Lower extremity injuries in figure skating have long been linked to skating boot stiffness, and recent increases in jump practice time may be influencing the frequency and seriousness of these injuries. It is hypothesized that stiff boots compromise skaters' abilities to attenuate jump landing forces. Decreasing boot stiffness by adding an articulation at the ankle may reduce the rate and magnitude of landing forces. Prototype articulated figure skating boots were tested in this study to determine their effectiveness in enabling skaters to land with lower peak impact forces. Nine competitive figure skaters, who trained in standard boots and subsequently in articulated boots, performed off-ice jump simulations and on-ice axels, double toe loops, and double axels. Analysis of the off-ice simulations showed decreases in peak heel force and loading rate with use of the articulated boot, although the exact kinematic mechanisms responsible for these decreases are still unclear. Analysis of the on-ice jumps revealed few kinematic differences between boot types, implying that the skaters did not use the articulation. Greater adaptation and training time is likely needed for the results seen off-ice to transfer to difficult on-ice jumps.
The authors are with the Human Performance Laboratory, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716.