Toe Ties and Pad Rotation

This article is a follow up to my previous discussion about toe ties.  Toe ties dictate how much your pad is able to rotate around your leg when you go into a butterfly position, and how quickly it comes back to straight when you stand up.  In this article I’m going to talk about pad rotation.

I will discuss:

  • What proper rotation looks like
  • Over rotation
  • Under Rotation

When a goalie goes down into the butterfly position, it’s desirable for the pad to rotate forward slightly around the goalie’s shin until it lands flush to the ice.  This creates a nice landing pad for the goalie’s knee, seals the pad to the ice and if setup correctly insures that the toe is also square and flush to the ice surface.  When a goalie gets back up to his or her feet, the pads should come back to being square to the goalie’s leg.  Goalies with more flexibility typically require less pad rotation on their leg to get the best seal on the ice, whereas many older goalies require their pads to rotate more in relation to their shin to achieve this perfect seal.

There are a number of factors that go into pad rotation.  If you ask coaches, they’ll probably tell you that your technique has a lot to do with it.  Our article on toe ties should help give some background on how toe ties play a role, but the pad itself, boot channel and how you strap your pads can all have an effect.

What proper rotation looks like

The image below shows the goalie’s pad flush against the ice even though there is a gap between his skate and the boot channel.  The pad face is perpendicular to the ice.  If his toe ties, heel strap or boot channel were any more restrictive he may not have made this particular save.


Over rotation

Over rotation is when the goalie pad twists too far in relation to the ice surface. This can sometimes cause the pad to get “stuck” in this position and not return to center on its own.  Occasionally this will cause a goalies knee to fall off the knee block and hit the ice.  When a goalies pad over rotates, it can create gaps for the puck to sneak through around the toe and under the pad. This is most common for goalies that wear their pads very loose, and those that wear very loose toe ties. It is easily identified in scramble plays or when a goalie is extended out as seen below.  Over rotation is often related in some way to toe ties. 

Pad Over Rotation

Under rotation

Under rotation is when a goalies pads do not rotate enough in relation to the ice surface to get that perfect seal along the ice. This can cause poor 5-hole coverage as well as gaps between the pad and the ice near the boot break due to the pads not sealing on the ice. This is the most common cause of pre-mature pad wear on stiffer pads that are not destined to be worn in this manner.  Pads can get wear spots along the leading edge, and will often develop a “twist” to the core over time. Under rotation is the more common scenario of the two rotation issues especially in older goalies with reduced hip flexibility. Some goalies who have been wearing soft pads for decades switch to a pad with a rigid core, but don’t adjust their strapping, boot strap or toe ties to maximize the benefits of the newer design.  This will often result in a poor seal along the ice as well as decreased sliding abilities. 

Pad Under Rotation





In this video, as Smith gets ran over, his left pad gets stuck underneath him and spins his leg. With his toe tied securely to the boot of his pad, there is no hope for his leg as his pad acts like a lever and twists.

Mike Smith toe tie


At Simmons we will attempt to apply a technical approach to your setup, focusing on gear. However, we understand that every goalie has a personal preference based on their experience.  As pad designs change, you improve as a goalie or you simply get older, your needs will change.  Gear won’t make up for a lack of skill.  On the other hand, we still see goals slip under a goalie’s pad even at the NHL level.  When I see that, I can’t help but think of gear tweaks that would help.  If you found this article helpful, please check out our Toe Ties Wiki.


Simmons Elastic Toe Ties

Thank you for reading our article. If you have any questions or comments please send us an email to or call us.  We’re here to help!

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