by Faye Rapoport
Ever heard of “lace bite,” or had a blister on your foot the size of a half dollar? For inline skaters, these and other foot problems are all in a day’s work. Does that stop them from participating in this exciting summer sport? Not for a minute.
Inline racing has a small but dedicated following in the U.S. All but one of the American speedskaters who medaled at the last winter Olympics are former inline skating champions.
Currently, Kim Perkins, 37, is one of the top women skaters in the U.S. Sponsored by Team Safe and Bont Skates, Perkins, started skating after taking up rollerblading for fun at age 23, and began racing 10 years later. She overcame a lifetime without much athletic activity and a fear of competition to train hard and enter the racing world, where she has seen great success.
Although the 2004 racing season is just getting started, Perkins has already won the Disney Marathon in Orlando, FL and the Texas Road Rash Marathon. Among her achievements last year were winning the Cactus Classic Marathon, the Dan Burger 50k Championships and the longest point-to-point inline race in the world, the prestigious 87-mile Athens-to-Atlanta Roadskate (for the second time in two years).
Well-known in the U.S. as both a racer and coach, Perkins appeared recently on the Travel Channel reality show “Swimsuit Slimdown” and in the Title 9 Sports clothing catalog. She recently shared some information about her sport with Foot.com, along with a few foot care tips.
Foot.com: Tell us a little about inline skating, and how it relates to speed skating on ice.
Perkins: Most people know about speedskating on ice, but speedskating on inline skates (e.g. Rollerblades) is a very popular sport in itself, especially in Europe, Korea and parts of South America. You may remember Apollo Ohno, Derek Parra, and Jennifer Rodriguez as some of the top Americans of the last Olympic Games — they were all former inline champions before they switched to ice.
Inline road racing has a lot in common with bicycle racing — skaters jockey for position within the peloton — which looks like a big caterpillar with legs moving in unison — while going around tight curves, up painful climbs, and down exhilarating descents, with a dramatic sprint at the end. Though races range from 200 meters to 87 miles, right now the most common racing distance is the marathon, 26.2 miles. Depending on conditions and terrain, the top men skate it anywhere from 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1:15, and the top women — skating in a separate peloton — from 1:15 to 1:25.
Foot.com: How did you get involved in inline skating?
Perkins: I got a pair of skates when they first became popular in New York City, way back in 1989. I had a lot of fun just skating around before I found out people raced on them, and I did my first race in 1999. I had so much fun I pursued it passionately for the past 5 years, ultimately as part of a pro racing team based in California, Team Safe.
Foot.com: What kind of training do you do on a regular basis for your sport?
Perkins: Because I specialize in long distance events (50k and up), I log about 150 miles a week. Some days I will do short and fast sessions with mock races, and some days I will skate as long as 5 hours straight, to get ready for the Athens-to-Atlanta 87-mile Roadskate in October, which I’ve now won twice.
Foot.com: Tell us about the skates; how are they fit to the feet, and are they painful to wear?
Perkins: Racing skates don’t look much like regular Rollerblades — besides a much longer wheel base and larger wheels, the boots are competely different. They are made of stiff, superlight carbon, cut low below the ankle, and fit very closely. Because they’re built to transfer power, they aren’t cushy, so there is a period of time where they can be uncomfortable until you break them in. The best skates, such as my Bont Vaypors, are custom built for your feet. You stand in skating position in a special plaster-infused sock, which forms the cast as it dries.
Foot.com: Are there particular foot injuries or foot conditions that inline skaters tend to deal with?
Perkins: Feet are probably the biggest issue for every skater. Even when boots are broken in, blisters and rubbed toes can be a daily complaint, as well as bigger problems, such as tendonitis and “lace bite” — a subcutaneous buildup on the front of the ankle that can put a skater out of commission for quite a while. Some blisters — such as on the toes and insteps — can come from ill-fitting boots, and some — especially on the heel — are a sign that your skating technique needs improvement. Sometimes people have to quit long races because their blisters are too bad — they can get as big as a half-dollar, and take weeks to heal.
Foot.com: Have you personally had any foot injuries that have affected your training, and if so, how did you treat them?
Perkins: Like marathon runners, most people get blisters in the longer races, and you rarely have the luxury of letting it heal fully before you have to skate again. During the height of the season, when you are racing every weekend, you tape your feet before each race, putting pads over any open blisters. The first time I won Athens-to-Atlanta, I lost a toenail from having my skates too tight over the course of 87 miles, and had to alter my boots so that I could finish out my race season without doing further damage. I wrapped that toe up like a Faberge egg!
Foot.com: Do you use any particular kind of footwear in general or foot products to maintain strong and healthy feet?
Perkins: Usually I skate barefoot with just a slippery pair of neoprene ankle booties made by Ezeefit Sports, and that’s usually enough to protect all the key areas from blisters. But before long races, I also wear CoolMax socks, tape my toes with sports tape and stick some Bandaid Blister Blocks over existing blisters or places I think I’m likely to get them. Afterwards, I get out of my wet stuff immediately, air out my skates, and clean up my feet before getting back into my Tevas. Even though I like to paint my toenails, I don’t let anyone near me with a pumice stone — I need those calluses! And when I’m not skating, I stay away from high-heeled pumps — a nice pair of medium heeled slides works with everything.
Foot.com: Do you have any tips for anyone interested in getting involved in inline skating?
Perkins: The first thing to do is to find the other skaters in your area! Skaters come in all ages and sizes and skill levels, and they tend to be very social and welcoming to newcomers. Most medium-to-large cities in the United States and Europe have skate clubs, and many host Friday Night Skates — a weekly organized event for touring the city in a large group at a social pace, usually with food and drinks after! A good resource for finding skating in your area is www.skatelog.com.
Foot.com: Thank you, Kim!