Which type of ice skate is right for you?

December 17, 2014

If you're ready to dig into one of the most Canadian-esque of activities for the first time, you'll need the right type of skates. Discover which is best for you.

Which type of ice skate is right for you?

Ice skating is a wonderful pastime, and a source of many great winter memories. Many people learn to skate as children, and some are enrolled into figure skating lessons or ice hockey growing up, particularly those who live in colder climates.

There are three main types of ice skates: figure skates, hockey skates, and racing skates, also called speed skates. Learn here about each type.

Figure skates

Figure skates are used, unsurprisingly, in the sport of figure skating. Figure skaters require footwear that can provide support for their many turns, jumps, and other ice acrobatics. Unlike hockey skates, figure skates have toe picks on the front of the blade, usually made from stainless steel or aluminum with a steel runner, which extend an inch or so past the back of the boot. Toe picks are used for particular jumps in figure skating, such as the toe loop, Lutz jump, or beginning a backspin, though they have other uses, too.

Figure skating boots are usually made from several layers of leather, which is very stiff to provide ankle support. The figure skate’s blade is curved to allow the skater to perform small adjustments in balance and weight distribution.

Hockey skates

Hockey skates are used in the sport of ice hockey, and have a boot that angles the foot forward. Visually, hockey skates more closely resemble an athletic shoe, and the blades are approximately the same length as the boot and are curved both in the front and back. This allows the skater to move with ease in any direction.

The boots are typically made from moulded plastic, leather (which is often synthetic), and ballistic nylon. Hockey skates that are used competitively are rarely made from moulded plastic for the upper boot, since this reduces mobility.

Racing (speed) skates

Since racing skates (also called speed skates) are built for speed, they are made with long blades and are designed to optimize fast, forward movement. Unlike hockey skates and figure skates, speed skates are not ideal for omnidirectional movement. Short track racing skates have longer blades that extend far beyond the boot, usually about 16 or 17 inches long. They are also flat, which help with forward skating. A new innovation in speed ice skates is the "slap blade," a skate blade that detaches from the heel while the skater is racing, supposedly aiding in forward momentum.

Now that you know the main types of ice skates, you’re ready to pick out the pair that best suits you. Just make sure you get them properly fitted.

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