6 Things to Know About Hockey Skates

By Patrick Francey, Owner, Professional Skate Services

Copyright© 2003-2006 Professional Skate Service

Definition of a skate: A 'skate boot' is a device used to hold a 'skate blade' to your foot. It is the vehicle by-which a skater 'carries and controls' the edges of their skate blades. The skate boot is an extension of your leg, to your foot, to the blade, to the ice.

To ensure that you are maximizing your skating performance, your skate boot has to fit in such a manner that it is an efficient and effective part of the kinetic chain of your skating stride. The boot must fit comfortably snug in order that you have direct and instant control of your blade edges.

Here are six of the most important points to consider before you buy your hockey skates, including common misunderstandings and frequent mistakes. If 'skate comfort and performance' really matter to you, then you need to read this!

  1. Buying the top manufacturers model of skate may not be the best choice of skate to buy, for you.

    Manufacturers make several models of skates to accommodate different levels of skating and the different physical sizes of skaters. Also, the manufacturer needs to cover as many different price points as possible. The higher the model of skate, the more expensive it is and the stiffer it will be.

    If you're not physically heavy enough to deal with the stiffness of the skate it won't matter how much money you pay, your skating performance will suffer. Skates that are too stiff for a skater restrict knee bend, and because you HAVE TO bend your knees to skate, the stiffness of the skate is a big factor in boot selection. Very often, stiff skates are also the cause of long-term skate discomfort.

    Be honest with yourself when it comes to your skating ability and physical size. Purchasing a model of skate that matches your physical size and ability, can dramatically increase your skating performance, and save you money.

  2. Fitting hockey skates like shoes.

    Skates and shoes do not fit the same. A rule of thumb is that a skate will always fit a size, to a size and a half, smaller than your shoe size. Depending on how you fit your running shoes a skate may even occasionally be as much as two sizes smaller.

    If your skates are currently the same size as your running shoe... they are too big. When you are buying skates start by trying on a pair that are size and a half smaller than your shoe. Also, if you generally wear an extra wide shoe, start with a 'D' width skate.

    The ideal fit, length wise, has been achieved when you are standing in a skate that is laced up. The longest toe of the foot should 'lightly feather' the end of the toecap. When you bend your knees slightly (as when you skate) the toes need to pull completely away from the front of the toecap. If they don't pull away when you bend your knees, or if you need growing room, then go up half a size.

  3. Trying on a pair of skates and not lacing them up.

    I think this is one of the most common reasons skaters end up in skates that are too big. Hockey skates are, by design, meant to fit when they are laced up. As the boot is laced up, the foot will draw into the back of the skate. A skate that ultimately fits properly will, more often then not, feel small when the foot is placed in the boot prior to lacing it.

    Trying on a pair of skates without lacing them up is like trying on a button shirt without buttoning it, both are meant to fit when they are done up. So, when you put the skate on, be sure to give your heel a good kick into the back of the boot and then lace it up.

  4. Not setting enough time aside to properly fit the skates.

    It can take time to fit a skate for comfort. Wrapping a very stiff piece of material around the foot can sometimes be a challenge.

    How a skate fits in the first few minutes of putting it on compared to how it fits after spending some time to warm the boot up can make a dramatic difference. Give yourself at least an hour; take the time to walk around the store and get a feel for the boot as well as to warm it up. Also, take the time to try on more than one manufacturers skate and model.

  5. Purchasing the same make and model of skate that the pro's (NHL) have, or that your best friend is wearing.

    This can be a challenging issue, because younger skaters often want what their favorite player or best friend is wearing. The reality of this situation is that the skates that the general public are able to purchase off the shelf, are not the same as what an NHL player is wearing.

    The Bauer Vapor APX or CCM U+ CL or what ever the model might be that you see on TV, is not the same skate that you are able to purchase. The pros are wearing custom made boots from the manufacturer. The NHL is a great marketing vehicle for the skate manufacturers. Keep this fact in mind when you are buying skates. When all is said and done the skate you buy has to be appropriate for the skater wearing it.

  6. Buying a longer length to try and accommodate a wide foot.

    If your foot is wide and the skate is tight then buy a wider skate not a bigger length. The really big skate that feels good in the store, will come back to haunt you almost every time.

    A skate has a very specific shape that is relative to the length of the foot going into it. If you purchase a skate that is the wrong length, nothing about the shape of the foot will line up with the boot. For example; the widest part of the foot sits back into the narrowest part of the boot. The arch of the foot no longer lines up with the arch of the skate. None of those things may bother you in the store, but get out skating and they will almost always show up in the form of sore feet, and bad edge control.