Monday, 3 August 2015

Let's jam!

This my first, official, Roller Derby related tutorial, but it could, technically, be Project Skate part 2. You can see Part 1 here...

I’m currently going through a Fresh Meat training programme and I found, when we moved onto to impact based drills, that my heels were really slipping around in my skates.  I had heard people in the roller derby community talking about the benefits of Jam Straps (they pull your foot into the skate, essentially decreasing the weight), so I considered getting some.  However, while watching a review on Youtube, I realised that they are not all that difficult to make.  The deciding factor would be the cost: I would only make these if the cost was reasonably lower than buying them: the retail price is around £21.00, so I was aiming for a total cost of at least under £15.00.

I discovered that using some items that were already made, rather than, for example, buying strapping velcro by the metre, reduced the cost of raw materials substantially.  So I went ahead. If you want to follow me, here’s what you’ll need:

1 pair of nylon toe straps (you can get these from most places that sell cycling equipment)
2 velcro cinch straps (like the ones here)
4 D rings (make sure they are wide enough on the flat side to accommodate the velcro)
Strong adhesive (I used  Evostick impact) - this is optional, but I found it made the process easier.
Sewing machine, or really strong hand sewing needles
Matching or contrasting thread
A lighter or some matches (this really is essential)

This is actually a really fast project to put together…

I began by marking on my skates where I wanted the D rings to sit (remember, the velcro will determine the tension over the bridge of the foot, so there is no need to have the D rings sitting close to the laces) and then used some yarn to measure the distances under the arch and around the back of the heel.  

Placing the two pieces of yarn alongside the toe strap, I marked, with chalk, the point where I wanted to make the cut.  Once the cut was made, I used a lighter to singe the raw edges in order to prevent fraying (and this kind of nylon frays at lightning speed, which is why you really shouldn’t skip this step.) This was repeated with the second strap. 

The next step is something I used to make the sewing easier: if you have an industrial machine, or a single-width zipper foot, you may not need to do this.

Starting with the longer piece, I folded the nylon over the curved part of the D ring and used the crease as a guide for where I needed to add the impact glue.  I added a little bit of glue to each of the facing sides, making sure that they would meet when closed together, and allowed the glue to air dry (this really only takes a few minutes).

Once the glue was tacky to the touch, I wrapped the nylon back around the D ring and applied reasonable pressure with my fingers. I repeated this process for the other end of the strap. Nylon secured, it was time to add a few stitches.

I actually hand cranked the machine in order to have more control and ensure that I was sewing through all layers.

The entire process was repeated with the shorter strap, which meant that all that was left was the sizing of the velcro.

I hooked the nylon straps around the skate (the shorter strap under the plate, the longer one behind the heel) then took the velcro strap and attached it across the top of the skate.  Like the branded ‘jam strap’, I decided not to sew the velcro onto one end, in order to provide more flexibility in tightness options.

Once I decided I had enough of an overlap, I trimmed the excess velcro, and had my first working ‘jam strap’.  I removed the velcro completely and used it as a template for the second strap.

BAM! Homemade ‘Jam Straps’.

Adding a strip of hockey tape gives it a more polished look

If you’re wondering if this worked out as a cheaper alternative, here’s the breakdown of the costs:

Toe straps -     £5.99 (you can get these cheaper, but I chose to get them from Halfords for convenience)
Velcro straps - £3.82
D rings -          £1.29

Total -              £11.10
Saving -          £9.90

Not bad, eh?

So, how well do they work?  I’m still very much an amateur skater, and so far, I’ve only used them once, but even I could notice the difference.  Because I wasn’t dragging the extra weight that I was used to, even the smallest movements were giving me more speed than I could handle (eek!) BUT, I seemed to have much more stability with taking and giving hits, whereas, in the previous weeks I really had to grip with my toes to try and keep my feet stable.  So, I’m going to chalk this one up as a win ;-)

If you decide to make some yourself, please drop a line in the comments and let me know if and how they worked for you!


  1. I knew someone will have attempted this already, so glad you decided to document your process, saves me a lot of trial & error :) Hoping to knock some up over the weekend, will let you know how I get on! Thanks for sharing :D

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  3. Thanks for this instructable! I shared it on my league's facebook page