a new skate allowing powerful plantar flexions improves performance

To prevent the tip of the blade from scratching through the ice, the technique in speed skating requires that plantar flexion is largely suppressed during the gliding push off. This not only prevents the plantar flexors from contributing to external work but also causes the skater to lose contact with the ice long before the knee is fully extended. To prevent these disadvantages of the gliding technique, a new skate was developed that permits the shoe to rotate relative to the blade in a hinge between shoe and blade. In a case control study the progression between the 1993/1994 and 1994/1995 skating seasons of 11 male skaters from a regional junior selection who consented to switch to this new skate was compared with the progression of 72 skaters of this and all other regional and national male junior selections of The Netherlands. The experimental group appeared to improve their personal best times by 6.2 +/- 2.3%, which is a significantly (P < 0.001) larger progress than the 2.5 +/- 1.6% improvement of the control group. The new skate will therefore most likely add a new dimension to the art of speed skating.

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