Shop Talk: What you should look for in picking the right skate
With so many options in skates these days, how do you know what the right skate is for you?
Fit, performance, budget and comfort are all important aspects to consider.
This can get confusing, but hang in there. Bauer and CCM both have three different skate families to address the four key variances of the foot. These four foot variances are ankle, heel, instep and forefoot. The skate fits adjust for these variances by quarter depth, boot height, forefoot wrap, ankle wrap and toe box height. If your skate does not fit correctly, it won’t perform properly and can cause pain, which makes skating not much fun.
By fit we mean sizing. We measure a player’s foot on a Bauer or CCM Brannock device. This measures both the skate length and width. As you may or may not know, skate size and shoe size are two different things. It’s important to remember that kids get sized for growing room in their shoes. It’s a good idea to start from scratch when you come into a store. Skate sizes vary from 1-2 sizes smaller than a proper fitting shoe. This variation has created nightmares for those who have not known and purchased skates online.
On a younger player, we usually try to give some room for growth. Kids grow fast, we know, but purchasing a pair of skates to last a few years can hurt their development as a player. Too much room causes loss of balance and power between the player and the ice. Being able to fit one finger behind the heel in the boot usually is a good rule to get a year or so out of the skate. An older travel player or an adult does not need this extra room. Too large of a gap in the heel means the player’s heel will lift while skating, which causes discomfort, and that loss of power to the ice.
Skates run from $59 to $950. We help determine what the best skate is for both your wallet and level of play. It’s important to consider how often you skate, your age and your size. A $59 skate is a great entry-level skate for a youth player, but for a more experienced junior or a beginning adult, it does not give the proper support and creates a big performance disadvantage. On the other hand, a $950 full composite skate may be too stiff. These are the exact skates NHL players use. Purchasing this level skate for a child or smaller adult can make it difficult to flex the boot, taking away power and balance. For most kids, a price range of $149-$299 and $199-$499 range for teens and adults gives you the best “bang for the buck.”
Heat molding really helps the break-in process. By heat molding, we don’t mean or recommend putting skates in your home oven. Specialized skate ovens that are designed to soften materials to the correct temperature can be found at most hockey shops. Too hot and the glues and materials can be greatly compromised. Moldable foams and plastics, in different models, form around your foot, giving a snug but comfortable fit. It is the last step to make sure the skate fits properly.
To get the best skate for you, make sure to purchase in-store, where you can get fitted properly and educated on the best skate for your needs. Purchasing skates online just by price is a recipe for disaster. Don’t be fooled by deals that are too good to be true – they probably are. Make sure you are getting fitted by an employee who plays hockey and understands the skates inside and out.
Randy Exelby is the owner of Behind The Mask Hockey Shops.