Buying Hockey Skates
Probably the most critical piece of equipment for playing hockey has to be the hockey skate. You can’t get on the ice without them. As you begin your search for that perfect skate, you’ll soon realize there are a ton of things to consider. I’m not going to detail all of the fine points today, but I’ll give the top three things to consider as well as some great resources for further review.
Be prepared – it may sound completely ridiculous, but hockey skates should be 1 – 2 sizes below the standard shoe size. I had a hard time with this concept at first, but that’s just the way it is and how skates are built. Here are some general rules of thumb:
- All manufacturers (CCM, Bauer, etc) size differently and will certainly fit differently than a size 7 shoe. Each manufacture has their own sizing chart to reflect the differences, so be sure to review their site for sizing recommendations.
- When trying on a skate, wear socks similar to ones that you will wear while skating.
- Does your heel move? There should not be any movement or lift with your heel. If your heel does move, it will take away from your child’s performance and comfort.
- The skate should be very snug for proper support to enable a good push-off without any movement.
While trying on skates keep this in mind: For youth sizes, you should be able to place one finger between the inside of the boot and the heel of the foot. This is simply to allow some room for growth. (Adult skates are made to mold to the foot so this extra space is not necessary.) Next, sit down and kick the heel firmly into the back of the boot; the big toe should barely brush the toe cap. Firmly tighten the laces through the first 2-3 eyelets until the skate is snug near the toe. Remember to keep your foot placed flat on the ground while lacing the skate. Walk around on the skates (with a blade guard in place). They should feel snug, to slightly uncomfortable. Don’t worry, they’ll break in after a few sessions on the ice.
Quality-wise, there are four major characteristics of a hockey skate that influence its price: weight, stiffness, moisture management, and blade quality. While you may certainly spring for a high-end skate at any level, what you “need” is essentially dictated by the level and frequency of play. For beginners or occasional rec-league players, you should look at skates, with a softer boot, which gives more mobility and makes them easier to break in. At this stage in the game, the additional comfort from a softer boot is worth the added weight and sacrifice in moisture management.
Expensive does not always equate to better. Shop around review brands and levels of skates by a manufacturer. If you are shopping for skates for your new young player, I don’t recommend the most expensive skates as the kids will grow out of them very soon. Look for used skates or a decent pair on sale. Which leads to the next tip….
Where to Shop
If you have a good local hockey shop nearby drop in and try to find a pair of skates that fit your child. If you live in an area where hockey isn’t very popular or you know which size and skate you want, you can try looking online. Some good online stores include
Check their clearance and discount sections to find good deals! Also when buying online make sure you know the return policy so you can return the skates if they don’t fit properly.
Another good resource for skates (and equipment) is your local ice rink. If they have a youth hockey program, they probably have a trade-in program to help support young players (and parents wallets). Kids outgrow equipment quickly, so buying new equipment every six months doesn’t always make the most sense. Your local ice rink may have a backroom dedicated to swapping and trading equipment. You can usually find good stuff with limited wear that can be perfect for your child’s current needs.
Another resource is reseller shops. This could either be a store such as Play It Again Sports or an online store like eBay or CraigsList. You’ll just need to to do your homework and have a good idea of what you’re looking for and price range. We bought our son’s first pair of skates at Play It Again Sports and they work great – good quality, great price and he’ll probably outgrow them in six months and I can still recoup 40% of our initial outlay.
Check out this video for some additional tips and thoughts on shopping for skates.
It is normal for there to be a little discomfort when skating for the first couple of times in new skates. It’s normal to get the odd blister or a bit of a pain. This discomfort should only affect the first few times the skates are used. This is the normal process of breaking in a new pair of skates. After the skates are broken in you should be able to skate in them without any pain or blisters.
Bottom line, when it comes to selecting a pair of hockey skates there is no “best hockey skate” it all comes down to what is the best skate for YOUR child (or you). The best skate depends on skill level, playing style, foot size width and depth, ability and weight. Getting the right skate for your child is important to ensure it doesn’t interfere with their enthusiasm for the game. Soon your child will be gliding around the rink like the Next Great One.