How do I determine a good skate fit?
The hockey forums online are loaded with it. Discussions all over locker rooms. Questions in our stores. As long as hockey shall survive as a sport (forever, we obviously hope), the issue of hockey skate fitting will be riding sidecar with it. What's the best way to fit a skate? How do you know when you're in the right skate or have the right fit? We thought we'd ask some of our experts here at Pure Hockey – a bunch of our store managers. Their responses are detailed, helpful and if we may say so ourselves, excellent. Dig in:
Jon Stone, Manager of Pure Hockey in Customer Service:
Skate fitting is an imperfect science. From the retail perspective, it can be the most challenging – but also the most rewarding – part of our day here at the hockey shop. Most customers have an idea about what type of skate they are looking for and it is our job to show them how – or if -that skate will work for them. Because all skates are different, it is important to try on many of them and be open minded to the actual size of the skate. Once you have a skate on your foot, it is important to kick your foot back into the heel pocket of the skate. You will get the true feel of the length of the skate by doing this and then lacing up the skate – this will give you a good idea of where your foot will be in the boot. Just sliding on the skate and standing up may make the skate feel too short, with your toes hitting the end cap. It is important to remember when lacing up your skates that it is not as important to pull the laces tight in the lower half of the boot or the top three eyelets. It is essential to pull the laces tight through the turn or curve of the middle eyelets. This is the area that will push your foot back in the skate and help settle and keep your heel back in the heel pocket.
Trust the material of skates these days to provide you with all the ankle support you will need. Over tightening of the top eyelets or wrapping the laces around your ankle will only inhibit your forward flex and shorten your stride. Try on numerous skates and remember – your friends skate or the pair that Patrick Kane wear may not be the best skate for you. High end (read: expensive) skates are build for performance and may be too stiff for kids or smaller players to use. Talk to your local Pure Hockey skate guy about how often you skate and what type of skates you are using now. There is the “right” skate out there for every player – take the time to find your fit.
Dan Torti, Pure Hockey in Berlin, MA
Many different thoughts go into a skate fitting. Does the person have a narrow foot, a wide foot, a flat foot, a high arch, thick ankles, narrow ankles? You need to check this out because different models and brands of skates fit differently – just like shoes. As much as a customer wants to, we avoid fitting them according to the look of the skate. We can't stress that enough, it's not how it looks its how the skate feels. Who cares what a skate looks like if you're not going to be able to use it to its full potential or even wear it because you ache to much to be able to do anything in the skate.
Also, you need to take the size and weight of the individual into consideration too. Going with a lower to mid-end skate isn't necessarily a bad thing. Younger kids don't necessarily need high-end skates. A lot of times when you go to the high end skates they get stiffer – and when a skate is stiffer it becomes much harder for them to break it in. Chances are that by the time they break it in, it'll be time to move on to their next pair of skates because they've out grown their current skates already.
How much are they skating? Someone who is skating everyday for travel teams or High School and/or at an elite level may also need to go with a different model skate than that of the individual that may be skating once a week at a house or Jr. Varsity level. Mid to high-end skates tend to be a little bit more durable. A high school varsity player will want to go with the higher-end skate. It'll take the abuse, perform well, and give them good energy release because of the lack of breaking down.
Is the individual a finesse player looking to make tight turns and cuts or is the player a power forward looking to get as much potential energy out of their stride as possible? Do they want to have a tight fit around their ankle or a less restricting fit around their ankle. I want to fit the skate as close to the individual's actual foot size as possible. This allows for better control over their skating stride. It is not uncommon to have a skate that is 2 – 2.5 sizes smaller than an individual shoe size. For someone who isn't going to be growing any more, the perfect fit would be to have your toes slightly brushing the toe of the skate. For a youngster you can probably get them to this point – and give them a half size bigger at the most. This will allow them a little room to grow without the skate affecting their skating ability. A skate that is too big often times will give you blisters as a result of the sloppy fit. The reason for this is if your heel lifts or your foot is moving from side to side the friction from the movement will cause irritation which will turn into a blister. A lot of people feel that this happens because a skate is too small. This is not the case and heat molding the skate will not make the skate fit tighter. This process actually breaks down the glues and materials of a skate to break down some of the stiffness of the skate speeding up the break in process.
Basically a customer should buy a skate according to the player that they are not the player that they wish they are. Do NOT buy a skate according to look, or someone else's opinion of the skate. Look to try on various models and compare the fits. Leave the skate on and walk around for a couple minutes. Usually aching or pains of the arch or mid foot don't happen right away. Keep the skates on so that you know whether or not you will have any problems. Make sure the skate has a tight fit and that your ankle is locked into place, but still is comfortable.
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By Jordan Lalor (Pure Hockey Marketing) and Mitch Donahue (Manager,Pure Hockey of Dover NH)
At Pure Hockey, we know there are a lot of things to consider when choosing the skate that's right for you. Looking at that wall with 50+ skates on it should bring joy, not anxiety. If you walk into any Pure Hockey location there will be a trained employee eager to properly fit you, but it wouldn't hurt for you to have a general idea of what you want. Hopefully this guide will give you some added wisdom next time you're in the market for a fresh pair.
Sizing & Fit
A proper fit should be your primary concern when shopping for skates as skate sizes are not universal and all manufacturers (CCM, Bauer, etc) size differently and will certainly fit differently than a size 9 shoe. Skates run large, we recommend dropping down about 1 ½ to 2 sizes from your shoes.
To find the ideal length, tie the skates and stand up. You should feel your toes lightly touching the toecap of the skate. It may seem small, but if you bend your knees you should feel your toes slide back as your foot is held in place by the heel cup. If the heel slides upward, it's likely too big.
Concerned about your child's growth? Skates these days are made to last, but you should anticipate buying skates prior to each season. By compensating for growth and buying bigger skates, you will inevitably hinder your little one's development. Trust us, you are better off buying a mid-priceline skate that fits now instead of a high end skate that will fit next year.
Quality & Skate Makeup
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 your level and frequency of play.
To beginners or occasional rec-league players, we advise you to look at what we call our "Performance Level" skates, with a softer boot, which gives you more mobility and makes them easier to break in. At this stage in your game, the additional comfort from a softer boot is worth the added weight and sacrifice in moisture management.
Intermediates, there is an assortment of "Elite Level" skates to choose from. A mid-price skate is made with lighter, stronger materials resulting in a stronger, lighter, quick drying skate that is easily affordable.
At the top of the ladder, "Pro Level" skates are designed for the top end players. These skates use the newest and most advanced materials available to make the skate extremely light, stiff and very hydrophobic. The skates at this level are made from fully heat moldable materials to ensure a great fit for maximum performance and quick break in time. You truly get what you pay for.