Well-fitting hockey skates are extremely important to player performance at all ages. If a skate is improperly sized or uncomfortable, the player may experience blisters, damage the boot support, or even worse: begin to dislike playing the game. To avoid all that, here is what you need to know about how to fit your inline and ice hockey skates.
Fitting Hockey Skates
When fitting hockey skates, it's important to understand all the variables: sizing for hockey skates vs. shoes, how tight the skates should be, and how to try on and lace up the skates to ensure they fit like they should.
Hockey Skate Size vs. Shoe Size
If you’ve never shopped for a pair before, you might start out wondering, "What size ice skates should I buy?" As a general rule, you want to get a skate that is 1 to 1½ sizes smaller than your shoe size. Some sizing specifics depend on the brand—check out our charts comparing shoe size and hockey skate size for Bauer and CCM.
Skates run smaller than shoes, and skates fit tight. Don’t be concerned that your skates are a smaller size than your street shoes. Yes, you need the right fit, but you probably won’t get it by going up to your street shoe size.
How Tight or Loose Should Hockey Skates Fit?
Hockey skates should fit tight—but how tight?
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 over the course of the season. Adult skates are made to mold to the foot, so this extra space is not necessary.
To try on a skate, sit down and kick your heel firmly into the back of the boot; your big toe should barely brush the toe cap. Firmly tighten the laces through the first two or three eyelets until the skate is snug near the toe. Also tighten the laces well through the turn of the curve from foot to ankle—this will keep your heel seated well back in the heel pocket. Remember to keep your foot placed flat on the ground while lacing the skate.
Bauer, CCM, and True hockey skates normally fit 1 to 1½ sizes smaller than your shoe size. For children, it is acceptable to order a half size bigger than that to accommodate growing feet; however, wearing skates any larger will cause blisters and will break down the sides of the boot.
Here are a few important things to remember when fitting a skate:
- Be sure to wear the socks you plan to wear for practice and games at your hockey skate fitting.
- Does your heel move? Moving or lifting your heel inside the hockey skate should be impossible. If your heel does move, your performance will suffer and the hockey skate will not fit well.
- The skate should fit very snug for proper support to enable a good push-off without any movement of your foot inside the skate.
- And finally, it takes a few wears to break in a new pair of skates. Baking your skates is another option that helps expedite the break-in process to get a more custom fit.
Baking Your Skates
Baking your skates is a process in which skates are placed in a special skate oven to achieve a more perfect fit. This process helps round out the stiff sides and upper part of the boot, making it conform to the shape of the player's foot and ensuring a proper hockey skate fit. Not all skates can be heat-molded: beginner skates especially aren’t made with materials that withstand the process well. For players in heat-moldable intermediate or elite skates, though, baking shortens the break-in time by about half.
Fitting Hockey Skates vs. Inline Skates
Generally sizing for inline skates is a little different. Most inline manufacturers size their skates so they are closer to the player's actual shoe size—usually the same or one size smaller. Follow the same fitting steps for inline skates as you do for ice hockey skates.