Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Surgical Intervention on Figure Skating Boots

One day my feet were fine in my boots. The next day there was a little ache in the joint of my toe--as if a blister was forming. Twelve hours later, I was standing in a spin class and thought, "I'm going to have to crawl off the ice."

It was that fast. And that agonizing. My face went white from pain.

I got off the ice and took off my boots. Ah, the sweet, sweet coolness of the mats flooded through my feet and I limped to the dressing room. It was so bad, I couldn't even put on my regular shoes. I had to hang around the rink for a few hours, waiting for the swelling to go down.

Fortunately, I was able to get my boots to the emergency clinic, other wise know as "Figure Skating Ladies Dressing Room." A couple of hours later, "Dr." Amazing came in and conducted the surgery on my boots.

I slipped my feet in my unlaced boots, and she tapped my joints through the boots to find the areas of greatest pain. When the butt end of the knife she was using as a test hammer hit the right spot, I yelped, so it was easy to identify the problem. On the big toe side it was at the toe joint; On the little toe side, it was the joint of the little toe.  She marked these with the point of her knife, and I handed my boots over for surgery.

She cut directly through the boots--all the way through the outer leather, the plastic heat moldings, the inner leather, and the lining-- in an X shape directly over the point of pain

The Cut all the way through the boot.
Although you can't see it, these boots were
punched out THREE TIMES
I was able to skate in them that afternoon. I won't say 'without pain' because there was a LOT of inflammation in the joints, but the pain was reduced by 95%. By the next day (after anti-inflammatories and icing the joints) I was down to almost pain free.

The only time it hurts, is the second it takes me to slip my feet in the boots, when the top of the toe box pinches the joints. Once the feet are in the boots the X cut in the leather  spreads just enough for me to skate in comfort.

If you measure my boots, with the spread from the space needed by my joints my boots are almost an inch wider than before the 'surgery'.

It's a last ditch desperate measure, but it worked.


  1. What happened next? Did you cover the holes with tape, inside & out? Do you find the boots are cold now that they are air-cooled?

    And, how did you cope seeing a knife going into the boot?

    1. ,Honestly, last year when I saw somebody else's boots cut last year, it was slightly creepy. But this year when my feet hurt as much as they did, I would do anything to make the pain go away. I was perfectly ruthless about it.

      The heat from my feet keeps the boots warm. It's not cold and I don't use any tape. If I test or go into competitions I'll put some skate tape over the cuts.

  2. I am having what seems like a similar issue to you and in the same location from the looks of the cuts on your boots. I think I have some nerve damage on the insides of both my feet, right between where my arch ends my big toe starts (on the side of my foot right above the ball of the foot). I started feeling this pretty early on in skating in my new boots and it's now been about 2 months like this. I felt inside my boots and it's really really hard at the point where I'm having the nerve pain. Any suggestions for softening up the boot? I'd like to save cutting the boots as a last resort since they're still very new, and the pain is by no means debilitating.

    I find that it's worsened by the fact that I tend to pronate when I skate (although I don't know if it's really pronation or a habit of "winging" my foot from ballet). That's a totally different problem but one I've looked at your suggestions for ankle support about.

    By the way, great blog! It's really helpful for a new skater like me to read about the issues I'm having. :)

    1. I'm sorry I don't have any suggestions for softening up the leather, other than having a skate tech try a round of heat molding to fitting the boots to your feet.

  3. I'm not having your level of Emergency Pain, but my boots are just too narrow, and punching them out isn't enough. I wonder if I can do this as a stopgap until I can afford new super-wide boots?

    1. It's worth a try if you're going to buy new boots anyway. Ask around to see if a coach can help.