Instead of careening out of control into one of Minnesota’s 10,000 great lakes on those insatiable new or upgraded inline (rollerblade) skates, Robichon’s recommends all new and veteran skaters alike learn how to heel brake on tidy flat ground with a quality instructor and a high-friction surface such as dry grass or carpet. The high-friction surface will stop your wheels from freely rolling out from underneath your body while the qualified instructor (Robichon’s, of course) will prevent you from over-indulging on terrain too steep for your britches. While balanced and on flat ground, you are safe to practice Robichon’s three key steps to using your heel brake safely and effectively.
Robichon’s Three Key Steps to Basic Heel Brake Stop
Step 1: Strike a Pose (Get in a position of balance)
Before you engage your heel brake, set yourself up for success. To prepare for a balanced stop get in a balanced static (non-moving) two-footed (skated) stance. Make sure your skates are underneath you. Each skate should be directly underneath your ischium (butt sit bones); your left skate underneath your left ischium and your right skate underneath your right ischium. Ensure your body weight is positioned on top of your wheels evenly distributed between your skates; 50/50. Fifty percent of your weight on your right skate and fifty percent of your weight on your left skate. Your skates should be parallel to each other pointing in the same direction. Now, slightly flex your ankles. Once you flex your ankles, your knees and hip will naturally respond with a corresponding flex. Be sure to keep your nose over your knees and your knees over your toes. Think nose, knees, toes alignment. Nose knees toes alignment relies on a 50/50 body weight distribution with ankle flexion described above. It is common for untrained skaters to flex only at the waist making a heel brake stop impossible to perform. Keep your head up in the direction of travel while extending your arms out in front of your body; above your waist and no higher than your shoulders. Keeping your hands within these perimeters will promote balance and help prevent falls. Your goal, which we bestow upon you, is to maintain this pose throughout your heel brake stop. For example, resist dropping your arms below your waist while flexing forward at your waist which retracts your supportive leg knee behind your toes throwing you out of a functional heel brake stop position. Succinctly put, by dropping your arms below your waist you throw yourself out of nose, knees, toes alignment and will be unsuccessful in the next two basic heel stop steps.
*( practice first in a static position and then in a dynamic two-footed glide position).
Step 2: Scissor Your Skates
While distributing 80% of your weight to your non-braking supportive skate (usually left), slide your braking skate one full skate length ahead of the other. The brake of your braking skate needs to be ahead of the toe of your non-braking skate. By scissoring your brake skate fully forward you will generate leverage to stop your body from moving forward when the brake is applied. For extra stopping power, increase your scissor stance up to another half skate length. Maintain the scissor position while you perform step 3.
Step 3: Engage your Brake
While maintaining your balanced scissor position apply your brake pad by lifting your toes up toward your nose. We often say “pop-a-wheelie”. Keep the back wheel on the ground along with your brake. Once you have applied your brake keep the brake engaged and in a full length scissor until you are completely stopped. Be sure to maintain tension through your slightly flexed braking leg into and through your brake pad directly into the asphalt. The action is similar to digging the heel of your foot on a shovel and into the ground. Newton’s Third Law of Motion applies: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The more body weight you can position behind your brake and directed into the ground, the more stopping power will be yielded.
Once you have successfully practiced these three steps on flat concrete you will be well on your way to tackling a downhill stop. We recommend taking our OSB course 1, 2 and 3 followed by trail skate 1 before skating down hills.