A Simple Guide to Fitting Skates
Hockey Skates are a tricky proposition, especially for first-time buyers, because finding the right fit could be hard. Unlike simple shoes where you’ll just look at the shoe size, skates have more characteristics to take note of.
Of course you’ll have to take note of the skate’s size but you’ll also have to take note of the skate’s depth/arch, the width and your own weight. The skate that you should be choosing should satisfy each of the measurements listed above or you might incur buyer’s remorse. Also note that skate brands may differ in their measurements.
Also, be wary of sellers who try to convince you to buy the first pair of skate that you put on for fitting. As noted above, skate fitting is complex and will take time. Getting a great pair of fitting skates is essential if you plan on using your skates for longer than a few months. The next step is learning how to sharpen your skates.
Different ways to test the Fit
Although skate fitting itself is a bit complex in terms of measurements, there are some simple shortcuts to test the fit.
Pen/Pencil Fitting Test
Put on the skates (not necessarily both) but leave the laces untied. Uncover the socks by pulling up the part of shoes underneath the laces (this is called the tongue).
Place a pen or pencil above and between perpendicular eyelets (the holes where the laces go through, essentially balancing it. The skate is considered ill-fitting if the pen in question touches your foot (the instep). This means that the skates are too shallow for you. The skate maybe deemed a good fit if the pen is well balanced and does not touch your foot.
Toe and Stance Test
Familiarity of the athletic (Hockey) stance is essential with this test. In athletic stance, your knees are bended forward and your body is leaning forward. Lace up your skates and try to feel if your toes are touching the front part of the skates. Optimal fit means that your toes aren’t touching the front part whilst in athletic pose.
To check further, try standing up while still wearing stakes. Optimal fit means your toes are just brushing the front part of the shoes.
Deviation from the aforementioned conditions in this particular test may deem the skates being tested as unfit.
The general rule is that stiff skates are good ones. The stiffness supports the ankle thereby avoiding ankle and other related injuries. Testing the stiffness of a pair is pretty simple, just give your skate a squeeze (making this test virtually the easiest one of the batch discussed here). Avoid skates that give in rather easily when squeezed.
Very stiff skates are usually recommended for experienced skaters. Novices should avoid the stiff ones and try to purchase less stiff ones because they may not be able to break the skates. Failure to do so may impair there performance. However, novices should still avoid skates that have little to no stiffness because the shoes will not be able to support the ankles.
It is worth noting that different brands have different standards of stiffness (like sizes) built in to their boots. Some brands or types might be better suited for seasoned skaters while some are better suited for novices or first timers.
This is another test that will enable the buyer to determine the fit of the skates at hand. To be more specific, this kind of test will determine if the skates have the right ankle size. While the first test (pen/pencil test) entails the laces being untied, this test will start with the tightening up of the laces. Wear it like you’re going to an actual hockey game. Lean forward so that there will be a bit of gap at the back of the shoes. Put a finger or two inside the gap and try to reach the heel inside. Placing two fingers all the way inside means the skate is a bit loose and is an ill-fit. Using a pair of loose skates may cause injuries, highlighting the importance of this test.
You don’t have to do all the tests listed here but doing more than one (plus the tips given by the local skates’ seller) will help.
Just like in a car where you ride for a couple of thousand kilometers, you also need to wear the pair of skates to shake it up. Blisters and other discomforts are normal for the first few tries but that will go away after the tenth tries or so.
Baking is usually a shortcut to this but almost all skaters with a new pair will undergo this “break-in” period. The break in period is actually like baking, where the mold of your foot is being impressed on the skates for better fitting (baking being the faster method).
Baking and Skates?
The two words above may not make sense but ask any skater (hockey) and they will tell you that baking skates is a usual occurrence. Please take note that this is only true for the high-end products. Baking in this sense is done so that your skates will be molded to fit your foot/feet. You will be asked to wear the pair after heating it inside the “oven”.
You can try to bake your skates at home but it would be better to bake it in the shops. Skates ovens are specialized and not the usual oven that you see around. Doing it on your own increases the risk of destroying your pair of skates. You don’t want to burn your pair to crisp.
Online or Offline
There are so many choices, brands and methods to obtain skates. As such, this could be a bit intimidating especially for first time buyers or novices. While online buying seems more convenient, first time buyers would be better served by going to physical stores where sellers could give out advice and choose the skates best suited for you. Also, you could check the product (skates) on a firsthand basis.
Finding won’t be a problem provided there is an actual hockey store near you. Just go online and type “hockey store” or “skates store” and the internet will handle the rest. Common names are Source for Sports, Pro Hockey Life (both found in Canada) and Total Hockey (found in USA).
The only con for choosing this route is that you’ll have to go to the physical stores as opposed to the convenience of online shops. For online shops, common names are Hockey Monkey, Pure Hockey, and Pro Hockey Life (online).