How to Keep Kids Feet and Ankles Safe When Ice Skating 

Ice Skating Etiquette infographic created by American Athletic Shoe

Watching virtuoso Olympic Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir win Gold was like watching a miracle unfold. They made it look effortless. Even though it was anything but!

Ice dancing and ice skating can take a toll on the body of the athlete, particularly on their feet and ankles.

As an effect of seeing all the wondrous visions floating off the TV screen, it's more likely families like yours will take their kids ice skating this winter. Even though they won't be skating the number of hours as our Olympians, there are still things you need to know should your kids pick up the sport or if you decide to venture out on the ice.

Perhaps you can recall your first shaky moments when you tied on your first ice skates and gingerly stepped out on the ice. Falling was probably at the top of the list of hazards you experienced, bruising your hands and backside.

But a whole encyclopedia of foot and ankle problems are next on the list: blisters, ankle sprains, bunions, hammertoes, stress fractures, heel pain conditons Achilles tendonitis, nail trauma, malleolar bursitis, and lace bite can all plague the ice skater.

It turns out that most of these problems are caused by the ice skating boots. The quick stops, turns, and jumps also add a lot of force to the feet and ankles making them prone to injury.

Here are some do's and don'ts when renting or purchasing ice skates:

  • Proper fit. Boots need to fit snugly but not too snugly to allow for a secure fit. In particular, young skaters will need to replace their skates to ensure the big toe is not hitting the top of the boot. Boots too tight in the width can also be problematic.
  • Purchase skates with a proper skate to weight ratio. This ratio should not exceed 5%. To determine this ratio weigh the skates and then divide the skate weight by your kid's body weight. eg. A kid weighing 80 lbs should not wear boots that weigh more than four pounds.
  • Avoid cheap boots. You know the rule, you get what you pay for. And in this case getting a better boot is important for safety reasons.
  • Proper lacing. Laces shouldn't be done up too tightly or you can experience lace bite which can show up as blisters or other painful problems on the top of the foot. Other solutions are changing lacing patterns or using soft lamb's wool jump behind the tongue.

Depending on you or your kid's foot type they may need to wear an insert or orthotic to prevent Achilles tendonitis and/or heel pain. Strengthening the feet and ankles and stretching the calves are also essential before skating to prevent injuries.

Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.
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