Q – “When I am skating at normal speed or just cruising around without worrying too much about speed, do I need to put my weight on the front of the foot and keep my heels light? Because I’m used to putting my weight on my heels when I was skating slowly. Thank you in advance :)”
Jorge Eduardo de la peña Martinez
————————————————————A – This is a controversial issue and you’ll get different answers from different people (and different skating disciplines). I also think the answer is different depending on what your level is.
Beginners and Improvers need weight on balls of the feet to maintain their balance and not fall over backwards.
Intermediates I think the weight can be mid foot or just back from the ball of the foot, so the front and back will feel equal in terms of weight distribution. Many many skaters (not just you) become comfortable with weight on the heels and this usually comes from skating on rough urban surfaces.
Street skating I think demands different stride technique to speed skating on smooth and flat ground. When on rough surfaces or surfaces that keep changing unpredictably having your weight mid foot to heel can be a good safety precaution when hitting bumps. I recommend that when going over bumps in a Scissor position that the weight can be a little further back from the ball of the foot. I even teach in my street skating course the “Toe Flip Scissor” which is where in the Scissor position you flip your front wheels up in the air (by putting weight on the heels momentarily) as you go over an obstacle such as amnahole cover with a raised edge. This toe flip move can also be done in the middle of a stride while in the glide phase on one leg, but this is much more difficult and getting it wrong isn’t pretty.
So intermediate level skating I think there is some fluidity in moving the weight around from balls of feet to mid foot. But Im not a fan of the weight on heels striding position. This ultimately creates instability in the one foot glide phase where the front wheels are then lighter than the heel wheels and I believe this lightness is the cause of those freaky, inexplicable high speed falls people have when they don’t hit any obstacle but just loose control. I’ve seen it happen many times and I have students who come to me after one of these falls saying how strange it was.
“I was just skating fine and then I was on the floor and I didn’t hit an obstacle or feel my skate stop.”
Now I’ll complicate things even further by saying that the advanced level speed skating technique the Double push, does indeed need weight on the heel during the glide phase where the support leg knee does a straightening action to create the outside edge carve that is the second push of the Double push. This outside edge carve needs a lighter front wheel, so weight on the heel is appropriate here.
Notice how as the ability level of the skater improves the weight on the foot can shift a little. But that shift should be mainly between ball of foot and mid foot while avoiding the heel unless you are on rough surfaces where that can be helpful.
One final point. Most skaters are not very aware of where their weight actually is on their feet and even less able to consciously change and manipulate this very subtle aspect of their skating. It is very easy to move your weight around on your foot by moving your hips and pelvic area forwards or backwards slightly. The “Butt Back” position as I call it, is the cause of insufficient knee bend and much inefficiency in intermediate level skaters.
However this is just a short overview of my ideas about this subject. When receiving other answers from others, remember to note what kind of skating is being discussed (eg street, speed), what ability level of the skater and what surface is being skated on, as I believe all of these play significant roles in the replies you’ll receive. I see lots of skaters arguing about technique issues without clarifying these different areas first.
I hope this was useful in some way.
If you’d like to learn how to consciously control various aspects of your skating stride (such as edges, weight distribution, gliding ability etc), check out the series of 33 progressive exercises I’ve developed for training your stride online. There are 10-12 exercises in each online course level (beginner Intermediate Advanced) and each course comes with 2-3 FREE training drills. Just choose your level and click Free Trial next to the Trailer Video on each of these pages;
Beginner Basic Stride
Intermediate Fitness Stride
Advanced Double Push