Figure Skates vs. Hockey Skates
Should you buy figure skates or hockey skates for a child who wants to learn how to ice skate? Many parents don't know. While there is no correct answer, each type of skate has distinct characteristics and benefits.
The figure skate's blade is its single most recognizable feature, with a toe pick at the front of the blade that distinguishes it from a hockey skate blade. A figure skater plants the toe pick into the ice to launch jumps or to execute a pivot.
Ice Hockey Skates
A hockey skate has a rigid boot typically made of a synthetic material—plastic, for example—and is designed to protect the feet from the hard puck, from hockey sticks, and from other players' skates. The blade attaches to a hockey skate's boot through a plastic holder; the blade is rounded upward at the front and in the rear, and thus has more rocker than a figure skate blade.
Advantages of Figure Skates and Hockey Skates
A comparison of figure skates with hockey skates reveals discrete advantages of each:
Figure Skate Advantages
- A longer blade allows the figure skater to carve graceful arcs and perfect lines.
- Its leather boot is tight enough to support the ankle, but pliant enough for the skater to achieve the jumps and contortions figure skating demands.
- The blade's toe pick helps the skater execute jumps and pivots.
Hockey Skate Advantages
- The skate's lighter weight allows players to skate fast, stop on a dime, and change direction.
- The boot protects the player's feet against stick blades, pucks, and other impacts.
- Hockey skate blades have more curve—or rocker—at both ends, making the skates more maneuverable and easier to turn.
Are Hockey or Figure Skates Better for Learning?
The best skates for learning are the skates available to you, and that fit well; there's no reason not to simply buy the skates that match the sport that interests your child. Nothing says that a youngster who learns with figure skates can't switch to hockey skates and vice versa. But if you're trying to decide between figure skates versus hockey skates, consider these points:
- Hockey skates are built to turn, stop, and accelerate quickly.
- A beginning skater can use a toe pick inappropriately.
- Hockey skates are lighter weight, allowing a skater to practice longer before fatigue sets in.
While there are distinct advantages to learning how to skate in either figure skates or hockey skates, if you simply want to get on the ice and have some fun, the type of skate you choose does not matter. But if you or your child is interested in figure skating, start with figure skates. If you want to play hockey, start with a pair of hockey skates. And don't be ashamed of what's on your feet—once you skate faster than all your friends, it won't matter which type of skate you're wearing.