Are Your Skate Laces Biting?

Inline skater lacing up.
Lacing patterns can cause lace bite. Andy Whale / Stockbyte / Getty Images

Does it feel like your inline skate laces are biting? Even if your skates appear to be a perfect fit, there is always a chance that you may get lace bite. Sometimes called skate bite, lace bite is a severe irritation on a skater's feet that is caused when the pressure of tightened laces causes swelling, a rash, blisters or other irritation on the feet. Lace bite is accompanied by pain on the extensor hallucis tendon along the top of the foot and up the lower leg and can be found among pro, competitive or recreational in any skating discipline. 

What Causes Lace Bite?

Lace bite commonly occurs when a skater's inline, figure or hockey skates are too stiff, not broken in yet, old and inflexible or laced up too tightly. This is usually called “lace bite” since tight skate laces are often the cause. There are many causes for lace bite:

  • Lace bite can be a lacing problem.
  • It can happen if skates are not deep enough for the shape of the feet.
  • Inline skates that are the wrong size can cause lace bite.
  • Cheap skates that have thin tongues with no padding can promote lace bite.

You will be able to recognize a boot problem as the culprit if your skates appear to be laced up properly, but they bulge out in the upper middle and then back to normal at the top. Lace bite can occur on both feet but may only affect one foot, since feet are not always perfectly matched. This happens for several reasons:

  • The skater's feet may be slightly different sizes - affecting the skate boot fit.
  • One foot could have been previously injured creating sensitive areas.
  • On occasion, there may be a flaw in the boot itself that affects one foot more than the other.
  • Sometimes the boots are not flawed, but the boots are just not the right size or model for a skater's needs.

Lace bite and skate bite have different causes, but most athletes are more concerned about the discomfort than the name of the injury. ​

Lace Bite Solutions

In some cases, lace bite injuries can be resolved by just loosening the upper boot skate laces just enough to take tongue pressure off the middle area of the foot while keeping the lower laces tight enough to keep the heel securely seated. There are other things a skater can do to prevent this injury:

  • Soften up your figure or hockey skates by baking them according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Take your skates into a professional skate shop and have them bumped, stretched relined or padded to conform better to your foot.
  • Allow time for your skates to break in. Sometimes lace bite only lasts until the skates are broken in.
  • Replace thin skate laces that may cut into the foot to create the inflammation that comes with lace bite. Use thicker laces, and inline hockey players can consider discontinuing the use of waxed laces that make laces even tighter. 
  • Trying a new skate lacing pattern when you put on your skates.
  • Use bunga pads or other silicone products that help reduce the pressure and pain on the front of the ankle.
  • Replace your tongues with double felt tongues, premium sponge tongues or even lambs wool tongues for more padding.

Allow Time to Heal

Take a break from skating, if needed, to prevent additional inflammation and allow the affected lace bite area to heal. Icing the tendon will reduce inflammation. Contact your primary care physician or sports medicine specialist to see whether a prescription strength anti-inflammatory is needed. If the solutions shown above don't work, the long-term answer may include the purchase of new skates or tongues to relieve tendon pressure. Talk to your coach and skate shop professionals to help find solutions.

Other Sports Injuries

Skating injuries are always lurking on the horizon. Some may be overuse injuries and others may be acute or traumatic. Learn about the things you can do to prevent, identify or get professional treatment for some common inline skating injuries:

Please note this document has not been medically reviewed, and the information may not be medically accurate.