Buying the Right Hockey Skates

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hockey skates
Image by Christoffer Borg Mattisson from Pixabay

Hockey skates are arguably one of the most important pieces of equipment for any hockey player. The right size, style, and fit of your skate will allow you to improve your speed, accuracy, and shots.

By Michael Orlotti

Buying the right hockey skates. That brings about one of the most common questions I get from hockey players or their parents: “What are the best hockey skates I should buy?”

My answer is always this: Buying the right hockey skates is based on your connection to the ice, which can make a big impact on your performance. Let’s be realistic; the right pair of skates won’t magically improve your skating abilities, but the right fit can help make the most of them and correct your movement on the ice.

Before you purchase a new pair of hockey skates there are quite a few things to consider, from skate style to proper fit. Let’s take a look at some of these considerations.

Parts of a Hockey Skate

Here’s a quick breakdown of the hockey skate, which may seem pretty simple.

A hockey skate is not just a boot attached to a blade and that’s it. It is more complex than it appears. For example, there are several styles of boot from different manufacturers, and the boot itself is made up of as many as six components, available in multiple configurations. The same goes for both the blade holder and the blade.

By taking the time to determine the right hockey skates for the shape of your foot, skill level, playing style, and budget, you can step on the ice with confidence every time. The first step is understanding how the pieces all fit together.

Parts of the Boot

The main part of a hockey skate boot is called the “Quarter Package,” which starts from the toe cap to the heel and up around the rear and sides of the ankle. The majority of hockey boots are formed around a high-density plastic that is molded in the shape of a human foot. Different manufacturers produce boots of different shapes, accommodating wide or narrow feet. This is why it is so important that the skates you choose are designed to be comfortable for the shape of your foot.

Each part of the boot may be constructed of materials that affect levels of protection and comfort, weight, and durability between low- and high-end skates. This article will focus more on the mid- to high-end skates.

Most mid- to high-end skates are designed for the most serious players. They incorporate technical materials that ensure the most secure fit and can withstand the most abuse, while keeping the overall weight of the skate as low as possible. Also, you will find materials with fancy names, such as RocketFrame Composite or TUUK Lightspeed Edge. The good news is that oftentimes, the cutting-edge technologies used to make the most expensive skates filter down to lower-priced models. So you don’t have to spend a fortune to get good performance with mid-level skates.

Often the interior of a hockey skate has advanced boot liners and footbeds (or insole). The boot liner is the inside surface, which incorporates strategically placed padding for protection and a secure fit. Most boots offer specific protection for the ankles and Achilles region at the back of the foot. The footbed is a removable insert that fits in the bottom of the boot and serves as the base on which your foot rests. Footbeds come in many configurations to fit different-size arches, comfort, odor protection, moisture management, and better edge control on the ice.

The hard piece on the bottom of the boot is called the outsole, to which the blade assembly is attached. The outsole is very rigid, resisting the torque created when the player applies pressure during the stride. Skates in the mid- to high-price range feature outsoles constructed from composites that achieve a good balance between low weight and rigidity.

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What Type of Fit Do You Prefer?

Some skaters prefer a snug fit, while others like a looser fit. Different skate brands provide different fits for your feet. The skate-fitting guides below cover the different sizes and widths which will help you pick the right size of skates.

Remember, the right fit depends on the shape of your foot as well as your personal preference. Let’s look at two of the most popular bands.

Bauer Skate Fit Profiles

CCM Skate Fit Profiles

Three Things To Consider When Choosing Hockey Skates

1. Price

Everybody that plays hockey will want the top of the line hockey skates. The truth is, when buying hockey skates not everyone is willing or prepared to spend that kind of money, especially if you’re not playing in the NHL. First, determine how much you want to spend. Start looking at the models in your price range and compare features with other brands. Just like buying a car, you may be enticed to go a bit higher than you expected or find what you need at a lower price point. Always keep in mind that your skates are the most important hockey equipment you will buy.

2. Fit

As I mentioned earlier, when buying the right hockey skates comfort and fit must be priorities. You won’t be able to perform on the ice if your feet hurt. Do you have wide feet, high or low arches? Anything special about your feet? So there are few things to look for and as follows:

Comfort: The more you play, the bigger concern comfort should be.

Stiffness: Stiffer skates offer better control and transfer of power.

Padding: Well-placed padding provides comfort, protects the foot from flying pucks and slashing stick blades, and also plays an important role in how the boot fits.

If this is the case you will want to choose a hockey skate that can accommodate your feet properly. For instance, one with a larger toe box or a special footbed.

The good news is mostly all mid- to high-end skates are available in standard and wide models. You should find a great pro shop with a professional who will help you find that edge and knows you, or you can go online and find fitting guides. Please keep in mind sizing varies somewhat from manufacturer to manufacturer, so don’t assume Bauer skates will automatically be as comfortable as CCM skates.

One last tidbit: Pick a lacing system to help your boot be as snug as possible. If your foot keeps slipping inside the boot, you won’t have good control of your edges. Also, be sure to have your new skates baked. This process will help the molds in the skates adjust to your feet.

3. Use

Are you a rec hockey player just playing for fun, or are you planning to pursue the sport to higher levels? Let’s just say you are looking to play at a higher level; if that’s the case then you will be spending many hours each week in your hockey skates. The demand to perform at high levels necessitates skates that have the most advanced features. Here are just a few things to consider:

Weight: Lighter skates reduce fatigue and help with speed.

High-quality runner: Harder steel holds its edges better and lasts longer. Also, with a two-piece system you can change runners on the fly.

Features: Specific components of high-end models may fit your skating needs.

Take into consideration your specific needs and desires. Buying the right pair of hockey skates will help make your time on the ice more productive. Whether you’re simply looking to have fun or are trying to take your game to the next level, buying the right hockey skates is an important first step.

The Last Word

Hockey skates range in price from about $75 for an entry-level youth model, to more than $1,000 for a top of the line high-performance model. Each manufacturer offers hockey skates in a wide range of performance and price, so players have many options to choose from. Also, variations in materials, construction, and features account for this wide disparity, and the sheer number of skates available from multiple manufacturers means that there’s a good chance you can find exactly what you want and need.

In the end, pick a pair of skates that fit you comfortably and fit your hockey needs. There is no need to break the bank just to look cool!

Michael Orlotti, based in Toronto, has played various levels in minor hockey and college hockey. He was invited to play in Italy for the HC Milano Vipers. Orlotti attained his National Coaching Certification Level I & II from Hockey Canada, and coached & trained players at various levels. This article originally appears at HockeyNeeds.com.

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