Which is better for knee pain, soft or hard boots? This Blog Question came from Melissa Espy.
A: I am so sorry to hear of your knee pain, I presume while you are skating. It’s very hard for me to know what’s wrong in your case: first, I am not a doctor, and second, I would need more information. Does it hurt only when you skate, or all the time? Is it a chronic condition, or has it appeared recently?
I do have some general ideas about what I have long called ‘slow onset’ injuries to the foot, ankle, knee, hip, and lower back. I have observed these in hundreds of skaters over the years, and learned that they are usually the result of poor skating technique.
In most cases of skater knee pain the problem is an inside edge pronation, which can exert a force on the inside of the knee joint for which it was not designed. I urge skaters to take pronation very seriously, because if it is not corrected the pain can worsen until it’s impossible to continue skating, and maybe doing other things as well. If you think this may be the problem in your case, fixing that is the place to begin, as it is possible to pronate wearing either soft or hard boots.
Hard boots have the advantage that they provide more ankle support. Because of this, pronation is often less severe when a skater changes to hard boots from soft. Indeed I generally recommend that inline skaters favour hard boots. Among other benefits, the added support makes it easier to achieve a correct deep knee bend, and to maneuver at speed. Hard boots also tend to last longer than soft boots.
A drawback with hard boots is that they are more difficult to fit. Each person’s ankle bones tend to protrude in slightly unique ways, which make some models of hard boot simply not an option for some people. Having uncomfortable, badly fitting hard boots will not help you! So they are tough to buy online. If at all possible, find a skate shop where you can try on skates before you buy them.
How do you fix pronation in your skating?
This is a topic that I’ve covered in several YouTube videos, such as these:
If you want to train seriously and fix your pronation once and for all, I recommend the five drills explained in detail in the free trials from my ‘How to Skate for Fitness’ series, accessed near the bottom of the pages below. You can keep these forever, and over time they will fix your pronation and change how you skate — while also helping strengthen your leg muscles, which in turn is very supportive for the knee joints.
Beginner Basic Stride Drills x2
Intermediate Fitness Stride Drills x3
I hope this helps you begin your exploration of whether pronation is the cause of your knee pain, and whether you can address it through improved technique. Please let me know what you discover: I’m always curious!
Should your knee pain continue or worsen, even after fixing any pronation in play, then I recommend that you see a physiotherapist or a doctor for further investigation.