The Numb Foot Syndrome

In the good old days of patch, known to lay people as school figures, all skaters were familiar with the dreaded numb foot syndrome. What is this horrible malady? There comes a point when the tight leather grip of a skate does a number on the circulation in one's feet. Indeed the skate squeezes and the ice chills both boot and toes. The general result is numb to painfully frozen toes.

I recall one winter night when I was coaching in Poughkeepsie. My schedule had me on the ice from 3:30-7:00 PM with only one fifteen minute break to warm my frozen toes. The second to last half hour was a basic skills class with one three year old and two four year olds. It was an intro class, clearly, and we were moving around the ice playing Simon Says at the rate of one ice crossing every ten minutes. Needless to say, I wasn't increasing my circulation at any great rate. By the end of the lesson, I could barely hide my grimaces of pain from my enthusiastic, but tiring, bunch. I ended up crouching on the ice often simply to reduce the throbbing in my feet. The next half hour brought no respite as it was an adult learn to skate lesson which moved at a comfortable, but sadly for me slow, rate. Adult lessons are a blessing though because adults ask questions and demand cognition in a way children can not. Thus, while still suffering, I was able to distract myself with descriptions of edges and crossovers.

When I got off the ice, I met a fellow coach in the coaches office. We both noted that our feet felt as if they were going to fall off from the cold. My numb fingers pried at my knotted laces, cracking the skin in the extreme cold and leaving traces of red behind. Finally with skates off I tried to move my toes. Shooting pain. My toes felt as if they were being burned off then and there. I reached down to massage them and encountered icy stubs instead of tepid toes. Putting my shoes on was another painful affair, the increased warmth only adding to the fiery feeling. As we walked out of the building, I had no choice but to limp, each step a horrific awakening of icy fire. I stumbled to my car in the 20 degree weather and managed to get the frigid vehicle open. The drive back home was only three miles, not far enough to get the heat working well. Instead, I placed my screaming feet on the clutch and gas and prayed I wouldn't spasm from the pain while driving. Once home in my cozy dorm room it took several hours in front of the steamy radiator to fully regain feeling and for the tingling to subside.

While that is the worst it has ever gotten for me, all skaters suffer from this issue. Various solutions have been tested. Coaches often use fleece boot covers to keep heat locked in and the cold air out. I've discovered that skate boots made out of synthetic materials and molded better to my foot substantially decrease the circulation loss and subsequent pains. This means I give extreme props to Riedell's 2010 LS boots since I have yet to experience any sort of numbing pain while using them for both skating and coaching over the past year. The boots are a perfect match to my feet and do not squeeze the toe area at all. In addition, the lack of leather on the interior means that my foot's warmth stays within the boot. I can actually put the skates on after I've left them in the car in the winter and they heat within minutes to my foot temperature. As far as I'm concerned, this is a minor miracle. So indeed, the numb foot syndrome can be painful and distracting, but skaters now have a myriad of ways to combat it.

<3 Ms. Twizzle <3