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How to stop on Inline Skates


Using a Heel brake

March 2002

 Learning to stop with a heel brake is relatively easy when you're shown how to do it properly, and most people should be able to stop confidently within a couple of weeks with sufficient practice.  Unfortunately if there's no-one to show you how, learning this simple stop can be quite difficult as the technique isn't intuitive.  It's all about technique and not about strength.

You'll find that being able to stop quickly and confidently will do wonders for your enjoyment of skating.  Not being able to stop when you urgently need to can be one of the more terrifying experiences for a skater.  If you're a new skater don't listen to foolish skaters who will tell you that you don't need the heel brake.  Sure, you don't need the heel brake to be able to stop, but it's by far the easiest and most powerful way to stop on inline skates.

Before you start.

If you're wanting to learn how to stop, it's probably quite likely that you're a newer skater, so I'd advise you to get proper instruction from a certified instructor.  Learning with an instructor tends to make learning much easier, and will help to boost your confidence more quickly.

Next, be sure to wear all the recommended protective gear.  Falling on tarmac hurts!  You should be wearing an approved helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards. Find a smooth flat and quiet area on which to practice.  This will make it easier to learn in peace.  The heel brake should be done in a straight line, so a good tip is to find a line marking on the road surface and do each of the steps while gliding along next to this line.


Step 1 - Ready position

This is a basic position, and is used as the starting point for many other skating manoeuvres.  Skate along at a comfortable, but not slow, speed, and then:

  • Keep your skates shoulder width (or slightly less) apart and parallel to each other.
  • Bend your knees so that they are vertically above your toes - you shouldn't be able see your toes as they should be covered by your knee pads.  At first you may find that this much bend is enough to cause your thighs to burn quickly.  Persist - your thighs will get stronger, and just remember that the more bent your knees are the less distance you have to fall.  Anyway, bent knees will significantly increase your stability, and thus make you less likely to fall.
  • Keep an equal amount of weight on both legs.
  • Hold your arms out in front of you.

 

 Step 1 - the ready position from the front.  Note how Asha's feet are shoulder width, or slightly less, apart.  Her skates are also vertical - i.e. not leaning in or out.
 Step 1 - the ready position from the side.  Note the knee bend - keep your knees over your toes, and your back straight and upright.

Step 2 - Scissor

Another basic position.   It's important to master these techniques if you haven't already, as they are the start of many of the more advanced moves and tricks that you'll learn later.

You need to scissor your braking leg in order to get it further in front.  Remember that when you actually start braking, your weight is going to transfer forwards, so scissoring will stop you falling on your face.

  • Push your brake skate forward and the other skate a little back.  This would usually be your right skate, but some skates have a heel brake on both sides, or on the left as some people prefer to brake with their left foot.
  • Your front skate should be only slightly in front of your rear skate - the brake pad should be just in front of the front wheel of your rear skate.
  • Keep most of your weight on the rear leg.  When you're practicing you can check this by trying to tap the toe wheel of your front skate on the ground.  If you can't tap it easily you've probably got too much weight on the front leg.
  • Don't lift the toe at this stage.  It's more important to get the scissor stable and under control.
  • Slightly narrow the distance between your skates, to perhaps the width of one fist between your skates.

 

Step 2 - Scissor. 

Step 3 - Slide

  • Prepare to brake by lifting the toe of your front skate, but you're not actually going to brake just yet.
  • The aim is to get the brake brushing the ground, but softly enough that only a little braking friction is generated.
  • Be sure to keep your feet pointed straight ahead, your knees bent, and your back straight.

 

Don't use your toes to lift the toe of your skate.  It's hard to bend your skate at the cuff, and you'll find it much easier to drop your hips slightly and push your foot down and forwards to bring the brake down onto the road surface.  That way you'll be keeping the skate boot and cuff at the same angle relative to each other, and not using your relatively weak shin muscles to lift the skate toe.

Step 3 - Lift the toe

Step 4 - Sit

  • Sit down gently by further bending your rear leg.  I once heard an American instructor describe this motion by telling a student to pretend he/she was about to sit on an imaginary toilet.  Pretty funny, but also a very apt way to describe this.
  • Do this gently and slowly the first few times else you may be surprised at how powerfully your brake engages!
  • The effect of sitting down will be to smoothly engage your heel brake, which will quickly slow you down.
  • Ease on the sitting down motion until you're stopping quickly, and then maintain that position until you've come to a complete halt.  Only then step out of the braking position and you'll have made a successful heel brake stop.
  • Remember that your brake needs to have quite a lot of force applied to it to generate enough friction to stop you.  That's why these four steps are used to ensure that you easily generate enough stopping power with your weight, and that it all happens under control using correct technique.
  • Think of squashing a bug under your healbrake.
  • Be sure you keep your front foot in the same position relative to your rear foot and body.  Don't let it slip backwards under the braking pressure, but equally don't let it go forwards.
  • Be sure to keep your feet pointing in the same direction.
  • You should do the entire stop in a straight line.  Once you're good at the stop, you'll find it possible and easy to stop while turning or on rough surfaces, but leave those for now.
  • Remember that your body should stay mostly upright.  You're going to have to lean slightly to perform this step, but your back should be as straight and as upright as possible.

 

This step is the only one that will actually stop you - all the previous steps are preparatory moves.

Step 4 - Brake.  This is done by sitting down and thus putting pressure into the heal brake.

Putting it all together

  • Be sure to start out doing each step slowly, carefully, and CORRECTLY.  This is the only way to ensure that your muscles and nerves learn the correct movements properly.  Unlearning the wrong movements takes much longer than making sure you have them right in the first place.  Speed and stopping power will come as you gain confidence and familiarity.
  • Mentally think of Step 1: ready position, Step 2: scissor, Step 3: engage brake, and Step 4: sit down each time you go through the stopping process.  After you've done a lot of stops over a few weeks you should find that the whole process comes much more naturally.
  • Practice the stop every time you go out skating.

 

Step 1: Ready position Step 2: Scissor Step 3: Slide Step 4: Sit down

Once you have the stop down pat, try the following more advanced steps:

  • Smooth out the transitions between each step, and do them a little more quickly.  Don't skip any though, else it's likely to go wrong.
  • Increasing the braking force by sitting down more quickly on step 4, and eventually by shoving your front foot down and forwards into the ground.  Remember it's much more effective and easier to use your weight to push the brake into the ground rather than your calf and thigh muscles.
  • Together with this, make a chalk mark on your practice surface and try to stop before that mark.  You'll soon find yourself able to skate faster and faster, and still be able to stop before the mark.
  • Try out stopping on some rougher surfaces, such as rough tarmac, paving slabs, tiles, etc.  Be careful about your brake juddering or catching, but you'll be amazed at how easy it is to stop on these non-ideal surfaces.
  • See if you can make that brake pad screech and even smoke!

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