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Figure Skate Facts- Buying Figure Skates
Buying figure skates can be a little overwhelming for a skater, or skater parent. There are so many questions: What brand is the best? What size do I need? What model will fit my skill level? We wanted to answer those questions and have given you the simple truths and figure skating facts below.
We are asked this question all the time. What is the best brand of skate? Typically people associate the most expensive to the best. The truth is, there is no "best brand". There are reliable and trusted brands to choose from, but the best brand of figure skate or figure skating boot is the one that will fit your foot the best and meet your skating needs. It's really that simple.
Most people don't realize that when a brand of skate is recommended by another skater, a skater parent, or even a coach, that it may be because they like that particular brand for themselves or it's because it's the latest fad. However, everyone is made differently and that goes for your feet too! Moms and Dads will sometimes get pressured into purchasing the "most popular" brand because that is what all the skaters at the rink are wearing. However, that brand may not be the best for your skater.
The most expensive figure skate or figure skating boot may not be what is best for you or your skater. The price range of figure skates varies. Ever heard of a cheap skate? There are the actual "cheap skates". Cheap skates are meant to be used for pure pond skating. These ice skates are not meant for jumps and spins. They have a cheap blade and are cheaply put together. You can find them in most sporting goods stores. You will not find them at Kinzie's Closet. We only carry quality figure skates.
Quality figure skates are skates with a good blade that will provide the correct support for the foot and ankle so that a figure skater can concentrate on learning the proper technique as they progress in the sport.
What differentiates the less expensive quality figure skate from the more expensive figure skating boot? Obviously a beginner figure skater doesn't need the same support as a skater attempting triple and quad jumps. Extra padding and materials are needed to provide support for a more advanced skater. Those extra materials increase the price of the skates or boots. The same goes for the figure skating blades. Quality blades are made with a better grade of steel and hold an edge longer.
All figure skating boots are basically the same. The last, the thickness, the stiffness and quality of the leather or material from which the skate is made differentiates one skate from another. The "Last" is a shoemakers model for shaping a shoe. Tennis shoes have an athletic "last". They are wider and softer allowing lots of movement. Dress shoes have a more form fitting "last". Dress shoes aren't made to run in.
Each brand of figure skate also has it's own last by which it is produced. Some manufacturers will have a last that will fit a person who has tapered toes (where the big toe is the biggest and each toe gets smaller in size). Some brands will have a last that will fit a person who has more boxy toes and a higher arch.
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There has been a surge of skaters who want "lightweight" figure skates. So lets discuss what it means to have a lightweight skate. Several years ago, skates were indeed made heavier. They were made with all leather both inside and out as well as in the sole and heel. This led to a heavier boot. Because skaters wanted a more lightweight boot to help them get higher off the ground for their jumps, manufacturer's sought out other materials from which to make boots.
Figure skates and figure skating boots are now made of both leather and synthetic materials and some with all synthetic materials. Regardless of brand, all current figure skates or figure skating boots are now considered "lightweight" as compared to skates in the past. Even though one brand may claim to have a lighter weight skate than anyone else, all brands really only vary in weight by a few ounces when compared to each other in similar models and sizes. If you are a new skater, don't be suckered into buying a skate just because it's supposed to be "the lightest". Buy the skate that fits you!!!
A figure skate fact is that the most expensive, lightest figure skating boot and figure skating blade out there isn't going to make a bad skater better. Proof of that can be seen at National & World Competitions and at the Olympics where a variety of boots and blades are worn by the medalists. Technique, practice and dedication will always be the determining factor for a great skater.
Most people new to figure skating think that they can buy a skate based on their street shoe size...NOT TRUE. Each figure skate manufacturer has variations in size. This is why it is important to measure your feet then check each manufacturer's sizing chart to find your correct size. To learn how to measure your feet correctly for skates, check out our Measuring Feet for Skates page.
Parents typically want to buy a skate that will "last a while" because of the significant financial investment . They will try to fit their child into a much bigger boot than needed anticipating that they will eventually grow into it. Due to the ill-fitting boot, the child may need to take more breaks off the ice to re-tighten laces so the skates will stay snug. They may have pain due to their foot moving around inside the boot causing blisters. They can also develop other foot problems like bone spurs, bunions or tendinitis. Yes, the skate may last a little longer, but money saved on figure skates is then wasted on coaches and ice time because it is now taking longer to master new skills from equipment complications.
Figure skating boots should fit snugly like a glove, like they're molded to your feet. There should be no movement at all in the heel. This is called a competitive fit. Most sizing charts for skates are based on the snug, competitive fit. This means your toes will be slightly touching the inside of the the boot. You should be able to wiggle your toes, but there is no room for growth. Not all skaters like that feel and young skaters do need some room to grow. Due to these reasons, it is acceptable to go up a 1/2 size if necessary.
Too Big (length or width): The figure skating boot will form creases near the toes and blisters will form from feet slipping.
Too Small (length or width): The skater will need to recognize that the boot is too small. The toes will often curl on top of each other (width) or the toe knuckles will curl up and rise (length). Boots that are too small may be “relasted” (stretched) one half size to release the length/width to accommodate the skater’s feet. For specific pressure points the boot can be molded to release pressure (outside toes, ankles, navicular bones [arches]).
Boot Twisting: Boot twisting is usually caused by the pronation of the skater’s feet. This may be reduced by, choosing a custom fit figure skating boot and using an Orthotic correction (Dr. Orthotic, Harlick Skating Orthotic, Inside Wedge, and/or Asymmetrical Lacing).
Arch Cramping: When the skater’s navicular bone, arch muscle, and/or low/flat arches do not match the shape of the arch counter of the figure skating boot, the skater will experience pain and cramping in the arch and plantar muscle. This may be corrected by, choosing a custom fit boot and using an Orthotic correction (Dr. Orthotic, Harlick Skating Orthotic, Inside Wedge, and/or Asymmetrical Lacing).
Slipping Heels: Heels will slip when the heel of the foot is narrower in the heel area of the figure skating boot. Stock figure skates are made with only one width difference in the ball and heel. For instance, the ball width will be a C, but the heel area is a B width. To correct heel slipping, the skater needs a custom fit figure skating boot where the boot is built more narrow in the heel area. This type of figure skating boot is called a combination width boot. For instance, the ball width will be a C, but the heel area is an A width. In custom boots, Heel Hugger and Achilles tendon padding may also be added to the boots to help prevent the heels from slipping.
Four factors to consider when purchasing your figure skating boot are: your height, your weight, how often you skate, and your skating level. This will help you to determine the appropriate model stiffness of the figure skates or figure skating boots you require.
The "stiffness" is the amount of support a manufacturer will put into a specific figure skate. Lower level figure skates are less stiff. Some lower level skates are called "soft skates". Soft skates literally feel soft when squeezed. Top of the line figure skating boots are extremely stiff and designed for adults who do triple jumps. Beginners who purchase them end up quitting because their feet hurt all the time and the boot never breaks down. This is called "over booting". Over booting can also cause serious injuries during falls on the ice.
Just like sizing, each manufacturer also has different ways of determining stiffness. This is why Kinzie's Closet has composed a guide to help you Compare Skate Brands and find the figure skating boot with the appropriate stiffness for your skating level.
Custom figure skates are expensive and really aren't necessary for the beginner skater. The price doesn't justify the purchase because the young skater will outgrow the boot well before they wear it out. However, there are exceptions. If you are an adult, then a well fitted custom figure skating boot is a good option. If you are a skater with an odd foot combination, then a custom figure skating boot is also a good choice. For instance, you have one foot much larger than the other, you have a really wide ball, but have a super skinny heel, or you need orthotics to correct pronation.
Harlick Figure Skates - can be customized to fit like a glove to your foot. These figure skating boots are made for skaters of all levels and are excellent in their quality and construction. Brian Boitano, Denise Biellmann (ever heard of the Biellmann spin?), Kristi Yamaguchi, and Nancy Kerrigan have all worn Harlick skates.