Friday, February 5, 2010

195s: First Impressions

There’s just something about getting new things that replace the old and worn out things, especially when those things are things we use on a near daily basis. Last night I popped the cherry on my new 195s, and by the end of practice I didn’t want to take them off.

When I was younger the purchasing of new basketball shoes or a new softball glove or a new tennis racket was synonymous with the beginning of that year’s sport season. Like back-to-school shopping for clothes and shoes, back-to-sport shopping is just what we did. However, although I spent four years playing varsity tennis, I never got quite as into tennis rackets as I have roller skates. Chalk it up to being older and wiser or maybe just caring more about derby than I ever did tennis. Getting new skates isn’t something I’m able to afford on an annual basis, so when I do I’m appreciative. Believe me when I tell you that getting new skates RULES.

Several months ago when I was in PT for my severely sprained ankle, I had many conversations about my feet and their position in shoes and skates. I explained the cramping on the top of my feet to my therapist, and she in turn asked me about my skate boots. Turns out, she thought, the “high top” or high rise of my skate boot paired with the ankle strap limits my full range of motion. Muscles compensate, and I get foot cramps. It was then that I began contemplating the 195s.

Having shared my contemplations with my teammate and co-owner of Black Eyed Susan Skate Shop, Mibbs, she contacted me when the 195 floor models went on sale (the ones people try on when getting fitted). They had my size, and you know what comes next – I had to buy them. After months of discussion about plates and how they impact balance and support weight, I decided not to fuck with a good thing and bought another pair of Power Dyne DynaPros to have mounted on the 195s. I know many people don’t like the DynaPros, but opinions are like assholes, ya know? They work for me and that’s what matters.

In case you’re not familiar with 195s, they are low-cut boots (like a shoe) without a heel. They’re leather inside and out, and the inside of the tongue is lined with sheepskin (it’s furry).

Low Cut
I’ve heard a lot of strong opinions about the cut of these boots. The naysayers reject them because they claim the low-top provides no ankle support. In my opinion, high-top boots don’t actually provide ankle support either. I’ve seen plenty of girls roll their ankles in high-top boots. I’ve rolled my ankles in high-top boots. The low-cut of the boot is, however, something to get used to.

Stride: On my first few laps around the rink I was hyper aware of my inside ankle, and I noticed my stride was awkward, to say the least – I wasn’t making a full stride with my inside leg. However, once I was aware of this, I easily corrected it and continued skating with full strides for the rest of the practice.

Cutting: I think the low cut of the boot does enable a greater range of motion, because cutting seemed quicker and easier on these skates. **It bears mention that I was NOT skating on the Heartless wheels – I put on my old Witchdoctors, because I wanted to eliminate too many different variables until I feel like I’m getting the hang of the new boot.**

Stopping: Stopping’s a bit weird. The first few times I plow stopped quickly, I thought my feet were going to come right out of my laced-up skates – a very weird feeling. I never noticed how much I rely on my skate boot to help me do all different types of stops until last night. I apparently would use the friction of the high-top to help me slow down. Muscle control becomes a lot more important now.

Running: Duck walking to a sprint felt no different on these boots than it did in my old boots. If anything, it was easier.

Dropped Heel
One thing I hadn’t considered much prior to buying the 195s (and one thing I underestimated even after I considered it) is their lack of a heel. Going from heeled skates, even ones that are a mere 1/8 inch, to skates with no heel is, indeed, a bit tricky. Dropping your heel any amount shifts your center of gravity and how you hold yourself on skates, so for the 1st hour last night I felt as if it was the first time I had put on roller skates in years – a quite unsettling feeling for someone who hasn’t felt off-balance for 4+ years. By the end of the night, however, I had gotten used to the heel drop, and I must say that I think I’m really going to like skating like this. I feel as if my center of gravity is lowered and some pressure has been released in my lower back. What I’m going to have to pay close attention to is adequately stretching my calves prior to putting on the skates. Otherwise, I can see my legs being tight and shaky until I’m warmed up.

Skate Materials
After several years of being unable to pull clean socks from my drawer that don’t have remnants of the latex bullshit from the underside of the tongue on the 125s, I’m looking forward to the sheepskin lining that the tongue on the 195s have. I’ve only skated in them once, but the tongues never slipped. The sheepskin seems to do an excellent job gripping, so the tongue stays in place.

The boots themselves are made from double-lined leather, with nice soft leather on the interior of the boot, a stiff and effective arch support appropriately placed in between the leather, and a foot bed with the best insole I’ve seen yet on any skate boot. The 195s are more narrow than other styles, which is great for me, because I have a very narrow heel that shifts back and forth in most shoes I own and in every pair of skates I’ve owned up until now.

I was proactive in breaking in the boots at the heel – a location known for causing nasty blisters. At the advice of Mibbs, I rubbed a tiny amount of Vaseline into the inside of the heel and then rubbed the leather back and forth with a butter knife until the leather was no longer stiff but instead pliable. Last night I found several other spots in the boot I need to do this – the arch of my right foot and the pinky toe area of my right foot.

I typically wear both blister socks and the calf-high athletic socks from American Apparel. That combo worked well to fend off blisters in my 125s, but proves to be way too much bulk for the new skates. After a few laps I ripped off my ankle brace and the American Apparel socks, leaving the blister socks on, and changed into my super low, super thin athletic socks I wear for running, which seemed to work well.

In conclusion (hello?! Am I in the 4th grade here?), I think I’m really going to like these boots. It’s going to take me a while to see exactly how I want them laced (where they should be tight, loose, etc), but that’s the case for any pair of skates. Once I’m used to these babies, I’m going to throw the Heartless Creepers on them, and then so help me dog, I’m going to be cutting across the track like a bat out of hell!


Phoenix177 said...

I don't need new skates, but when I do I thought I'd settled on the 195's; my only concern now is that you've mentioned they're that through the length of the boot? I have stupidly wide feet and am going to need as much space in the toe-box as is humanly possible! My 265's are custom EE width and even then they're still too tight/stretched over my feet!

Happy Skating :)
Phoenix in Flames
Romsey Town Rollerbillies (UK)

Cindy Lop-her said...

They ARE narrow the whole length of the boot, but should be fine if you get long enough laces. The toe opens up, so you could leave the first 2 eyes unlaced and start on the 3rd for comfort... Can you try them on somewhere before buying? Happy skating to YOU!!! :)

eRacer X said...

Interesting comment on boots not providing ankle support... I've always been scared to go to a low rise boot (shoe?) because I was worried my ankles would snap. I'm hoping to try these on/out somewhere.. I'm thinking the manueverability would really help me.

Haren Mahkeester said...

I'm still on my first pair of skates (R 3's) and have been thinking of upgrading, so thank you so much for this review! I was going to go with 265's, but now I need to do more research and visit the local(6hr drive away) skate shop! lol

Sinead O'Clobber said...

Cool! Getting new stuff rocks! I've got new wheels, bearings, and knee pads that I am going to try out Monday even though technically I have a few weeks left of "rest."

Lexi said...

hey cindy- i really like your blog! you should consider making a Tumblr and just RSS your Blogspot posts there so more derby people can read this!


Anonymous said...

great input, thanks for sharing! Last year this time I bought the new Minx... I love them, but I am really fighting with the arches (because I think my own feet have fallen arches or something?) and I can't keep the tongue of the Minx where it belongs... As much as I love the comfort of the Minx boot, I'm thinking I might have to look into a flatter soled boot. Wondering if you ran into other people having similar problems?

Judy Gloom said...

i have been playing derby for six years, and skated almost four years in 195s. i LOVED the maneuverability, but i also had three ankle rolls (the last, in jan. 2008, was grade three -- took me out for 6 months). i also had issues with boot occasionally flying off my foot. lace them tight (i recommend ladder style).