With so many options available to the hockey player, selecting the best hockey skates can be a challenge. This is particularly true for those new to the sport. Manufacturers make skates to meet almost every conceivable need. A little basic information can take a lot of the guesswork out the process. For instance, it helps to know the answers to a few important questions: should my hockey skates be the same size as my street shoes? Does the position I play matter? Etc.
Who Makes the Best Hockey Skates?
Superlatives can almost always be proved wrong. You may prefer one brand over another, one brand's fit over another, one brand's composite boot over another. It's tough to say who makes the best hockey skates. But, CCM and Bauer have been two of the most successful brands historically, and for good reason. Both are consistently innovative and seem to evolve their skates, model year to model year.
Both brands have three main skate families, each one classified by overall fit and different performance characteristics loosely aligned with the various hockey positions a skater might play.
The three Bauer lines are:
- Vapor—low volume fit (narrow)
- Supreme—medium volume fit (average)
- Nexus—slightly roomier medium volume fit (average-wide)
The three CCM lines are:
- Ribcor—low volume fit (narrow)
- Jetspeed—medium volume fit (average)
- Tacks—high volume fit (average-wide)
It's hard not to make comparisons given the obvious similarities. The Vapor and the Ribcor lines are for skaters with narrow feet, but also include structural elements that lend themselves to a particular kind of play. Fast, agile skaters will appreciate the slightly more flexible boot and the host of other similar features. The same proves generally true for comparable selections from the other two families.
What Are the Best Hockey Skates?
This question really demands a qualifier: what are the best hockey skates for me? We know that Bauer and CCM together occupy an enormous share of the hockey skate market. That's not to say you shouldn't research beyond the heavy hitters. Arm yourself with a little information. Read product descriptions. You'll be more likely to benefit from someone else's input—like ours. If someone tells you that the Bauer Supremes are the best medium-volume skate available, now you know also to check out what a comparable Jetspeed might offer for features, feel, and price.
Remember, you may not need all the features of an elite hockey skate. The construction of pro-level skates is designed to respond to serious skaters who push the limits of their equipment. A casual skater or even an intermediate, performance-level skater may not need the ultra-stiff boot, or the one-piece construction of a top-end skate. Top-end skates are like performance cars: they'll get you to the corner store, but you won't be taking advantage of the performance the car is designed (and priced) to deliver.
With that in mind, here is a brief sampler of some of the best skates on the market right now that you might want to check out. Rather than compare similar skates across brands, we're offering a look at four skates from CCM and Bauer in different fits and at different price points.
Low And Mid-Price-Point Hockey Skates
Affordability is certainly an important factor for many looking to buy recreational or performance-level skates. Now, if you're on the hunt for an affordable skate, you might just go out and drop the least amount of money possible and call it a day. We don't advise that, of course, but you could do it. Skates at lower price points are not all the same. It's worth the savvy consumer's while to think through what features are important to them, because even affordable skates are full of features.
Even if you rarely get out on the ice, when you do you still want your skates to feel good. Thermoformability might be an important feature for you. The option to change your own blades might make life easy for you. A stiff quarter package might be necessary if you're a bigger skater. Thinking shouldn't end because you're paying less money. You need to optimize your dollar with features that will give you the performance you need.
Bauer Vapor X500
The Bauer Vapor X500 is a great example of a skate at an affordable price point that also offers excellent performance. While not all the features are high performance, you do get a nice selection that will more than meet the needs of the performance-level skater who is on the ice intermittently.
Of note is the Tuuk edge holder—the most popular edge holder in the NHL. What makes this significant is the freedom to replace the skate blades yourself, without the aid of tools and advanced know-how. You simply pull the trigger and mount whatever Tuuk blade you want. Maybe that's another stock stainless Tuuk steel, or you upgrade. The choice is yours—and choice is a welcome option in a skate at this price point.
The boot also includes many of the design features of the top-end Vapor skates. The X-rib design bolsters the already stiff TrueForm Tech PU quarter package and gives the intermediate skater a ton of performance for, again, small dollars.
The skate is also fully thermoformable which means your already anatomical fit will become a custom fit once you bake the skates. Thermoformability is a nice feature to have at this price point—it helps players to really own, and really fashion, their equipment to their specific body shape.
Just because the Vapor X500 is affordable doesn't mean it's going to be a cookie cutter skate.
CCM Tacks 9070
Now we jump brands and take a look at CCM's Tacks 9070 skate. A mid-price-point offering, the Tacks 9070 also offers a lot of fine features for relatively few dollars.
One thing to note is the difference in edge holders between the Bauer and CCM skates. While Bauer uses Tuuk's holders, CCM has their own Speedblade model. What's cool about the Speedblade is its geometric construction: the holder harnesses the power of triangles for super stiff but also extremely lightweight performance, for superior stride energy transfer.
The Tacks line is a high volume fit—CCM calls it “anatomical”—and is roughly comparable to Bauer's Nexus line. The Tacks 9070 emphasizes comfort along with performance. Another thermoformable skate, the 9070 includes a high-tech skate tongue, a variety of strategically placed abrasion pads, an excellent liner, and CCM's RocketFrame composite in the quarter package—a professional specification material. Again, a lot of bang for the buck.
The top-end hockey skates are where the rubber really hits the ice in terms of performance and comfort features. If you're going to trade several hundred dollars for a pair of ice skates, you should expect the best of the best. When looking for the best hockey skates available, you'll find the differences between the top offerings, even within the same line, are increments of awesome.
At the top level, makers pay attention to every single feature on the skate—from the vent in the outsole (if not a one-piece boot), to the tendon guard, and even to the laces—no detail is overlooked.
Bauer Supreme 2S
While not the tippy-top 2S Pro, the Bauer Supreme 2S skate is perfect for the elite-level skater who appreciates a traditionally constructed skate at a significantly lower price point than the absolute top model.
As with most top-end skates, the performance features—and, by extension, the comfort features—are designed for the player who will push the limits of the skate. Thus the ultra-stiff boot and the plush, highly padded interior. These features are not there for the sake of luxury–they're there to make sure the aggressive skater isn't getting high ankle abrasions or that the skate boot isn't collapsing beneath the intensity of their turns. Recreational skaters, generally, are not going to demand the same kind of performance of their skates. Again, you can take your Ferrari to the 7-Eleven, but it probably makes more sense to take your Toyota.
Bauer's 2S features Tuuk's Lightspeed edge holder, but this time Bauer offers the LS2 or LS3 blade for greater durability and edge life. The boot features a composite material with more carbon than lower-end Supreme models, because elite skaters need the stiffness and durability carbon provides.
Both the interior and exterior are thermoformable for the ultimate in custom control. The tongue is beefed up and the liner includes a variety of pads and other features designed to reduce the interior negative space for a snug, near-skateless feel, with little-to-no movement of the foot within the skate. The nicer the skate, the less the skater should notice they're wearing it.
Bauer Supreme 2S Pro
Elite skaters on the hunt for the best ice skate available should spend some time boning up on the Bauer Supreme 2S Pro. It offers all the incredible performance a pro would get from the 2S, but can perform at a slightly higher level.
Bauer has dumped the fruits their advanced thinking into their top-end skates. Like the 2S, the 2S Pro is fully thermoformable, right down to the footbed. The latest 2S Pro features a newly designed quarter package, with Bauer's premium carbon materials and fabrication processes, so the skater can squeeze every ounce of energy from each stride.
At this level, the tendon guard isn't just flexible—it's customizable with a variety of plastic inserts to help individual skaters maximize their forward flex based on their particular stride. Similarly, the Supreme 2S Pro comes with three additional eyelets between the standard four for extra customization.
The Best Hockey Skates—Redux
Customization. It's a theme with top-end, elite-level skates. Yes, you're going to get all the best features, but the skates are made to respond to your individual skating style. At the elite level, skaters have their own style of play and on-ice tendencies. The high-end equipment offers premium quality while helping you be you. Sidney Crosby doesn't skate like Alexander Ovechkin, etc.
Ok, so maybe you're not Crosby or Ovechkin. Come to think of it, we know you're not. You're you. You need the best hockey skates for you, which may not be the most expensive ones on the market. Conversely, you may need to pay up for the performance features your particular game requires. There are no “best” hockey skates. There are only the right ones for you. And guess what? With a little research you'll find them.