Spiral positions are classified according to the skating leg (left or right), edge (outside or inside), direction the skater is traveling (forward or backward), and the position of the free leg (backward, forward, sideways).
Spirals are a required element in ladies' singles and pair skating. Currently, spirals are infrequently performed by men at the Olympic level because it is not a required element nor can men receive points for spiral sequences in the element score of the ISU Judging System. In spite of this, some male skaters are known for their spirals, such as Toller Cranston, Paul Wylie, and Shawn Sawyer.
Many skaters try to lift the leg as high as possible, but more important than the height of the free leg is that it be fully stretched and that the tension of the position be maintained in the upper body as well. In addition, figure skating judges look for the depth, stability, and control of the skating edge. The basic spiral is performed with the free leg stretched and extended to the rear above hip level. Spirals can be performed on four edges: forward or backward, and on the inside or outside edge. Spirals performed on a "flat" are generally not counted as "true" spirals.
A spiral sequence often includes a change of edge spiral. The same position is held, but the skater changes the edge he or she is skating on. The most common is forward inside edge to forward outside edge.
An arabesque spiral is the basic spiral position. The free leg is extended behind the body above hip height (at least a 90 degree angle). Some skaters are able to achieve vertical (180 degrees) with this position, but it is not required.
A catch-foot spiral does not refer to any single position, but generally refers to any spiral with the skate of the free leg being held in one or both hands. Catchfoot spirals include:
A Charlotte spiral is a variation in which the torso is dropped down forward toward the skating leg and the free leg is lifted behind in a near-split position.
A Kerrigan spiral is a high-leg outside spiral performed with one hand supporting the knee of the free leg. This position is named after Nancy Kerrigan.
A fan spiral is a back outside edge spiral held with the free leg held unsupported to the skater's front or side. Ideally, this position should be held with both legs straight, although less flexible skaters attempt to compensate for a lack of strength or flexibility by not fully extending the free leg or bending the skating leg.
An inverted spiral is a variation performed with the free leg held in front with the skater leaning backward over the edge of the skating foot so that the skater's upper body is held almost parallel to the ice. The position attained in this spiral is similar to that of a layover camel.