Carving: Is Your Toe Turn Better Than Your Heel Turn?

by Fraser
Updated:

Have you progressed beyond beginner status such that linking turns is easy now? Perhaps you consider yourself to be in the wooly category of intermediate snowboarder – you can tackle almost all runs on the mountain, some with more grace and correct-technique than others? Maybe you’re beyond that – an advanced or expert snowboarder?

Whatever your level, if you’re making turns around the mountain, there’s a good chance that there are times when you work on your carving. Trying to perfect your turns with good edge control, leaving that pencil-thin line as you go. It feels great when you get it right… so long as you’re not making these common carving mistakes!

Practicing on gentle runs

A gentle, wide and flat blue run can provide a great training ground to improve your turns. Enough gradient to carry some speed, but the terrain isn’t so challenging that you have a problem holding the edge as you carve.

Personally I find these runs a lot of fun. They allow me to try things out, to try exercises and drills (drill is probably a bit strong), to experiment. I’m always happy with my technique – both toe and heel turns. Pristine carves.

However, when moving to a more challenging slope, perhaps a steeper gradient, uneven surface or patches of ice, I find a gap emerging in my ability to hold a tight toe turn vs. a tight heel turn. If one of them is going to skid, it’s going to be the heel turn…

Toe vs. heel

Do you experience a difference in the effectiveness of your edges?

Personally, I find it easier to apply varying and directed pressure to my toe edge. You can flex your ankles. You can flex your knees, dropping them down over your toes. As you drop your hips it’s easier to lower your centre of gravity and apply pressure, whilst also maintaining balance on the edge.

I think with the toe edge, it’s easier to apply gradual pressure to your edge. If you need more edge hold, you can sink that little bit more, without losing balance. Using ankle and knee flex in the correct proportion is easier. Try holding onto a bench and simulate applying pressure to a toe edge…

A heel turn on the other hand, feels less analog. Your highback introduces a fairly rigid element to the equation, reducing your ability to gradually apply pressure – at least that’s how it feels to me.

Aiming for a strong carve, I’ll flex my knees and lower my hips, keep my upper body in good posture and push my knees out, all to get good pressure on the edge and maintain balance. On this heel carve, I find it harder to add that extra hold when I need it, to vary the pressure.

Trying to apply more pressure can sometimes result in sitting down, which moves your centre of gravity too far away from the board, and the edge slips. I also find it harder to direct the edge pressure.

When trying to carve on more difficult terrain, if one of my edges is going to skid, it will be my heel edge. My toe turn is better than my heel turn.

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What about you?

  • Do you spend time working on your carves?
  • What runs to you practice on? Do you find it easy to carve on some runs, but are unable to step it up to the next level?
  • Do you find one edge easier than the other when it comes to strong edge control?

Let me know in the comments below!

Then check out my snowboard carving tips. Happy riding!

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3 comments

Mike 27/02/2023 - 4:48 pm

Yes! Everyone I board with and everything I’ve read online says toe turn is harder, but for me, my toe turn has always been easier/better than my heel – both when riding natural and switch. Really glad to see this explanation, which makes perfect sense to me.

Any tips for those of us who struggle more on the heel turn to specifically improve our heel turns? I find when the terrain gets steeper (or when riding switch), I am much more likely to back foot steer on my heel turns than toe turns.

Reply
Fraser 28/02/2023 - 8:41 pm

Hi Mike!

What problem are you noticing specifically – initiation, edge hold?

One of my more expensive tips, but have you tried a board with asymmetrical sidecuts?

I thought it sounded gimmicky at first but the heel-edge on boards like the Rider’s Choice really helps!

Failing that, I find that most issues with heel turns are related to releasing the rear foot too early. This allows the turn to “skid out”. Practice gradually initiating the turn with your front foot by lifting your toes on that foot, then do the same shortly after on the rear foot. This is leveraging the torsional flex of the board. Try to then keep even pressure across the whole back edge.

I talked a bit more about this here.

Happy riding!

Reply
Mike 06/03/2023 - 4:08 pm

It’s the initiation. I will try lifting my toes on my front foot first before my rear foot. I don’t think I’ve ever consciously thought about that. Thank you!

Reply

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