Frequent Questions about Buying Ice Skates
I’d like to buy a pair of skates. What kind should I get?
Purchasing a pair of ice skates is not the same as purchasing a pair of shoes and there are a lot of important factors to consider including the skater’s age, skating frequency and ability, body build and foot shape. The importance of a properly fit skate is important to the success of a skater. Different skate companies use different technology, sizing, foot molds and features that distinguish their skates from other competitors. Skate manufacturers also use different materials and engineering when making their skates which results in differences in stiffness, durability, fit, heel height, blade length, arch support, etc. All of these factors and more play a role in which skate is best for any given skater. As a result, the kind of skates someone should buy to maximize their performance and enjoyment varies from person to person. The best thing to do is get a professional fitting from someone who is familiar with several different brands and models of skates. This will increase your chances of finding the right skate.
I’m just a recreational skater, and don’t necessarily care to ‘maximize’ my skills. Couldn’t I just get a pair of skates online or from the local sporting goods store?
You could if you like, but you will be become the skate fitter and will not receive much information when buying skates online or from sporting goods stores. If you’re lucky, when shopping online you might see a sizing chart and a few words highlighting the *features* of the skate. But, as we mentioned, skates aren’t like shoes. Improperly fit skates not only don’t maximize your skills, they can also cause foot pain in addition to breaking down prematurely meaning you’ll be buying another pair sooner rather than later. Plus, skate sizes run different than shoe sizes and many of them come in a variety of widths too. Although the width may be a bit easier to determine, (if you know you have a wide foot, then you probably need a wide skate) but a wide fit on one company may be just a medium fit in another. Some skate models run narrower than others and one company may be longer in length then another company. Many people purchase the wrong size online and end up regretting it because either they are unable to return it, or it causes problems and now they must spend even more money trying to fix those problems and still not have the proper fit, or purchase another pair sooner than they expected. Getting a professional fitting is really the best thing to do.
Let me ask a question about sizing. My child’s foot is still growing and I want the skates to last a long time. Can I buy them a few sizes bigger?
Unfortunately, it happens frequently that we see a skater in skates that were at least two sizes too big. Yes, a growing skater needs extra space to grow but generally, a half size is the most that can be sized up without jeopardizing the fit and performance. Keep in mind, it’s not just the length that is important, but the arch, instep, and ankles that have to fit well. In skates too big, these parts of the body aren’t in the proper position inside the skate and as a result, skaters will feel “unnatural” discomfort. For instance, skaters will sometimes actually feel their toes reach the front of the skates because the boot is so big, their foot slid forward and slammed into the front of the boot. Other times, the ball of the foot will sit in the arch of the boot which causes pain because you now have the widest part of the foot sitting in the narrowest part of the boot. The general rule is if the skater was fit properly with a half size to grow, you can stretch the skates, pull the thick insole out of the skates, and thin out the socks to get the most growth room and time out of the skate. On average, skates fit a growing skater for a season which is about 9 months to one year. If they are taking lessons, the skater will most likely outperform the skate due to their increasing skills about the same time they outgrow it, and therefore would need to upgrade their equipment as well as their size at the same time.
How much should I expect to spend on a pair of skates?
That is a great question. Skates vary in quality and level depending on what a skater is doing in them. The first sign of a quality skate is that the blade is screwed onto the bottom of the boot and not riveted on. You are able see that you can physically unscrew the blade from the boot. For a quality skate, you should expect to spend about $120.00-$140.00 on very beginner skates and $160.00-$225.00 on the next level of skates. Both styles will have a leather upper and a PVC outsole. The difference between the two are improved support, more available widths, and a better quality blade when you upgrade your equipment to the next level. This next level skate would be the one most recommended for those who are taking skating lessons and plan on continuing those lessons for several classes. Keep in mind that as the skater’s ability increases, the level of skates elevates to meet the skater’s needs and physical demands. Prices correspondingly increase as well. If a skater is learning how to jump and spin or is skating several times a week, a leather outsole may be the best choice as these types of skates are designed to withstand repetitive jump impact without falling apart while supporting the skater. Plastic or PVC outsole boots are not necessarily designed to withstand excessive impact from jumping and the outsole may ultimately separate from the boot as a result.
Skates cost that much!?!? I can find them for a lot less than that!
You can definitely find skates for less, but with skates “you get what you pay for.” The cheap (less than $100.00) skates you see online and elsewhere are just that – cheap. They lack any sort of ankle support, their blade quality is extremely poor, and because of a lack of “shaping,” they fit the foot similar to a pair of galoshes – big and bulky. When figure skates lack ankle support, the skates quickly break down and there’s practically no way a skater can skate upright or turn on the ice because their feet constantly move inside due to lack of support and ill fit. A poor figure blade, like a poor knife, doesn’t cut well and so trying to cut through the ice with skates that don’t hold your foot in place, much less hold you upright, is extremely difficult. Also, many of those types of skates were meant for outdoor skating, where the skater is skating on a pond or some sort of an uneven natural surface where they need maximum ankle flexibility and a small toe pick in order to maintain their balance. They were not necessarily meant for indoor skating on a level surface where a skater has the capacity to do much more than they could do on an uneven, irregular surface.
Quality figure skates, on the other hand, are designed to maximize the skater’s skills where each model is designed with a specific foot shape, size, and skating level in mind. They are also reinforced to provide proper ankle support, possess quality blades that can be adjusted, if necessary, and are designed to provide a better, snugger fit. Because of their rigidity, not only are they more likely to hold a skater upright, but they are amenable to being adjusted or molded for comfort. In addition, the quality of the blade and boot improves on each upgraded model to account for the greater demands better skaters place on their equipment. This is done because it is expected that your skills will improve and the better blade will set you up for better success by assisting in maximizing your skating ability.
Another way to look at it is this - when you consider how many hours you skate and divide that into the price of a quality skate, you're not really spending that much on an hourly basis. For example, if you skate for an hour two times per week, the cost of a $200.00 skate over the course of a year is just $1.92/hour of skating. When you look at it that way, it doesn't make sense to "go cheap" when buying skates as they are actually the least expensive part of your skating activity yet can make one of the biggest differences in your performance and comfort.
Okay, I get it. Don’t buy “cheap” skates and I see the need to get fit by a professional fitter. How do I find one?
The best place to start is at your local ice rink. If your town has a skating rink, regular skaters at that rink have probably been fit with their own skates and are going to be your best referral source as to where to go. You can even ask the local skating instructor - they know who to go to and who not to go to (not all skate shops are created equal). You can also “google” skating stores and see if you can find a shop close to you or visit several of the manufacturers’ websites to find authorized dealers in your area. It would be best to find a dealer that carries several different brands of skates. Generally, they will be more knowledgeable about how the different brands vary from one another and you’ll have the opportunity to try on several different pair to see how they feel. As a matter of fact, you may find it worth your while to take a day trip to those shops with great reputations. If you aren’t willing to travel a bit, however, this self-imposed limitation could make it more difficult get the optimal fit, which will subsequently impact your performance.
However, if you are one of those skaters who simply does not have access to a skate shop in your area and has no other choice than to order online, contact us. Over the years we have developed methods to fit all levels of skaters remotely with the proper skates and blades as far away as Alaska, Brazil, Mexico, and Thailand.
If I get fit by a professional fitter, what should I expect?
A professional skate fitting can be a relatively involved process. A professional fitter will know all of the intricate aspects of all the skate models they carry and will ask you a series of questions regarding your level and frequency of skating. Your feet will be evaluated and measured and recommendations made regarding the company, style, and size that would fit you the best. You will also be able to try on a few different pair of skates so you can feel the differences and experience what a properly fit skate feels like. The fitter will also perform an inspection to ensure a great fit and make sure that you are satisfied with the fit and comfort. The skate shop will have the ability to adjust any uncomfortable spots (it’s very common to adjust for bony prominences, even on beginner skates) and move the blade to make sure the skate is balanced underneath you. Depending on the skate model, your skates may be heat molded which provides for your maximum comfort and fit. The shop will also sharpen your skates for you and offer follow up service to make sure you are happy with the fit and performance of your skates. Finally, they should educate you on what to expect from your new skates and how to take care of them.
I see I need to an appointment at Houston Skate & Dance Shop to get fit with skates. Can’t I just walk in and buy some?
We don’t want to just sell a pair of skates, but fit you with the right pair of skates. The right pair of skates makes an undeniable difference in how well a skater performs, and consequently, how much a skater enjoys their time on the ice. As a result, we prefer to perform a professional skate fitting each time we sell a pair of skates if there’s any way possible. This is one of the reasons, among many, that we don’t sell skates online. However, the simple fact is that skate fittings take time. The average skate fitting can take an hour or more depending on the level of the skates/skater involved.
To respect each customer’s time, we try and reserve appointments where we can devote that period of time to finding skates that are appropriate for that specific customer. In this manner, people can better plan their time and not spend half their day at the store waiting to receive a fitting. However, in addition to our regularly scheduled appointments, on Saturdays we help walk-ins on a first come, first serve basis for skaters Freestyle/Freeskate 3 and lower.