Getting a new pair of skates is such an awesome feeling. The new smell of leather. No scrapes, scratches or dings on your new boots yet. The wheels and bearings are brand new. As you open the box, each skate is wrapped in its own plastic. You quickly tear through the box to get to the skates, slip them on to your feet and roll around the house to make sure everything is just right. After checking everything out, the anticipation builds for the next time you get to hit the rink floor or the skate park to wear your new ride for an extended period of time and really test them out.
Then often comes the dreaded breaking in new skates phase. The part that many first-time skate buyers have not experienced. The boots are often hard and require lots of use before they get broken in and are fun to use – much like a brand new pair of shoes. Maybe you bought the skate a little too big and you get blisters from the extra movement of your foot. Or maybe it’s too tight at the ankle, heel or toes which can cause blisters, cuts and even bruises. Or maybe the boot is just not designed right. In any of these cases, you are left feeling pretty miserable as you likely just spent hundreds of dollars on a new pair of skates that tear up your feet. It’s a very common problem, and one that I recently had to deal with myself.
My New Vanilla 360 Boots are Ankle Killers
As many of you already know from my previous review, I recently bought myself a pair of brand new Vanilla 360 skates. Overall, I love the skates. They look really cool and they have really good movement and are a good all-around skate. I have been doing some old freestyle moves in these skates that I just could not do in my old skates. However, the boot is so uncomfortable on the inner part of the ankles that it’s made me want to take them off several times and throw them in the trash. New skates shouldn’t make you feel that way!
So, in this post, I’m going to cover all of the things that I have tried over the past couple of weeks to protect my feet and ankles while I’m breaking in this new pair of skates. I’ve done a ton of testing and gathered a lot of data, so I think this will be a useful post. I also have so many different options to try that I’ll likely do a future post on blister prevention as that is different than my current ankle issue with these skates. I don’t want to throw these awesome skates in the trash, but I will if I can’t make the boot more comfortable.
The Vanilla 360 Boot Problem in Detail
First, I should state that I am not a jam skater. I’m a regular rink skater and I’m sure I often use these skates as they were not intended. According to Vanilla, this skate was primarily designed from the ground up for Tony Zane – an amazing jam skater. Of course, I am no Tony Zane. I’m not doing handstands, headstands, windmilling or anything close to that. I do some 1-footed and 2-footed spins and I try to get a lot of exercise by keeping up with my 11 year old, Violet, in speed skating.
Trying to keep up with the kids and using this skate as an exercise rink skate is where I am getting into the most trouble. The Vanilla 360 boot has a very low cut on the ankles – which is common with most of Vanilla’s skates. The boot goes under the ankle bone. This is a big deal because the reason I am getting the cut is because I am digging in hard around the corners and my ankle is rubbing against the top part of the boot.
I’ve heard complaints from many people who have bought Vanilla boots who are not using them for jam skating. Most of the kids at my rink have ankle and feet issues with Vanilla boots. One of my adult skater friends actually said he thinks his Vanilla boots are giving him permanent ankle nerve damage as his feet fall asleep because of the pressure and rubbing around the ankle area and swore to never buy another Vanilla skate again. Of course, he continue to skate in them in hopes that he can break them in.
So, after reading and talking to a number of people about these issues, I set off on a path to figure out a solution.
My 7 Attempts at Protecting My Ankles While Breaking in New Skates
Attempt #1: 2 pairs of socks
This is a technique that everyone online claims will work while breaking in new skates. The idea is that you wear 2 (or more) pairs of socks and it will help to keep you from getting blisters and cuts as your feet and ankles will fill out the skate better and your foot doesn’t move as much. My daughter, Violet, wears 6 pairs of socks because the Vanilla Carbon inline skates that she has are a little too big for her – plus she just loves socks. She swears that it helps her with blisters and it makes sense if your boot is a little bigger.
However, that is not really my problem. The Vanilla 360 boot fits snug around my foot. In fact, the Vanilla 360s actually run a little smaller in size, so wearing two pairs of socks actually makes the skate even more snug and slightly uncomfortable. For this ankle issue, I wore two pairs of socks and I did not see any relief. My ankle still rubbed across the top of the boot and eventually caused my ankle to bleed. It took a little more time for the issue to happen then wearing just 1 pair of socks, but it still happened within an hour.
Next, I tried some moleskin padding that my wife, Claire, had here at the house. She swore it would fix my problem. I think she used it on a pair of uncomfortable shoes. On my first attempt, I cut off a 2″x2″ piece just big enough to cover my ankle bruise. This failed miserably. Within the first hour of skating, the moleskin had already fell off of my sweaty ankle and the cut on my ankle was again opened.
The next attempt, I tried a much large piece 2″ x 8″ long and that worked better, but I had the same issue after a couple of hours of skating. The moleskin just wasn’t sticky enough to stay stuck to my skin once I applied heavy friction (and sweat) to that area.
Attempt #3: Extra padding on the inside of the skate
In the beginning, I didn’t know my issue was actually the top of the boot, so I tried adding an extra piece of padding to the inside of my boot. This piece of extra padding stuck to the inside of the skate boot using small dabs of velcro on one side. They were awesome for the extra padding on the inside of the boot, but the inside of the boot was not the issue so this solution did not work well. After this attempt I determined that the actual issue was not the side of the boot at all, but actually the top of the skate boot. I added this attempt in to prove that it’s important to really diagnosis and pay attention to what exactly is causing your issue before attempting to solve it.
Attempt #4: Add Duct Tape
Everything is better with duct tape, right? For my fourth attempt, I dropped the moleskin and just duct taped my ankle. Then, I put a sock over it.
After a couple of hours, the duct tape loosened and I had the same issue. The duct tape didn’t fall off (it is duct tape after all), but my consistent grinding and friction in that one spot caused the duct tape to move up my leg and expose the ankle. Again, the adhesive rubbed off enough in one spot (even on duct tape) with enough pressure and friction. I tried this a second time with moleskin first covered with duct tape with no success either. I really thought this one would work.
Now, I knew the problem was on the top of the boot. I dug around in the house and found these round callus cushions. I tried them by themselves, but again they failed miserably. They quickly came off after less than an hour of skating.
So, I reapplied a new set and duct taped it, but again the duct tape and the cushion loosened as I skated and cut corners making this again a failed attempt. I was starting to get really frustrated because nothing seemed to be working.
I went ahead and skated without anything for a couple of sessions thinking that maybe the boot would just break in if I kept skating hard on them. No such luck. The ankles kept getting rubbed raw and kept bleeding.
Attempt #6: Academy Ankle Sleeve
One day before heading to the rink with my bruised up right ankle, I headed over to my local Academy to see if I could find a solution. I looked in the workout and running area and found an ankle sleeve that seemed like they would work. They covered the effected part of the ankle. I bought a pair and headed to the rink.
Unfortunately, the biggest issue with the ankle sleeve was that it was too thick. This caused my Vanilla 360 boot to be even tighter to the point where it was uncomfortable – especially on the back of my heel. I continued skating anyways and for the most part my ankle was okay. I was already bruised up pretty bad, so it was hard to tell but it didn’t seem to get any worse. The only issue was that when I got done skating, my heel was bleeding. These ankle sleeves had a large knot just about the back of the heel that rubbed as I skated. I was trading one bleeding part of my foot for another. I had to try something else.
Attempt #7: Ezeefit Ankle Booties
Finally, I came across a company called EZeefit Sports. They make a special product called an ankle bootie. This ankle bootie comes in an ultrathin, 2mm and 3mm variety. I found them online via recommendations from skaters at my local rink and from the online forum called Skate Log Forum.
I decided to purchase the ultrathin and 2mm ankle bootie options to see how they would work. I also purchased a Full-Foot Ultrathin bootie that covered the whole foot. I thought this might be good if I ever had a skate giving me blisters in other areas.
After about a week, the new EZeefits arrived and I headed to the rink to give them a try. I tried the 2mm EZeefit first. I realized that based on my current ankle issue, it did not make sense to use the Ultrathin (too thin) or the full foot bootie (no toe issues) in this case. I slid the 2mm Ezeefit onto my ankle fairly easily. With my Vanilla 360 boots already being a little snug, I decided to go without a pair of socks over the top of it.
Overall, I skated for 4+ hours in my Ezeefits and they worked great. My right ankle had built up a decent scab since my last time skating, and it did tear off, but the cutting of the boot into that wound was protected fairly well with the EZeefit in place. I could still feel the boot pressing into my ankle (which was still slightly uncomfortable), but it was not causing my ankle to get any worse. My foot did sweat a lot in this ankle bootie, but the added moisture did not cause any blisters.
The Solution? EZeefit’s Ankle Booties
It was well worth the $20 to buy a pair of EZeefits and try them out. It’s a really great product, and I would highly recommend it to anyone that has ankle or blister issues – or honestly anyone buying a new pair of skates. I’ve seen a number of other ankle braces like the ones I bought from Academy (above), but none of them are designed and built as good as the EZeefit for roller skating – they are either too big or the seams are in the wrong spot. I’m so glad I finally found a solution!
Other Options I didn’t Try
My wife suggested that I just cut an inch or two off of the top of the right boot near the ankle. This would allow me to dig deep into the corners without my ankle rubbing on the top of the boot. I didn’t really want to try this because I didn’t want to modify the boot or potentially break it structurally in some way. Another skater also recommended that I take a hot iron to the boot wrapped in a towel. He said this would have allowed me to better loosen up and shape the boot. Again, I didn’t try either of these options, but you may want to try it if none of the above options works for you.
What Have You Tried?
So, what have you tried to make your skates more comfortable? Have you tried something different than me that has worked for you? If so, share it in the comments section below so that everyone can benefit.