skates, an Antik AR1 boot with a slightly oversized Revenge plate.
My main complaint about the older skates was that they were a bit too small and I could never heat mold them enough to fit my foot in; my toes were smushed against each other, the ball of my foot was constantly cramping from being too tight up front, Initially I couldn’t skate hard for more than 15 minutes at a time. It wasn’t pleasant and it killed my ability to fully participate in practices. I had to experiment with several different lacing patterns just to stand skating in the boot for extended periods of time. A couple of heat molding sessions helped the room problem a little. Between that, different inserts, and different socks (yep) I finally found a combination of equipment that allowed me to skate almost with impunity
I still spend the next two days after a practice wincing while I walked. It almost wasn’t worth it.
So when I ordered new skates, I requested they be a size larger, and that did solve the worst problem I had with my old skates, and this seems to establish a pattern with me; Every time I change skates, things get significantly better, but I wish I’d known better before I made the original decision. I spent all this time adjusting things on the old boot when a boot with a wider toebox, or a half size larger, or with the plate mounted differently would have helped but because I started skating from scratch with the Chicago Bruise Brothers, I’ve never known a “perfect” skate, so when I have less problems it’s both awesome, and frustrating. So when I put on my newest boots, my Antik AR1 w/the oversized Revenge plate, and I was in heaven, no more foot cramps, the boot fit like a glove.
I thought I’d found skate nirvana.
I still had some issues though; in addition to some modifications I had to make due to a previous injury (mounting the plates on the outside of the boot to compensate for a change in my feet), my boots were a little too large. Not enough that they didn’t already feel significantly better but enough that after several months of skating in them, I started to feel the limitations of the boot. As you get better as a skater, you start to hit the limits of your equipment as configured, and I was experiencing some minor maneuverability issues that I chalked up to needing better technique. I had to fill the front of my skate boots with a couple of makeup removal pads to make up for the extra room I saddled myself with. I used a superfeet insert to try and improve my front to back balance as I seemed to not be able to get low since I’d end up sitting back too far to be stable. I’d requested the plate be mounted more forward on this boot, it turns out this was a very good move, the previous incarnation of my skates had the plate too far backward causing my balance to be more forward than was comfortable; I was always tipping over forward even when in a good stance. My Antik + Revenge plate being further forward was a wonderful change but since the boot was too long, it meant the plate was too far forward, and while it was a significant improvement it was not optimal. In addition to the slightly oversized boot meant when I turned or changed left to right weight distribution on the boot meant the ball of my foot was positioned behind the mount point of the front truck so any movement i made when i led with the front of my foot meant I was changing the entire skate instead of just the front.
I had no idea this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be…
I tend to blame myself before my equipment and in general; it’s a good strategy. It’s like blaming the bat for not hitting the ball, but footwear and how it interacts with individuals is so complex, even with the help of experts it takes time and different iterations of equipment to make it perfect. Between cushions, inserts, plate mount point changes, socks, skate boots and different sizes, it’s daunting, but working with someone who knows their stuff to get to where you need to be helps things along.
I handed my equipment to Steve over at Lombard Roller Rink a few weeks ago to have him send them back to Antik; they shortened the boots by 1/8″. I got them back and found Steve mounted my plate a little more forward on the boot. My plate is oversized now so it made sense to do so.
I skated for about five minutes and realized… NOW… now I’m in skating nirvana.
The boot is shorter, the plate slightly further back, ball of my foot right at the mount point of the truck, left to right adjustments are so much easier / more responsive; I’m doing less work to make the same movement, and it’s SIGNIFICANTLY easier to stand in low / stable stance. I was fairly good on my skates before but everything is so goddamn EASY now. I skated Sunday morning, Sunday night, Monday night, and Tuesday night and i’m pretty damned sure by this point;
-this- is the way my skates need to be.