Help! (Q & A)

From time to time we get questions from readers, either through comments on web pages here or on Facebook. Here we lay out some questions and invite you to respond. We may edit questions or answers to make them easier to read. (That is, we may correct typos, capitalize words that should have capital letters, that sort of thing.)

Ankle trouble

Here’s our first question in this new format.

So I’m a 40 year old skier and tried my first snowboard lesson last week. It was fun but tiring and knees hurt from falling over all the time. (I now have full set of pads). My question is that I have a bad left ankle (from years of Tae Kwon Do kicking), When my left leg (regular) is strapped in, leaning heel edge is fine but leaning toe edge puts a lot of pressure on my tendon even with an ankle strap. I tried the goofy setup and I don’t get pain but it feels weird and can’t control the board, even when I slide around doing the first stage of learning to snowboard. Should I just stick with goofy? I don’t think the switch is as bad as swapping writing right hand to left hand.

Liz from the UK has has this to say:

A 47 year old snowboarder writes … as you become a better and better at snowboarding, you’ll be using your back (right) foot a lot more to execute turns (and you’ll also be putting a lot of weight on it when riding in powder)  and thus, this is the foot that which will come under the greatest stress.  So it might  make sense not to go goofy as your ‘bad’  left foot may not be up to the abuse that a goofy set-up will give you in the long term.

Which brings us on to your current problem …Have you addressed the angle of your left foot on the board?  It might make sense to play around with your  set-up +/- 10% at a time.  It may be that the generic ‘shop’ settings don’t work for you.  Also, if you can work out *what* is causing the pressure (bindings? boots?) it makes sense to adjust or change those.  Not all bindings are the same, nor all boots.  If your bindings are adjustable, see if you can move the straps up or down a notch.  Also, if you’re in a very soft (or very stiff) boots, it might be worth swapping round to see what happens.

Good luck!  I moved from skiing to boarding 14 years ago due to knee problems and have never looked back.  Go for it!

“Glemark” responds:

I broke the ball joint in my left foot almost 15 yrs ago – regular stance so front foot. You shouldn’t learn to ride goofy — instead if you’re serious about becoming a snowboarder, get professionally made orthotics made (most ski resort shops do both ski and snowboard boots) then make sure you’re wearing boots that offer you support that doesn’t add to your ankle pain. I’ve found 32 boots are the best for me. I like mid-support, so not light-support park boots with lots of flex or rigid stiff all-mountain boots. I suggest you try different types to see what’s best for you. Finally be all year active to buildup the strength of your ankles. For me that’s mountain biking; it keeps me shredding da gnar.

The original snowboarder, who lives in Finland (yes, we’re writing from the worldwide headquarters of Grays on Trays), writes in:

Hey, so nice to get some feedback so fast !

I’ll take all that into consideration, the board I am using is something from the ski hire centre. I Have a very low budget so maybe I should go with something like this combo.

It looks ok in the shop and maybe this would  be best for me so I can adjust everything myself rather than borrow a different board and bindings every time. If I need new, I can always save for them.

Jill has this to say:

I agree with everyone above.  Also, riding switch does feel weird, and is necessary in order to become a better snowboarder, but save this for when your ankle is better.  I try to always do at least one run riding switch.  As for the structural issue with your ankle, I would strongly recommend a lot of ankle exercises and even some at-home physical therapy. You can look up ankle strengthening ‘workouts’ on YouTube, etc. As long as you strength train (which I highly recommend full body for us “grays”) and stretch really well, using both heat and cold therapy before your ride days, and stretch in between runs and especially on a break at the lodge, you should be able to train that ankle to deal with what it needs to do.  I am a massage therapist and I’ve experienced a few injuries while learning to snowboard.  I have found that off-slope training and aerobics are cardinal in overcoming many injuries— new and old ones! The boots have to be the right fit, size and type for you — very important —  make sure you aren’t able to lift your heel on the boot.  Good luck and I wish you many happy runs!

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One Response to Help! (Q & A)

  1. Dave says:

    Make sure your stance width is right. Maybe set it a little wider. If too narrow, you will put a strain on your ankles. Also, adjust the high back to see what’s more comfortable. Ensure your heels stay in the bottom of your boot’s toe side. Also just lean, don’t try to raise your heels to bring up the back edge when ur carving. You probably want to go with a lower angle, more neutral stance to reduce strain, as mentioned. Ride the way you slide across the kitchen floor in socks.

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