YOUR SKATES ARE ARGUED TO BE the most important piece of equipment you have. It is imperative that they fit your foot properly. Poorly fitting skates will hinder your performance. On the other hand, properly fitted skates will not only make your game more comfortable, but also maximize your game.
When considering a new pair of skates, there are many personal preferences to take into consideration. Age, weight, playing style, and skill level are all important factors. Age affects skate sizes. It is important to note the special considerations of selecting skates to allow room for growth for youth players. Weight is an important factor to keep in mind in that the more weight the skate supports, the sturdier it needs to be. Determining playing style is especially important for players who tend to play harder or a more physical game. The skate needs to be able to accommodate these expectations. Finally, skill level is a key factor to consider when purchasing a skate. Players who have a higher skill level tend to spend more time on their skates each week. This demands a skate that is more durable and can withstand this high level of wear and tear.
- Skate construction: There are several aspects of skate construction that are important when considering which pair to buy. Skate manufactures use a variety of materials throughout their skate line. These material differences represent the majority of the differences in the price of a skate. The most important aspects include the quarter package, the tongue, the outsole, and the blade holder.
- Quarter package: This is a term used to describe the largest portion of the skate. It is the piece of the boot that extends from the toe cap to your heel and up the ankle. Many consumers do not realize that the quarter package is one piece of material that is formed around a last (a last is a hard plastic piece in the shape of a foot). This makes the quarter package the largest component of the skate. High-end skates (for highly skilled or larger players) incorporate both stronger and more lightweight materials. Lower-end skates (for younger players, recreational players, or smaller players) typically use materials that have less strength and durability. Oftentimes this creates a boot that is also slightly heavier.
- Tongue: The tongue is another important aspect of any skate. The two most popular tongue styles are felt and foam. The foam-based tongue is generally more lightweight and is incorporated by manufacturers to lessen the overall weight of the skate. Felt tongues are slightly heavier than foam but are also more traditional. Selecting a tongue comes down to personal preference in terms of overall comfort.
- Outsole: The outsole is the piece of the bottom of the boot where the blade holder connects. High-end skates are made with a composite outsole. This is a more expensive material, but it is very lightweight and very rigid. The rigidity helps minimize the torque of the boot when the player is in stride. Mid-range skates often use a hybrid of carbon and plastic materials, and lower-end skates usually feature a plastic outsole. Both of these materials weigh more and are less rigid; however, they are the perfect fit for lighter-weight or recreational players.
- Blade and blade holder: These are located on the bottom of the skate. The biggest difference among blades is the type of metal used in its composition. High-end skates are composed of stainless steel, a strong metal that maintains its composition best when in contact with ice and water. Lower-end steel requires more attention to ensure the blades dry well to avoid rusting. Another important feature when considering steel is that higher-end skates allow you to replace only the steel when it wears down from sharpening. Some lower-end skates feature the holder and steel fused together as one piece, meaning that if the steel ever needs to be replaced, you will have to replace both the steel and the holder.
Skates are an extremely important aspect of the game in terms of player performance. If a skate is not properly sized or is uncomfortable, it is more likely the player will experience blisters, damage the boot support, or, even worse, start to dislike playing the game. To avoid that, this is what you need to know to correctly size your skates.
- It is crucial that your skates have good stability and strong ankle support.
- A solid exterior is vital to protecting your feet from the puck and other skates.
- Typically, you want a skate that is 1 to 1.5 sizes smaller than your shoe size. Bauer, CCM, and Easton hockey skates normally fit 1–1.5 sizes smaller than your shoe size. For children, it is acceptable to order a half-size bigger to accommodate growing feet; any larger will cause blisters to form and will break down the sides of the boot. Too large of a skate will affect a player’s mobility and balance.
- When trying on a skate, wear socks similar to ones that you will wear while playing.
- After putting on the skate, press your foot forward as far as possible so your toes press against the front of the skate. When in this position, you should be able to place one finger between the inside of the boot and the heel of your foot.
- After that, sit down and kick your heel firmly into the back of the boot. This is simply to allow some room for growth. (Adult skates are made to mold to the foot, so this extra space is not necessary.)
- Firmly tighten the laces through the first two or three eyelets until the skate is snug near the toe. Remember to keep your foot placed flat on the ground while lacing the skate.
After lacing up the skate, make sure you walk around (with your skate guards, of course) to test the comfort level of the skate.Remember, it takes a few wears to break them in!
Here are a few important things to remember when fitting a skate:
- Does your heel move? There should not be any movement or lifting with your heel. If your heel does move, it will take away from your performance.
- The skate should be very snug for proper support to enable a good push-off without any movement.
- And finally, it takes a few wears to break in a new pair of skates! Heat fitting is another option that helps expedite the break-in process.
Heat fitting is a process in which skates are baked in a special oven to achieve a more perfect fit. This process helps round out the stiff sides and upper part of the boot, conforming to the shape of the player’s foot. Heat fitting shortens the break-in period by about half the time.
It is important to have your blades sharpened regularly—after about every six to eight hours of practice or game time is ideal.
Question: My son needs to start tying his own skates, but he has trouble getting them tight enough. Is there anything that can help?
Answer: In my experience, the No. 1 thing your son needs is experience. Practice makes perfect when it comes to skate tying. Why do you think all those Mite coaches are so good at it? They sometimes tie 24 skates before one scrimmage. Finger strength, however, is an issue for kids, so one inexpensive solution to try is a lace puller. Moms can save a manicure with these, too.