jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Good lessons on weak ankles


What a good lesson I had today! Laurie and I focused on three different things:

  1. back outside edges, emphasizing the correct way the ankle moves over to help create the edge;
  2. swing rolls, emphasizing the way the upper body moves over to help shape the end of the edge; and
  3. inside open mohawks, emphasizing how the new foot comes in forcefully and with intention.

I will just talk about (1) and (3), since that’s where I made yet another new discovery. I am still having a lot of trouble doing edges on the left side using pressure from my ankle rather than throwing my entire upper body into the circle.

Good edges start from the bottom up.


Just so we’re not distracted by the beauty of Scott and Tessa, let’s just look at their ankles.


What is supposed to happen on a good edge is that the ankle presses strongly into the side of the boot, with the ankle bone moving towards the middle of the circle.

Ari has said that I should be able to check this pressure by feeling how the opposite side of my boot cuts into the top of my ankle; this might seem masochistic were it not for the fact that our boots are nicely padded. (Either that, or Tessa has quite the poker face.)

At any rate, on my left side this doesn’t happen. My ankle remains stiff and immobile in my skate, and I have been trying to compensate by leaning my upper body into the circle, which simply makes the ankle-thing impossible.

Laurie and I spent some time trying to get me to initiate a left back outside edge from a flat just by using my ankle. This was really hard for me, although the right side worked like a charm.

I wonder how many of my alignment issues might be related to problems with my left ankle. I recently read “A Sprained Ankle May Have Lifelong Consequences,” one of many depressing health-related articles in the N.Y. Times. This was about how long-past ankle sprains can affect long-term balance and activity. I did have a number of ankle sprains in my late teens and early twenties. According to the article, these can produce long-term instability.

Once I started skating, I noticed that I no longer rolled my ankles on a regular basis. But my left foot has been giving me problems for the past couple of years, and I think that I have been locking my ankle in an effort to stabilize my left side.

I used to pooh-pooh the idea that weak ankles would keep anyone off the ice. All you need, I thought, is a good pair of skates rather than the rink rentals and the “weak ankles” excuse goes away. But here I am, weak-ankled one! Arghhh!!

Luckily, there are a number of ankle-strengthening exercises out there. So this week I’m going to start doing some of these on my left side, as well as working on getting that loving feeling of the left boot digging into my ankle. I’ll describe more good things from this lesson on my next post, but will end here with my song of the week.

Hey, the Righteous Brothers could be singing about losing proprioception due to injury. “You’ve lost that loving feeling. . . now it’s gone, gone, gone. Whoa-oh-oh-oh.” Or they could simply  be belting out one of those unforgettable songs that is always worth a chorus or two.





Author: Joskates

Don't see me on the ice? I may be in the classroom or at the theater, or hanging out with my family and friends.

4 thoughts on “Good lessons on weak ankles

  1. I broke my foot a year ago, spent almost four months in a cast, and did not get any PT. It’s been falling dominoes for my left side ever since, with my left knee taking the brunt of the lost mobility in the foot and skating on that side suffering because of it. I’m finally seeing a physical therapist of my choice who is working on bringing the mobility back to my foot. After doing the prescribed exercises only four times, my coach looked at me after doing the Gold Moves crossovers for him, paused, and asked me what was different. All I could say was, “For the first time since my injury, I can finally bend from the ankle and feel my foot.”


    • That is a really inspiring story. I have been concentrating so much on my hip that I think I’ve been missing this vital piece of the puzzle. I rarely hear accounts of doing foot and ankle exercises to improve skating. Would love to hear which exercises worked best for you!


  2. I hope that those ankle strengthening exercises work for you, Jo. The ankle bending this is really hard for us adult skaters. Many of us have the same challenges!


  3. Thanks, Eva. In retrospect, working these ankle things probably would have greatly improved my axel entry. But a little more strength and bend makes a big difference!


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