Tales of a knock-kneed skater

Example of knock knees. Click the photo for the source

**UPDATE April 18/12: I came across this article by Bonnie D Stroir on how to train knock-knees away! Read and enjoy!

**UPDATE Jan. 5/15: Check out this article by Roller Derby Strength and Conditioning on how training your glutes, hamstrings and stretching your hip flexors to combat the problem.

My junior high and high school running coaches tried desperately to break myself of the habit of my running style. A style so unique it gave me the nickname ‘Ducky’ through the rest of my running career (and was even yelled out at my wedding in an attempt to embarrass me).

I essentially ran with my thighs close together and with every stride my lower legs would kick out to the side, emulating a duck in a fast walk.

Unfortunately, my coaches weren’t helpful to me in trying to break the habit; only saying ‘don’t do it.’

Bad advice given the fact I had no idea I was doing it; it seemed comfortable and natural to me. In my mind’s eye my form was as good as the next runner’s.

Attempts at putting a video camera in front of me and running me through various stride drills and lunges to figure out what I was doing to cause the strange motion came up futile. Of course I was going to concentrate on form with a video camera in front of me… But put me back on the track for a 1500m and you’d see my feet popping out with every stride like little whack-a-moles.

Fast forward to my first days in derby and in every photo you see me with my knees pointing in. (Further enhanced by wearing knee pads, of course.)

Below is a lovely gallery of my various knock-kneed styles… Notice the position of my thighs, my knees and my lower legs showing my duckiness.

My first bootcamp where I was doing my 25 in 5, I was told by my lap counter I looked like a deer when I skated because of my strange style.

A strange style with no clue how to fix.

What’s even stranger is when I stand with my feet close together, my legs themselves bow out, while my knee caps point in!

Ugh, my knees are hideous. DON’T LOOK AT THEM!

How can I be knock-kneed and bow-legged all at once?

Confused. But the positioning of my kneecaps don’t lie; they definitely are pointed inward.

Internet research brought up many answers ranging from surgery to special inserts to strengthening exercises to adjusting plates to adjusting trucks.

But the answers I found were so varied, I found it difficult to find a solution to my problem.

But is it a problem?

Granted, there are some practices where if I don’t stretch my shins and ankles before we start our warmup, I’m in pain in my lower leg area trying to push my extremities in positions they weren’t intended to go. But it’s easy enough to push through and stretch out after drills.

I’m not really losing speed… I think I’m fast enough. But maybe with better form I’d be just a hair faster to push past that blocker.

Could this knee issue be the reason for my elusive sliding-all-over-the-track problems I’m having?

Long story short, I’ve found ways to work around my duckiness as long as I’m diligent. But it wasn’t until I went to Rollercon and took an edging class that I realized how much my buggered knees was affecting my cornering.

Class is in session, readers! We’re going to talk briefly about edging and how it affects your skating.

When skating, you have two edges you need to worry about…

Your inside edges: POWER

Your outside edges: CORNERING

Effective skating is all about mastering your weight distribution on your edges.

Mastering your edges is all about weight distribution in your foot and where you place your knee.

So if you want power (like duck walking on skates. Ha!) your weight should be distributed like this:

INSIDE EDGE POSITIONING FOR POWER
Weight in big toe, knee over big toe.

Example of a left foot inside edge positioning

Shifting your weight and knees in this position when you push with that foot, will boost your power.

If you want cornering, you’re more dependent on the foot that is inside of the corner:

OUTSIDE EDGE POSITIONING FOR CORNERING
Weight in pinky toe, knee over pinky toe.

Example of outside edge positioning for a left foot.

Picture 50 or so skaters in a medium-sized conference room practicing single-footed edging. Many skaters were new to the concept, myself included, and it was the first time I consciously thought about such ideas.

But I learned 2 things…

1. Because of my natural knock-kneed skating, inside edges are a breeze.

2. Because of my natural knock-kneed skating, outside edges are a BITCH!

Then many lightbulbs and synapses went off in my head.

And then I started looking at bout photos of myself.

My left knee around corners, which should be over my pinky toe and possibly beyond, is straight up and down!!!

(See the above gallery and take a close look at my left foot and knee)

Well that’s just ducky.

While it’s not ‘wrong’ per se, I have to wonder how I would skate if I could instinctively put my cornering knee in such position? How much more acceleration can I gain if I really push my weight to my big toe and position my knee effectively, without going too far in, which is my natural duck-style instinct?

So now what am I going to do about it?

Well, I have a plan:

1) practice outside edging before every practice and really push that knee over to get it into my muscle memory

2) daily 100 second wall sits to strengthen my quads more and I can concentrate on pushing my knees out over my toes.

3) daily side lunges, really working to push my weight in my feet and knee position as if I was cornering in my skates

I really hope to see some improvement as a result. I guess we’ll see. If you have a knocked-knee problem (with solution) I’d love to hear about it! Or tell me your knock-kneed success story!

Check out this post by Eight Wheeled Adventures about her experience with knock-kneed skating. (Aug, 2012)

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13 thoughts on “Tales of a knock-kneed skater

  1. This was an excellent article!!! I too have had many issues with being pigeon toed and having knock knees. At age 2 I was put in Forrest-Gump-like leg braces for several years. My Mom, hoping the braces would prevent me from taking off on her while we shopped, eventually took them off because she got tired of all the straps and buckles. When I got older I was given special plastic inserts (that were made from impressions of my feet)for the insides of my Buster Browns. It’s true…good quality shoes are excellent for your feet!!!
    Anyhow, just wanted to share…I thought I was the only one who played Roller Derby that had this similar issue. πŸ™‚ Thanks for this…it cheered me up

  2. Thank you so much Cherri, I am a new skater and having such a bitch of a time with knock knees, especially because I’m 5’10. When I start feeling tired my knees just want to kiss each other. I’m improving by doing 3 minute Derby burns and skating wide and low. I will include your exercises in my routine. Thank you so much for sharing.

    EvilEye Cherry #2020

  3. Thank you πŸ™‚ I have been skating for 5 months on and off (due to back injury) but I am really struggling with my knocked knees and no-one in my team seems to have any suggestions as to how to improve (even one of the girls who teaches PE!). I’m going to start working on lunges and doing ballet. I used to do ballet as a child and I think it will really help. Thanks, MacGirl xx

  4. I had no idea what I’d find when I googled “knock kneed roller skating,” and this was PERFECT. I went to my first roller derby skill session yesterday and it was awesome. Seasoned skaters told me that being knock kneed might be a problem, but I could work on it if I wanted. This was so helpful, thank you!

  5. Pingback: Ol’ Knock Knees « Eight Wheeled Adventure

    • Yes! Also, the more you skate, the more you will develop those muscles and your stance will improve. Whenever you’re doing squats or even walking up the stairs, make sure your knees are always over your toes.

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