Q: Hi my name is Saadiyah and I am a newbie skater experiencing severe arch pain while skating its like a cramp on fire. Deconstructing what my foot is doing I think I am scrunching up my toes… Is this the cause of my pain and if so how do I train my feet to relax better?
A: Saadiyah, what a great question and you are not the first person to have asked me this. In fact foot pain of various kinds is very often reported by new skaters.
Your initial self-diagnosis is absolutely correct. You are scrunching up your toes and this IS completely responsible for the cramp-like fiery pain…..However simply telling your feet to “relax” is not going to be possible. There is a very good reason that your toes are scrunching up and to explain it, you’ll have to stand up right now and follow these simple instructions so that I can lead you to understanding the CAUSE of the toe scrunching and pain.
1. Stand up with both feet parallel about hip width apart, ideally in bare feet but if in shoes, they must be flat shoes.
2. Bend your knees slightly while keeping your back absolutely upright (no leaning forwards at all). Your knee caps should be over your toes and you should be able to feel your weight in the front half of both feet.
3. Notice that your heels could very slightly come up from the floor (as if Im putting a piece of paper under your heels). This is the correct knee, body, foot position for skating.
4. Now, very gently move your butt backwards while still keeping your knees bent. Notice immediately what happens to your feet. As your weight shifts back onto your heels, your toes will lift up from the floor.
When you are on skates and your weight shifts backwards like this, your toes will “grip” the floor as much as they can to literally save you from falling over backwards. This is why your toes are scrunching inside your skates and your feet WILL NOT BE ABLE TO RELAX until you put your weight very consciously into the front half of your feet (or foot if gliding).
So focus when you are skating on your “weight footprint” and make sure the front half of your skate has way MORE weight than the back half. You will know when you have done this when your feet don’t hurt anymore.
Reducing your speed will help this, as more speed makes our bodies (and feet) tense even more.
Also, learning to stop properly will help your body feel more relaxed. But fundamentally, you need to get your weight in the right place and then your pain will stop.
The hardest part sometimes is feeling and noticing what’s actually happening with our weight on our feet. Paying attention to the soles of your feet is not a very usual pastime, but in skating it’s extremely useful and necessary.
I hope this helps (and your work colleagues don’t think you are mad standing at your desk wiggling your toes!).