Updated: Nov 19, 2020
by Mel @troubleon8wheels
Toe stops come in a bewildering array of shapes and sizes. If you're new to roller skating, how do you know what's best for you?
They vary wildly in price too, from £6-£30.
But are they actually functional?
Will these cute new styles fit your skate?
How do you get them to fit your skates?
You've heard of jam plugs and have no clue what they are? Help!
Here are some of your toe-stop related questions answered.
Adjustable toe stops vs Bolt-on toe stops.
Adjustable toe stops usually have a 5/8" metal stem which is thick enough to allow you to choose how far in you screw the toe stop into the toe stop housing in the plate. You need to make sure a fair bit of it is actually screwed in, a couple of twists won't be enough to hold your toe stop securely if you put pressure on it to stop or push off it. Once it is in the housing, you can secure it into place using a locking nut screw or an allen-key lock nut. Usually the lock nut is found in more expensive plates, often aluminium. You can really tighten the lock nut so the toe stop won't twist free. Pivot-spin practise? No problem!
Bolt-on toe stops have a non-adjustable 5/16" bolt through the centre which screws all the way in to the plate. This type of toe stop can either be on or off, you cannot adjust how far in or out it sits using the bolt. You can get bolt on toe stops of different sizes though.
It is generally considered that an adjustable toe-stop indicates a higher quality roller skate, as adjusting your toe stop is often something you usually want to do as you improve. Many people like to have their toe stop sitting lower for secure outdoor stops or at the skatepark, but higher indoors. Bolt on toe stops can be made of rubber or a plastic compound. A solid rubber toe stop is preferable, as you can stop securely, without worrying that the toe stop will crack if you apply uneven pressure to it. (For example, dragging your toe stop behind you.)
Edit: CIB Yorkshire admin Ellie suggests a short to mid length stem is safest for the skatepark as long stem are easy to trip over.
Short or long stem?
This is a matter or personal preference, which will develop with experience. Standard toe stops are also called long stem. These allow the toe stop to sit lower to the ground, while still being securely held within the toe stop housing on the plate. You need about half to two-thirds of the toe stop to be screwed into the plate for it to be secure. If you are not used to roller skating without a toe stop, we suggest you stick with long /standard toe stop lengths.
Short toe stops are used by skaters who have developed balance more on their toes. Short stem toe stops need to be screwed pretty much all the way in to be secure. Having your toe stop set further away from the ground allows a greater angle to lift your heel before your toe stop touches the ground. Some movements are easier with this angle of clearance. Of course, you can put a short toe stop into your skates at any time, and just learn how it feels and adapt, but expect to fall over while you get used to it!
Short Stem Adjustable Toe Stops.
Here is a selection of short-stem toe stops.
L - R: Moxi brake petal, Twinkle toes, Chaya cherry bomb, Grindstone Heartstopper, Gumball 2.0
You can probably see that the length of the metal part of the toe stop (the stem) is about the same for all of the above toe stops. However, the thickness of the rubber part of the toe stop is not the same. The Moxi brake petal sits higher than the rest, so although they are a short stem toe stop, in reality, they will be closer to a standard one. The Twinkle Toe has a mid-length stem, between short and long.
The material and shape affect the toe stop grip. Having skated in all of these toe stops, it is my opinion that natural rubber is the grippiest! Natural rubber can still be coloured though. A large flat surface area also makes stopping quickly on your toe stop easier.
However, depending where you skate and how hard you press on your toes will depend how quickly you wear through these too. Remember you can swap toe stops over in your skates so they wear evenly, as we all have a dominant leg. A smooth indoor surface will see much less wear on your toe stop than a rough tarmac hill!
Long Stem Adjustable Toe Stops.
L-R: Gumball 2.0, Moxi Brake Petal, Grindstone Heartstopper, Powerdyne
I threw the Moxi brake petal into this selection just for comparison.
Non-Adjustable toe stops
L-R Rubber dance plugs, Short Bolt on toe stops, regular bolt on toe stops.
The great thing about non-adjustable toe stops is that replacing or upgrading your gear is much cheaper than with adjustable types!
Will these toe stops fit my skates?
We have established that you need to know if you have 5/8" or 5/16" toe stops, and a quick look at the front of your skates should give you a clue.
With adjustable toe stops though, you also need to know if you have imperial or metric threads. Yes, it makes a slight difference.
The majority of manufacturers use imperial threads, so you can use any of the toe stops with these skates. Moxi, Moonlight, Luna and Chaya all use imperial threads. Rookie use metric. You can use imperial threads in a metric housing, but the reverse isn't true. You will struggle to get metric threads into imperial housing, we suggest you don't ever force something to fit, as you can damage the threads, known as cross-threading. We have tested our toe stops in Rookie skates to make sure they fit. Rookie also make their own coloured toe stops to fit their skates.
How do I get my toe stop to stop coming loose?
I'm assuming you are talking about your 5/8" adjustable toe stop that had a locking nut and collar (orange and pink skates) rather than an Allen key lock nut (floss skates). The lock nut you just crank really tight and your toe stop won't come loose.
You need a tool to adjust that lock nut, and there are a few available. However, I prefer to use an adjustable wrench from any DIY shop, as the long handle means I can really make it much tighter than a short handle on most skate tools (law of levers is all.)
It's a good idea to check your toe stops before you skate though, just as you would test your brakes if you're heading out on a bike.
How do I know when to change my toe stops?
Part of your regular maintenance schedule should include checking your toe stops are secure and the wear is even.
You can rotate toe stops if they wear unevenly, and when one side is really worn down, switch the left and right toe stops. We all have a dominant side, so the toe stops will wear unevenly.
With 5/8" adjustable toe-stops, it's time to change them when you can see the metal stem!
With 5/16" non-adjustable toe stops, it's time to change them if they are cracked or split. Also check your bolt has not been bent.
Why are some toe stops so expensive?
It's to do with the design process and the size of the company. Grindstone and Rollerstuff who make the heart stoppers and twinkle toes respectively, are both one-woman companies. They have designed, sourced the raw materials, tested prototypes, packaged and run their own websites sending out these products. Small manufacturing runs are much less cost effective than large ones. They are also imported to the UK, which means they've had extra expenses of costly shipping and customs to enter the UK. We stock them because we support these small businesses. Chelsea and Abbey are amazing skaters themselves and by supporting their businesses we are supporting the skate community.
The black Powerdyne toe stops and Rookie toe stops are mass produced in much larger batches, and are a standard rounded design which makes them much cheaper.
What are jam plugs?
Also called dance plugs, they are small nylon acrylic or rubber plugs than protect your plate and the floor from damage.
They're available in a variety of sizes and shapes, are available for 5/16" and 5/8" toe stops and are pretty cheap.
If you are fitting a jam plug to your plate no toe stop lock screw is needed. The same plugs will also fit both metric and imperial plates. The nylon will not damage your plate in the way metal will.
This picture shows standard jam plugs next to a DiscoPlug. When skating with jam plugs for the first time, lots of people report that they didn't realise how much they relied on their toe stops and consequently overbalanced, as the toe stop is not there. The DiscoPlug is designed to fill the gap between regular toe stop and jam plug. It is roughly the same size as a toe stop and has a short stem, but is hard. If you try to stop using this, it will not do that, it will slide. For that reason, they are not recommended for use outside.
They are available for metric and imperial thread types.
Regular jam plugs can have a rounded or pointed shape. These don't really make a difference to your skating, as you don't really use it to skate or stop.
Of course, you can simply take your toe stop out and skate without it if they really start to get in your way. We recommend that you use a jam plug though, as if you fall, your plate can scratch the floor more easily, which in turn can damage your plate. Some skating rinks will not allow you to skate if you have nothing in the toe stop housing.
Ultimately, you need to just skate. Get out there (or in your kitchen) and get your wheels on. You'll only find out what style of skating you enjoy by spending time on your wheels. Once you know, it will make equipment choices much easier as you will start to look for features associated with this type of skating.
My personal choice
I learned to roller skate without using toe stops and had to learn how to use them later! Due to this, I feel very comfortable with jam plugs and short stem toe stops.
I have found that short stem toe stops allow me all the movement I can handle and I don't trip over them when I'm skating outside. Whenever I test new roller skates that have factory set toe stops though, I always end up tripping over them as they are set much lower than I'm used to!
I'm also really lucky as I have two pairs of skates so I have a pair for dancing and a pair for outdoor and skate park use.
I tried the Grindstone heartstoppers and in early versions of this toe stop, the hearts used to twist quite a lot, but the design has been modified and this doesn't happen so much now. Actually they still work whatever orientation they are in, I have tested them pretty thoroughly! The short stem Grindstone stoppers are great, I skate outside a lot and have found them pretty durable.
Now I'm trying out the Twinkle Toes. It is much less obvious if they are twisting and although the contact area is fairly small due to the tapered shape, rather than the flat surface of other toe stops, I really like them so far. There is a higher natural rubber content in them too, so they are grippier.
I have also tested DiscoPlugz, but really need to try these out in a rink space as I reckon there could be some cool slides! Even when doing crazy legs and clipping the floor, I didn't trip with them in, which I would have done with a regular toe stop.
Jam plugs are my favourite skate plug though, and I feel the most free with these in. I am comfortable and confident enough to skate outdoors with jam plugs, providing I know the route and it's dry!
Hopefully you found this useful but if you have any other questions, please comment below and I'll edit them into the blog post.