Hockey skates are not designed like regular boots, to flex and move with your foot as you walk. Instead, the boot of a hockey skate must be fairly rigid to provide a stable base for the blades that connect the player to the ice. Modern, high-end skates have features to minimize friction and pressure points when a player is starting, skating, and stopping. But whenever feet or ankles come in contact with that rigidity, several problems can occur, and one common ailment is known as “lace bite.”
What Is Lace Bite?
Lace bite is pain that occurs at the front of the ankle or top of the foot where the laces transition from the foot to the ankle. When you’re skating, that contact point is subject to a lot of pressure because, as your ankle bends and comes forward, there is often no give or cushion in the tongue or laces of the skate. In fact, that hinge point in the tongue of the skates may dig into the front of your ankle. Eventually, the tendons in the front of the foot or ankle can become inflamed, causing tendonitis that results in swelling and intense pain, either of which can interfere with your ability to skate.
What Causes Lace Bite?
Lace bite is usually the result of one or more of these causes:
- New skates, in which the tongue is extremely rigid;
- Low-quality or old skates, in which the tongue is thin or compressed, providing little padding;
- Skates that are tied too tight, especially at the transition point;
- Skates that haven’t been worn in a long time and have become dry and rigid; or
- A player who hasn’t worn skates in a long time suddenly becomes very active on the ice.
3 Solutions for Correcting or Avoiding Lace Bite
1. Try some gel padding in your skates. If your hockey skates are causing the lace bite—if they’re new and stiff, old and compressed, or just don’t have enough padding in the tongue—you can buy special products designed to add a layer of cushion between your ankle-foot and the tongue. The Elite Hockey Lace Bite Gel Pad and A&R Lace Bite Gel Pad attach to the inside of the tongue and rest against the front of your ankle. As the ankle comes forward, the gel inside the pads compresses much more gently, providing comfort and relief that allow you to focus on your game instead of thinking about your painful feet.
2. Loosen your laces. The key to avoiding lace bite may be as simple as not tying your skates as tight, especially at the top. This is especially true with new skates or skates you haven’t worn in awhile. As the materials start to become more pliable, you can begin lacing the skates tighter until you get them as tight as you want without causing discomfort.
3. Lace your skates a different way. If you like to lace your skates very tightly but want to relieve pressure on the front of your ankle, you can try relacing the skates. One method is to utilize a “box lace” at the point of discomfort: Instead of tying the laces in the conventional way over the part of the tongue that’s rubbing on your ankle, skip that spot entirely. Thread each lace through the hole directly above the spot, and then continue crisscrossing to the top of the boot. This will create a gap in the lacing over the pressure spot, which may relieve the pressure enough to solve the problem.
Some players find that the key is lacing their skates from the outside in. That is, always pass the laces through the holes from the outside, so the crisscrosses lie against the tongue. This means that there won’t be a single tight lace lying directly across your foot at the point of pain.
How to Treat Pain from Lace Bite in Your Hockey Skates
If you do suffer from lace bite, the best treatment is to ice the affected area after every time you skate and at several other times throughout the day. The combination of altering your skates and taking care of your pain will help you get through the difficult time and have you skating pain-free as quickly as possible.