Yes, there is such a thing as skating socks! Socks are so easy to forget that we bet it’s probably never crossed your mind, but it’s actually very important to have good socks to use for skating. So in this post we’re going to discuss lace bite and show you that the type of sock you wear does matter.
The Pains of Lace Bite
Probably the most important reason to wear the right sock is that it’s one of the cheapest ways to reduce or eliminate a condition known as “lace bite.” As its name suggests, the typical cause of lace bite is tightly tied or incorrectly laced laces, which can put pressure on a tendon that runs from the front your leg to your big toe and leads to a sensation that feels much like a “bite.” Rashes, blisters, swelling, or other irritation can develop as well.
However, “lace bite” is also used to describe the same sort of pain in situations without laces (more properly termed “skate bite”)—it can be caused by skates that are cheap and thinly padded, are the wrong size for one foot or both feet, aren’t broken in yet, are old and inflexible, or are otherwise too stiff. It can happen to anyone with any type of skate, even if the skate is otherwise a perfect fit. Someone who rollerblades is slightly more likely to experience lace bite, since most commercial inline skates have a rigid shell.
Fixes for Lace Bite
If your pain is indeed lace bite, the first thing to do is take a break from skating for a while. Give rashes or blisters time to heal. For swelling, elevate your leg(s) and apply ice to the area. Once you’re back to normal, consider what changes you can make to reduce the chances of the lace bite coming back.
- Sometimes the condition can be resolved simply by loosening the laces of the upper part of the skate boot; this takes the tongue pressure off the middle portion of your foot but keeps the lower laces tight enough that your heel stays securely in position
- Try a different lacing pattern
- If your laces are thin, replace them with thicker laces
- If you play inline hockey and use waxed laces, consider ending your use of them; waxed laces make laces tighter
- If the skates are new, don’t rush to judgment—give them time to break in; it’s possible that the lace bite will stop once the skates have gotten to know your feet and how you move
You can also get into labor-intensive and potentially expensive fixes, like replacing the tongue(s) of your skate(s) or taking them to a professional skate shop to have your skates stretched or padded. But for casual skaters—particularly if you normally just rent skates—that’s probably investing a little more time and money than you ever intended.
How Skating Socks Help
Most roller skaters are casual skaters, and an everyday pair of socks you’d wear with your everyday shoes is usually enough for a few hours of cruising in skates. But every person is different, and it’s possible for even casual skaters to experience lace bite. In that case, the first thing to do is loosen your skate laces, and the second thing is to look at your socks.
The shorter and thinner socks are, the less likely it is that they’re protecting your foot; if loosening your skate laces doesn’t help and you wear the “no-show” socks, the socks are only making things worse because it’s impossible for them to adequate pad your legs and feet. As far as regular socks go, plain old thick crew-cut or tube socks are going to offer the best coverage and padding. For those who can make the investment, which is pretty small, there are skating socks that have extra padding (“lace bite pads”) built into them at strategic locations.
If someone likes a particular type of sock—such as the “no-show” style—for fashion reasons, that person may not be terribly impressed at first with skating socks. Skating socks come in a variety of lengths but are most often cut higher than crew length to ensure that they extend above the top of the skate boot. It’s also worth keeping in mind that those weird tall socks are fashionable in the skating world, and that they can get even crazier than that—especially if you get into roller derby.
Alternatives to Skating Socks
A single pair of skating socks with built-in lace bite pads isn’t that expensive—they usually run under fifteen dollars. However, if you’re a casual skater who’s sensitive and more prone to lace bite but can’t justify having specially padded socks that you use just for skating—or maybe you’ve realized you experience lace bite with regular shoes as well and can’t afford to pay fifteen bucks for a dozen pairs of socks with built-in lace bite pads—there are alternatives. Aftermarket lace bite pads (or just “bite pads”) come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and attachment designs.
- If you have your own pair of skates, adhesive lace bite pads are an option; these are normally placed on the inside of the tongue of your skates, in whatever area you usually feel pain, and left there.
- Velcro lace bite pads are essentially the same as the adhesive pads—they even tend to look the same as adhesives—but they’re removable.
- If you think adhesive won’t be reliable or that the hooks of the Velcro will only add to the pressure you’re feeling, there’s a type of lace bite pad that looks a shoe tongue removed from the shoe; two eyelets at one end allow you to lace it into your skate as a second tongue. It’ll have a very long lifespan compared to the other two, but there’s a chance that it will slide around since it’s only secured at one end.
- There are also lace bite pads that come as part of an ankle sleeve, which you pull on like a sock. The sleeve normally ends about halfway between your heel and toes, by may end just below your ankle. These can be sold individually, so if both your feet are feeling the bite and you need a set of two, make sure that’s what you’re buying.
None of these alternatives is significantly cheaper than skating socks (the ankle sleeves are probably a little more expensive), but depending on your circumstances they may be more versatile and appropriate to your needs.