This tutorial covers how to stop on inline skates using a heel brake. It’s one of the easiest stops on rollerblades, but is still technically difficult for newer skaters.
Feet parallel, boots one hand’s breadth apart, wheels leaning outwards slightly.
Ready Position – from side
Ready Position – from front
Draw back the left leg, and ease forwards the right leg (with brake), keeping both the left-right space and the slight lean outwards of each skate constant. How long (forwards-backwards) should the scissor be? Looking from the side, there should be at least no overlap between the heelbrake on the front skate and the toe wheel of the back skate. For taller people this can be slightly longer still to ensure that you get the same leg angles.
Also known as the control phase, the slide is where you first apply the brake to the ground. It’s super important to stay in a good scissor whilst sliding the brake, maintaining your edges accurately and the relative position of each skate and your body.
Ease just the right skate forwards, so that it tips up and the heelbrake contacts the ground gently. This will cause the brake to slide and generate a little friction, but it’s not yet a powerful stop.
The Sit – or how to stop on inline skates using a heel brake
This squeezes pressure onto the heelbrake and generates the actual stopping force you’re looking for.
Be sure to sit at the hips, and at the same time draw back the left leg. Essentially you’re using your body and your leg as a lever to drive the heelbrake into the ground. Note skates leaning very slightly to the outside. Keeping this angle stable and unchanging is important.
The video at the top has a 2 second pause once you’re completely stopped. You wouldn’t use that in real life, but during practice it’s important because it forces you to stop completely and in perfect control and balance. If you get it slightly wrong you won’t be able to hold the pause, and you’ll instantly know you have further improvements to make.
Click here to open the YouTube video How to stop on inline skates using a heel brake in a new window.
Things that tend to go wrong.
- Feel like you’re going to fall, usually backwards.
This comes down to quality of scissor. The two mistakes most people make is not controlling their scissor precisely enough. Letting your scissor go wide almost always results in a loss of balance. Keep your scissor narrow and long enough, and you won’t have this problem.
- Loss of braking power/loss of balance.
This is usually caused by the heelbrake contacting the ground, and skaters allowing their upper body and left skate to creep forwards relative to the heel brake. Effectively it’s a scissor control failure, but caused by the right foot being slowed down by braking. The fix is to hold the left skate back, and to make sure your scissor gets slightly longer as you sit.
- Can’t stay straight.
Often people learning to brake turn off to the right (or left if your brake is on the left foot). Again, this is a loss of scissor precision. Both feet need to be actively and precisely controlled at all times. It’s hard, that’s why we instructors have people paying us for skating lessons. One tip can be to point your toes at something in front of you to help you brake in a straight line.
- Braking doesn’t work when I go faster or downhill.
Again, this is a scissor precision issue. As we go faster, most humans get subconsciously more nervous. This will cause your scissor to degenerate, as the more nervous most of us are, the wider we want our feet. The fix for this problem is to practice, and practice a lot. Most of this practice should involve increasing your speed bit by bit and braking on the flat in safety.
Hills are more problematic, and I wouldn’t suggest attempting any hill until you are completely certain that you can handle it. Any doubt, any doubt at all, and don’t try that hill. I wouldn’t even start on the smallest slope until you can safely and competently brake from any speed you can skate at on the flat. One possible solution is to find a safe small slope with a very shallow gradient and a safe run-out. Start at the bottom, going up only a couple of metres. That way, if it goes wrong, you can just roll out to the flat and you haven’t got the whole hill to roll or crash down.
Getting more advanced
You may have seen many advanced skaters skating without a heelbrake and using other ways to stop. In the early days of your skating career, I would advise you to stick with stopping with the heelbrake. It’s a powerful and useful stop that will free you up, but there are of course disadvantages too.
The heel brake can act as a crutch.
Once skaters get comfortable on one of the weekly streetskates, there will come a time when the heelbrake is so easy to use and so powerful that it’ll strongly dissuade most people from learning to brake in other ways. At some point the time will come when you must push yourself to learn other stops, such as the T-stop. I’ll cover the risks and ways of doing this in another post.
The heelbrake gets in the way for some tricks
Sometimes heel-toe tricks, slalom, etc., will cause you to want to get rid of the heel brake. That’s fine. Just remember to skate within your limits and not go down hills or at high speed unless you have a competent alternate stopping skill under your belt.
Many people quote crossovers as one skill that the heelbrake prevents or makes difficult. I would refute that, and suggest that a brake is not a problem for crossovers.