Figure Skating 101 - Feb. 15

All about toe loops

Evgeni Plushenko hopes to debut his programs at the Grand Prix in Moscow in November.
Evgeni Plushenko hopes to debut his programs at the Grand Prix in Moscow in November. (Getty Images)


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By Jo Ann Schneider Farris, special to
(02/15/2008) - Figure skaters learn jumps in a certain order. After mastering the waltz jump and Salchow, the next jump that usually is introduced to a skater is a toe loop. After mastering the Axel and double Salchow, the skater then works on the double toe loop. Then, when a skater learns triples, the triple toe loop is tackled after mastering the triple Salchow, or both jumps are worked on at the same time.

The toe pick assist is used like a pole vault to help make the jump happen, and although the jump has the name "loop" in it, it does not really resemble a loop jump. Spectators can confuse the toe loop and flip since both jumps are done with toe pick assists and are entered in similar ways.

Toe Loop History

The toe loop was invented by an ice show skater named Bruce Mapes in 1920. In fact, artistic roller figure skaters call the toe loop the Mapes Jump. Little is known about Bruce Mapes, but he is also credited with inventing the flip jump, a more difficult jump, which was invented in 1913.

In ice skating, the jump has always been called the toe loop, but some skaters refer to the jump as the "toe."

Toe Loop Entries

Most skaters enter the toe loop from a straight forward inside three turn, but the jump can be entered from an outside three followed by a back outside edge, or directly after landing another jump. Other creative entries are also used.

Toe Waltz Jumps and Toe Axels - Common Toe Loop Errors

What defines the toe loop is that a skater must maintain a back outside edge during the jumps take off. It is common for inexperienced skaters to turn the blade around to a forward inside edge as the other skate picks. If that blade turns forward, the skater has done the jump incorrectly, and has done what is called a "toe waltz jump." A toe waltz jump or "toe Axel" will not receive credit.

What Ice Skating Fans See

Rarely, do ice skating fans see single toe loops at elite figure skating events; almost always what are seen are double or triple toe loops. 2006 Olympic Champion Evgeni Plushenko is able to do a quadruple toe loop. Toe loops are often done as the second jump in a jump combination. For example, it is common to see a double or triple flip or loop, followed by a double or triple toe loop. Also, fans may see elite pair skaters doing side-by-side triple toe loops.

A Toe Loop is Not a Toe Walley

A very similar jump to the toe loop is a toe Walley. Toe Walleys and toe loops earn the same amount of credit at ice skating events. Both jumps are similar since the toe pick assist is done with the same foot for either jump; what makes the two jumps different is the entry edge. A toe loop must take off from a back outside edge while the toe Walley's take off is from a back inside edge. Sometimes a forward outside three turn followed by a quick step entry defines a toe Walley, but not always. Ice skating fans have a hard time telling the difference between the two jumps, but the technical specialists and judges do know the difference.

Do a Toe Loop

To do a toe loop, first do a forward inside three-turn. Don't allow the three turn to curve; do the turn in a straight line. Make sure the entry edge and the exit edge of the three turn are equal in length. Keep your free leg extended and check the three turn by putting the arm that matches the free leg in front.

Next, with that extended free leg in back, pick into the ice. Continue moving in a straight line and kick and jump with the original skating leg as soon as the picking blade hits ice. The difficult part is to keep the skating blade on a back outside edge as that leg leaves the ice to make the jump.

Practicing back outside pivots or Mazurka jumps may help new figure skaters master the toe loop. Remember, you can't get away with "toe waltz jumps." Fight the urge to turn onto a forward inside edge. After jumping, land on a strong back outside edge and hold the landing.

Wasn't that easy?

Happy Skating!

For more information on the fundamentals of figure skating visit the U.S. Figure Skating's Basic Skills Program.