Toe Tie for Hockey Goalies – Wiki

If you’re a goalie you probably have an opinion about your toe tie system.  We have found that most goalies develop a preference and stick with it long term. If you are one of those goalies, you may not know about the different options available today.

In this article I will discuss how a toe tie is designed to work, different variations, and examples.

  • What are toe ties and why should goalies use them?
  • Various degrees of rotation control:
    • Skate lace toe ties
    • Sliding toe bridge
    • Elastic toe ties
    • Shock Cord toe ties
    • Going naked – that is, without any toe tie

 

What are toe ties and why should goalies use them?  

The purpose of a toe tie is to control the rotation of a leg pad around the goalie’s shin.  Toe ties are the system that connects the tip of a goalie pad boot to the goalie’s skate.  In the old days, goalies played a stand up style which does not require leg and hip rotation. Many styles of leg pads had leather straps and buckles on the toe designed to prevent pad rotation! Prior to Tony Esposito bringing the Butterfly hybrid to the game, the thought of sealing the sides of the pad against the ice was not important. Designs were geared towards protecting goalies for stand up saves and “kick saves”.

Don Simmons - Toronto Maple Leafs

Preferences with toe ties have changed over the years with the development of the butterfly style of goaltending. Most goalies now desire pad rotation, although the amount of pad rotation varies from goalie to goalie. Toe tie and pad strapping options have evolved over the years, and are still improving.  By allowing the pad to rotate and sit flush to the ice, goalies will achieve a better seal to prevent pucks sneaking through, as well as maximizing the ability to slide laterally.

How to choose a style:

In this article, you’ll find a range of toe tie options ranging from very little pad rotation to very loose.  Your toe tie decision will probably end up being about about how it feels, making this is a very subjective topic.   Moving on our scale towards a fixed toe tie system will reduce pad rotation, whereas a more loose system will allow for more.

Let’s now talk about the many different toe tie options on the market. We won’t talk about specific brands but will talk about the overall design aspects. We will also discuss our opinions on the advantages and disadvantages of each style.

It’s important to understand what we mean when we talk about a Toe Bridge before we get started. The toe bridge is mounted at the tip of the boot of a pad. Many companies use 2 metal screws with pronged washers on the underside to attach this to the pad. Some brands will sew these in. The toe bridge is used as an attachment point for the many variations of toe ties. 

Sliding Toe Bridge

 

Lace Toe Tie 

Skate lace (or other lace) toe ties paired to a solid block toe bridge were the standard for decades and are still popular for most goalies playing today. Skate lace toe ties work by threading a skate lace through the goalie skate Cowling/Holder, wrapping them around to the top and tying them in a knot.  Many goalies will create slack in this system by tying knots in the lace behind the toe bridge.  If a goalie is diagnosed with pad under rotation issues, most often it’s due to the use of skate lace toe ties.

Goalie Pad Lace Toe Tie

Goalie Pad Lace Toe Tie

Lace toe tie with knots

Advantages – 

  • Mounts to existing block toe bridge
  • Extremely durable and easy to replace if they fail. 
  • Pad is secured very tightly to your skate which is an advantage for goalies that like to “feel” the pad. 

Disadvantages – 

  • Goalies can create stress on their hip, knee, and ankle joints, especially in the RVH/Post Lean position 
  • Higher chance of injury over elastic toe ties when a goalie gets “ran over” by an opposing player (or their own defenseman!). 
  • Most common factor when diagnosing pad under rotation issues

Elastic toe tie 

Elastic toe ties are quickly becoming the primary choice of the modern goaltender.  The flexibility of elastic allows your pad to rotate better than a solid, lace style toe tie. The elastic stretches to allow further pad rotation than lace, then actively re-centers the pad once the goalie gets back to their feet. There are a few variations in the type of elastic used. 

  • flat elastic
  • bungee elastic

Flat Elastic 

Flat elastic toe ties were the first iteration in the market, and have become the least common design. 

Advantages – 

  • Low Profile design
  • Mounts to existing block toe bridge
  • Stretches more than other elastics
  • Inexpensive

Disadvantages – 

  • Elastic portion is not replaceable independent of the rest of the unit 
  • Little to no adjust-ability to dial in the amount of tension you prefer
  • Flat elastic lacks long term durability. Not designed for repeated full-length stretches. Turns into “old underwear” waistband quickly. 

Bungee elastic ties

Bungee elastic, also known as “shock cord”,  is the modern style of elastic used for toe ties, and the most common. There are a few different implementations of this material.  

Bungee elastic tie –  “Knot” design 

This is the design that I personally use, and is the most popular among goalies who are “gear nerds”.  It works by first feeding the shock cord through the standard block toe bridge. Some goalies will tie a knot on the inside of the bridge(I do), and some will Knot (<— who likes puns?)

Advantages

  • Mounts to existing block toe bridge
  • Bungee elastic is extremely durable – designed for repeated full-length stretching
  • “Knot” style of installation allows the bungee section to be easily replaced by the user, independent of the velcro or other hardware
  • Does not require additional toe bridge hardware

Disadvantages 

  • Can be easily damaged/cut if stepped on by skate blades in locker room
  • Plastic cowlings/holders sometimes get minor damage from puck impact, causing sharp raised edges/nicks. This can wear through the outer protective layer of the bungee causing reduced life. Some users may need to do more maintenance to their skates to prolong life of the bungee 
  • Some manufacturers use low cost base materials used for the “loop” that holds the knot. This can result in the hole where the bungee passes through becoming stretched out, allowing the knot to slip through the hole. Users need to be aware of this potential issue and inspect their gear often, or purchase a brand that uses higher end materials. 

 

Shock cord goalie toe tie

Shock cord goalie toe tie

 

Shock cord goalie toe tieShock cord goalie toe tie

 

Bungee elastic tie – “sewn in” design 

This design is more common in the retail setting as it requires less complex installation by the end-user and has a more attractive look. It is very similar to the above knot design, but rather than the end-user installing by fishing the cord through a hole and tying a knot, the cord is sewn to the velcro fasteners, and the entire system must be bolted to the solid toe bridge.  This design frequently comes with a protective sleeve on the cord. 

Advantages

  • Mounts to existing block toe bridge
  • Bungee elastic is very durable
  • No chance of bungee disconnecting from Velcro connection

Disadvantages

  • Requires additional toe bridge hardware for installation 
  • Cannot replace the bungee independently of velcro if damaged– must buy and replace the entire unit
  • lifecycle cost

Hook Design

Another design commonly seen in the retail marketplace is called a ‘hook’, which uses short, looped sections of the bungee, zip ties, hooks, and potentially other methods to connect the system to your pad and skate. 

Advantages 

  • Mounts to existing block toe bridge
  • Very easy to use. These are popular on the youth market 
  • Compact design is safe from players skates in the locker room

Disadvantages

  • Uses proprietary hardware 
  • Additional hardware required to install on toe bridge 
  • Reports of failures from puck impacts (typically from higher skill level users).
  • Limited benefit to joints compared to products that use longer lengths of elastic. Some goalies that like tight toes may consider this an advantage 

Sliding Toe Bridge

These are the outliers in the toe tie market and don’t fit well in any of the other categories that use a solid toe bridge as their mounting point. 

Sliding toe bridges are made of rigid plastic wrapped in synthetic leather, with a 2.5 inch horizontal slot. Skate lace is fished through two plastic washers which allows the connection point of the lace to “slide” along the length of the slot. Sliding toe bridges were the first mainstream design that allowed goaltenders to get rotation out of their pads. 

Advantages-

  • The main advantage of sliding toe bridges is durability. By using skate lace and rigid plastic, these are extremely durable and typically last years before needing replacement. 

Dis-advantages-

  • This type of toe tie does not actively “re-center” the goaltender’s pad on their leg. Some goalies will have to manually twist their pads back to center when getting back to their feet. Much of this depends on how tightly the goalie straps on their pads and the boot channel design of the particular pad. 
  • Requires replacement of standard block toe bridge. If the hardware is rusty, users may have trouble removing old hardware.

Sliding Toe Bridge

Goalie sliding toe bridge

No ties at all!

Some goalies have decided to ditch toe ties altogether. It is my opinion that this option was started by goalies who had pad rotation issues with lace toe ties, broke a tie during a game, and then realized how much better their pad sealed on the ice with no tie at all.

Advantages – 

  • Very cheap! 
  • No additional strain on joints
  • This can be a good option for roller hockey goalies who have issues with toe ties interfering with their skate wheels.  

Disadvantages – 

  • Pad will not re-center on your leg very well
  • Easy to have pad over-rotation issues 

 

At Simmons we will attempt to apply a technical approach to your toe tie setup. 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. 

Disclaimer:  We make and sell our own elastic toe ties and sliding toe bridges.

 

Simmons Elastic Toe Ties

Replacement Toe Bridge

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

If you like this article please check out our other blog posts:

https://simmonshockey.com/gear-nerds-enter-here

 

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