In November 2013, I broke my ankle during a roller derby scrim session. As far as roller derby injuries go, it was pretty pathetic. I slid into a doorframe and broke my fibula in just one place; a ‘perfect’ break that nearly didn’t show up on the x-ray. On its own it would have been fairly simple to come back from, but it was my second break on the same ankle – the first one saw me break in 4 places.
So, I returned to roller derby with a glass ankle and the knowledge that I would need to have some decent protection on my pins – not only to protect my delicate ankle, but also my delicate frame of mind. Returning to skating with The Fear totally sucks; being afraid of being kicked or landing on your injury site can totally impact on getting back into skills and contact, so having a protective barrier does a lot for a positive attitude and progression.
I dug out my old shinpads from my futsal days, and they were great…for my shins! The problem was that the socks they’re attached to have zero protection, so I still felt vulnerable. They also felt bulky and looked pretty damn fugly to be honest! I needed something else.
I chatted to a few other injured skaters in the derby community, and many of them recommended the Armour Flex ankle guards
. I contacted them and CEO Robert Hughes very kindly sent me some to try out. The packs consists of two compression stirrup socks and two guards. Only one size is available, but that’s not a problem as you trim them to fit.
Once you’ve cut them to size, you put on the compression sock and the guard attaches to the sock thanks to the magic that is velcro. You can then smooth it out and cover it with your regular sock. So, what did I think of the Armour Flex?
1. IT OFFERS NO SUPPORT
This is, in my opinion, a good thing. I didn’t want to get back on skates and rely on an ankle support rather than building my body back to strength (check out Treble’s blog on how to get bullet proof ankles
for roller derby), so the ankle guards offer protection without limiting my own strength. I totally get that a lot of skaters need support for various injuries, so you may need to add a support or try something else – whatever works best for you. Don’t forget as well that the Armour Flex isn’t just for athletes who have already been injured – they’re intended to protect you from injury too.
2. THESE GUARDS WORK
I’m yet to take a full on POW to the ankle from another skater’s wheels whilst wearing the guards, but I can assure you these are pretty well tested – Treble and my teamies have done the classic knocking on guards to see how firm they are and I could barely feel a thing! I’ve also had a couple of falls and it’s not hurt a bit. Injury prevention is something we should all embrace. I’m not saying these guards will definitely stop you from breaking, but the Armour Flex works really hard to protect against severe bruising, cuts and contusions, strained ligaments and fractures, so well worth considering.
Once they’re on and secure, I forget that they’re there, which is amazing. They’re comfortable and move with me. I wear Bonts so this may vary from skater to skater. A really pleasant surprise was that I couldn’t feel the velcro through the sock at all – I really thought this would be the case!
3. SOCKS DILEMMA!
I didn’t wear socks over the top of the guards, as I was concerned I would get way too hot (because pads and helmet and clothes isn’t hot enough already). But, compared to my previous shinpads, it’s really not too bad. I found that the guards didn’t entirely stay in place without the socks on top, but only at the back (see my pics). So, socks on top is deffo the way forward, or maybe some tape if that ain’t your jam.
I’m used to wearing football/long sports socks when skating, so the compression socks are cool. I also found the agony in my shins during warm up is pretty much gone with Armour Flex, so that’s obviously a bonus! I’m not a massive fan of the stirrup sock to be honest, but totally get why the AF crew chose it when it’s intended to have another sock on top.
4. BUT WHAT ABOUT MY SHINS?
My injury gave me a new perspective about looking after myself on the track. I never wanted to wear shinpads because I thought they’d be too bulky/hot/make me look like a wuss (like seriously, why do we still give a funk what people think of us or how we look!?) but now I’d like as much protection as I can get thank you very much! The Armour Flex ankle guards are ace, so my next job is to find out if they work with the shin guards too – yes, Armour Flex have a range of protective gear on the go; ankle guards, shin guards, impact shorts and metatarsal guards. If the different guards complement each other, I will be one very happy skater!