January 25, 2015

What To Wear On Your Feet When Figure Skating

We all know the blindingly obvious: that figure skaters wear figure skates on the ice. But have you been wondering what you can wear inside your skates, to maximise comfort and minimise damage to your skin and feet? Whether you're a beginner on the ice, or a seasoned skater looking for some fresh insights into gaining that little bit of extra comfort this season read on for my take on what to wear on your feet during your skating session!

Oh and of course, no discussion on foot comfort would be complete without considering what to robe your tootsies in post-skate, would it? We'll be looking at some soft options to cajole your tired toes back to life. But first, let's consider what to wear in your skates during practice and performance:

#1 Socks

Regular old socks. Yup, nothing special here. This is what the majority of skaters wear during training, day in and day out. I have a couple of problems with the wearing of socks during skating sessions: 1) depending on how sweaty your feet are, they get wet from your transpiration; 2) said sweat means you're basically training in an ice box with wet feet (not comfortable); 3) they can bunch up and wrinkle, causing friction points.

If you're going to wear socks make sure you follow a few simple rules to minimise rubbing and skin wear and tear:
- Always have a couple of clean, dry pairs of socks in your skate bag (you'll thank me when you come off your patch)
- Avoid wearing anything too synthetic (100% polyester socks with a cute kitten printed on them might look cute layered in your wedge sandals for going to the mall, but they will irritate your s
- Don't wear short trainer socks, which can get rolled and wrinkled under the ankle bone, causing friction and potential injury
kin and cause you to sweat more while training - not a good combo)
- Avoid anything with different textures and thicknesses

#2 Tights

Well, this is an obvious one. If the closest you've ever come to skating is watching Ice Princess, then you could be forgiven for thinking that all skaters practice daily in glittering costumes and pristine white boots. We in the real world of figure skating know this is not the case! Although tights are the go-to for competition and testing, they are generally worn less in practice. However, if you opt for layering tights under your practice outfit, or even wear "pop up socks" (ankle high pantyhose-socks) then this applies to you. There are a few caveats to wearing tights in training: 1) when your feet sweat, the foot-part of your tights will get wet, but you won't be able to whip them off like a wet pair of socks - you need to change your entire outfit; 2) tights get dirty real quickly, and are a pain to clean; 3) keep your toenails really trim, or you could end up snagging and laddering your precious (read: expensive) tights. 

If tights are your thing, remember these few tips for training in them for maximum comfort:
- Use old competition tights no longer fit for performance purposes, this will cut down on expense if they get damaged and dirty
- Wear tight-socks instead of entire tights in order to be able to change easily
- Make sure you align the toe seem well or feel their wrath during training 

#3 Nothing

Shock, horror! I don't know that many skaters who go bare-foot in their skates, but I'm one of those weirdos. That's right, nothing! I get so irritated by anything on my foot skin that I prefer to be in direct contact with the boot. If this is you too, you need to take special care of your feet when you come off the ice. You may notice your veins are a little raised, and you have boot-indent on your foot. Make sure you slip on some lovely socks (we're getting to that in a minute, hang on) to save your skin becoming chapped or erupted from the pressure of boot seams pressing directly into your skin.

Apres-Skate Footwear

If you've ever spent a few hours on the rink yourself, then you know that not only your body and your mind get tired - your feet do too! There are some special steps you can take to take great care of your feet after long hours on the ice. My top tip is to slip into the most comfortable pair of shoes you own. For me, these are my Nike trainers (yes the ones I bought to work out in, only to wear them absolutely everywhere I can get away with them - grocery shopping, ice rink, running errands in the car...) but wear whatever you feel totally rested in. My close second are a pair of open Birkenstock sandals, which have two straps and the most deliciously comfortable cork sole which seems to have been melded to my exact foot shape (seriously though, I'm kind of obsessed with this brand. OK the sandals are ugly, but after a long skate in the summer time, when I need to get back on public transport or drive home, I need something not too hot and dang comfortable! These are ticking. All. The. Boxes.)

I also highly recommend investing in a pair of cashmere socks. These don't have to cost the Earth, and they make great gifts, so keep them in mind for your skater's next birthday. I got a two-pair pack of knee-high cashmere socks at Marks and Spencer (a semi-luxury retailer in the UK) for about £15 a few years back, they machine-wash, and are still going strong (albeit they now have bobbles). These offer the softest fibre you can put next to your skin. They are incredibly warm (great for those times when you can no longer feel your toes), but are thin enough to slip into your regular boots or shoes (unlike hiking socks that a lot of skaters opt for, but which are so bulky you're not gonna get your foot into your shoe, unless your shoe happens to be a Wellington boot).

Similarly, sheepskin slippers, shoes, or insoles are also fabulous. These offer a 100% wool fibre against your foot, which gives incredible warmth, a lovely soft springiness, and they are waterproof, since wool is. Yes I know, you're not going to go pouring water over your shoes or insoles, but being waterproof means you can cart them to the rink in your bag without fear they'll get irreversibly soaked with slush ice from drying off your blades, or *heaven forbid* black rink-sludge!

As I have mentioned before, don't moisturise your feet excessively. This will keep your skin hydrated and soft, which makes it prone to friction burn, opening up, and other general forms of boot-related painfulness. Obviously it's not a good idea to let your skin get so dry that it cracks, or causes you any other medical issue. Exercise common sense. Tough skin will form where your boots rub the most after a while, and you should experience less boot-induced problems over time on those areas.

Don't forget to look after your feet. More than 100 muscles, ligaments, and tendons exist in the feet alone, which also house over one third of the human body's bones! See a podiatrist and/or chiropodist regularly to keep on top of your foot health, and forsee any problems (e.g. biomechanical, ingrown toenails, etc.) before they cause you injury, or having to take time off from the ice.

At the end of your day, when you get home from your long day of training, rubbing some Tiger Balm (a brand-name eucalyptus-infused balm, but lots of other variations on a theme exist) into your tired feet can feel just delightful. Let us know below or on social media if you have a sure-fire way to rest your feet that you'd like to share with the Figure Skating Advice community!

Until next time, look after those tootsies!


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  1. Gigi, you're amazing! This is exactly what I needed to read up on! I've just finished rubbing Arnica on my daughter's feet after a lesson, wondering what else I can do for her feet.

    Can't wait to try the eucalyptus!

    xo Ximena and Ariana

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  2. This article really helpful for skaters they will get some tips to maintain their skin and feet. it works wraps

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  3. Tq for the tips. Really appreciate the info

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  4. Baby powder in the boots keeps the barefoot skater warm by soaking the sweat of the feet up and keeping them from freezing. As a barefoot skater myself this is a tried and true method, especially when skating in those northern non-heated arenas

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