Friday, October 12, 2012

Never Buy Used Hockey Skates (but if you do, read this first)

Never say Never

Generally, it’s tough to find a good pair of used skates. Kids skates tend to go both directions. While they can sometimes find a pair that hasn’t been beaten to within a hair of their life, many used skates have been handed down so many times they should have hit the scrap heap 10 years ago. For adults it’s pretty rare to find a decent pair. While it makes slightly more sense for kids than adults, I don’t generally recommend buying a pair of used skates for anyone. The problem is that someone else’s feet have been in there. Used footwear is one of the reasons that I gave up bowling for hockey (that and apparently body checking opponents while bowling isn't acceptable).

Avoid skates made in the Soviet Union. 

But even if you don’t care what sort of foot fungus or flesh eating toe jam the previous user of a pair of skates might have left in your newly acquired used skates, there is the problem that a pair of used skate often doesn’t fit properly. You see skates form to a player’s feet over time. Once broken in, they aren’t going to fit a second pair of feet as well. This is one of the reasons that rental skates are one of the most evil instruments of torture the world has ever devised. The aforementioned toe jam and foot fungus would be another.

Now that I’ve mentioned a couple of the bad things that about used skates, I will say that once in a while there actually is a killer deal available. A guy recently offered to sell me a pair of skates he'd owned a week. I almost bought them because they were the model I wanted at less than wholesale price and he hadn't broken them in. You might find a pair that someone use two or three times before realizing that all their athletic ability resided in their imagination. You could find a pair that was incorrectly sized and returned. You might find the pair that belonged to the guy who was horribly injured from running into the guy who imagined he had athletic ability. The goal of this article is to help you determine what is important in a pair of used skates and how to judge their condition.


Anytime that you look at skates, new or used, fit is the single most important factor to consider. Different brands and models of skates have unique boots that will fit certain foot shapes best. This is even more important in a pair of used skates. You don’t want to end up in a pair that was broken in for someone who has vastly different feet than your own. I’m not going into the details here of how to fit your skates as that’s an article’s worth in itself (one that I already wrote). Please read my previous blog entry Hockey Skates Demystified if you haven’t already.

Judging the Condition 

Sometimes it’s pretty easy to tell that a pair of skates has done a few laps around the rink. Other times, it can be difficult. The bulk of the remainder of this article will focus on how to judge the condition of a pair of skates. I’m going to break the skates down, part by part and tell you things you should look for.

Something like this might be worth a lot of money, but likely won't skate very well (even if you do need extra ankle support)


Replacement runners cost about $25 each for hockey skates. So not judging the condition of the runners properly on a pair of used skates could drive the price up quite a bit. Another thing to consider is the type of runners as they are normally an indication of the original quality and price of the skates.

Runner Type 
There are two basic types of steel used in hockey skate runners. These are carbon steel and stainless steel. Stainless is harder and generally found on the more expensive skates. I wouldn’t bother with a pair of used skates that have carbon steel runners as they were likely under $100 anyway. If you can buy a new pair for $50 or $75, why bother with used? Or maybe that’s just me. Another factor is that most carbon steel runners are not replaceable. Once they are worn out, it’s time for a new pair of skates.

Telling which type of steel is on a pair of skates can be a little tricky sometimes. Many brands stamp “stainless” right on the runner. While this is a pretty good indication, the lack of the obvious doesn’t really mean they aren’t stainless. Often with sharpening and use, the logos and text on the side of the steel runner wear off. The more telling sign is that carbon steel blades have a chrome finish on them. Sometimes the chrome is even flaking off around the bottom of the blade which makes them very easy to identify. Sometimes the chrome has a brushed appearance to it. Once you compare a few pair you shouldn’t have too much trouble identifying what type of steel is on a pair of skates.

If you do have issues identifying the steel, you can probably hire a welder to come along with you. They’d be able to tell you which is stainless and carbon steel. Of course at the cost of $100 an hour or so, you might not do as well on the used skate price as you hope. Maybe you have a friend who works in a steel mill, that might help too.

Alternatively, you can look for screws that attach the runner to the plastic blade holder. CCM, Reebok and Easton all have two screws that are pretty obvious. Graf skates have a single screw in the heel of the holder. Bauer is the trickiest as they hide the screws. Bauer’s screws go through the sole of the boot. You can check these by looking under the insole for a small plastic access cap in the heel of the skate. In most cases stainless runners are attached with screws and carbon steel runners are permanently bonded to the holder.

Runner Condition 
Some factors are more obvious than others when looking at the condition of the steel. Obviously you don’t want any cracks or breaks in a pair of runners. Rust can be a problem as well. Even stainless runners can rust if they aren’t properly cared for as most skates do not feature marine grade stainless. Still, stainless won’t typically reach the cancerous levels of rust that might plague a pair of carbon steel runners.

A small amount of rust on a pair of stainless blades will normally come off once they are sharpened. However, pay attention to the sides of the runner. If there are small dark dots on the side and the bottom of a runner, it can be an indication that rust has penetrated the entire runner. While this isn’t the end of the world as far as runners go, it will slow you down slightly on the ice and could lead to premature breakage of the runner. More importantly it can be an indication of how the skates were cared for.

Perhaps the most important and tricky part of judging the runner quality is determining how much steel is left. Each time a pair of skates is sharpened some of the runner gets used up. There are two problems which eventually occur as the runners get shorter. First, on hard turns the boots will hit the ice. When boots hit the ice in a turn, the player wearing them falls down the players on the near bench tend to make some sort of wise remark, like, “Careful, there’s some ice there.” The second issue is that eventually the skates can no longer be sharpened. Of course if you wait until they can no longer physically be sharpened, you’ve been spending a lot of time falling down on the turns.

Another thing that you can tell by the runners is how much use the skates have seen. If the steel is down to about half of its original height, the skates are probably pretty well used. It is possible that they were just sharpened quite often, but generally players who sharpen their skates are doing it because they are using their skates.

The best way to tell how much steel is left is to compare the used skates to a new pair with the same type of runner. Most skates within the same brand use the same type of runners. If the difference is significant, you might consider a different pair of skates. Things start getting marginal somewhere around the point where 2/3 or less of the steel is remaining.


The holder is the plastic piece that attaches the boot to the blade. Holders sometimes break and, like runners typically cost about $25 to $35 each to replace. Look for any cracks along the holder and around all of the rivets. Check to make sure that the holder appears to be square to the bottom of the boot as sometimes the holders are improperly installed or replaced. If you can see that it isn’t square, it’s pretty bad.

It’s also a good idea to make sure that the blade isn’t loose in the holder. While having your runner fall out on the ice is always good for a laugh, it’s a laugh at your expense my friend. If a runner is loose, check to see if you can fix the problem by tightening the hardware. (You will need a special tool for some Bauer skates to do this). A little blade looseness will often occur over time and can cause issues with skating. However, both Bauer and Graf skate holders do sometimes have issues as the result of over-tightening which cannot be corrected without replacing parts.

The overall condition of the holder can tell you something about how much use the skates have had as well. If it looks like a doggie chew toy that you’d find in your neighbor’s yard, the skates have probably been used pretty long and hard (or chewed on my a dog). A few scuffs and nicks are normal for even a short amount of use, but major deterioration, numerous gouges on the steel and chunks of missing plastic indicate a skate that has seen many, many hours on the ice.


There are two types of rivets in most skates: steel and copper. Some skates only use steel rivets, but I don’t know of any that use only copper. Rivets are relatively inexpensive and quick to replace. They typically run about $1 each and can be done while you wait. However, most skates have 14 rivets each. So, if all of them are bad, it’s going to run around $28 a pair to fix them. Further the rivets can be another good indication of how well the previous own took care of their skates.

Check the copper rivets on the bottom of the skate. Make sure that the washer (technically called the burr) is in place on each of them and isn’t loose. Sometimes you can see that some of the steel rivets are popping up. If a steel rivet isn’t flush, it is bad. The best way to tell the quality of the steel rivets is to look under the insole of the skate though. Once you pull out the insole, you can see the “flowers” of the steel rivets. A small amount of rust here is normal. But skates that have seen better days will often have a gob of rust where the flower used to be.

Skates with more rust than metal indicate two issues to me. First, the insoles were likely never removed after use. Taking out the insoles is easy and the best way to take care of your skates. It allows things to dry out. Significant rust on rivets that will likely need to be replaced soon is just one of the issues it creates. The accelerated breakdown of the boot through trapped moisture is another.

As long as you have those insoles out, take a look at what was under them. If the plastic footbed inside the skate is cracked, the odds are good that the skates are on their last legs. Once the plastic starts cracking, repairs are often difficult to impossible on everything below that portion of the skate. Also check the insoles themselves how are they? Is that something you want to have your feet on? I once had a customer drop off a pair of skates to have new holders and steel installed. When I took out the insole there were dozens of tiny centipede-like worms crawling around under it. I told him we couldn’t fix his skates. If you see centipedes, you might want to look for a different pair (or it’s possible that I’m just squeamish when it comes to sharing my footwear with dozens of bugs). Still, it it were me I might shop at another used skate store.


Many skates currently use composite outsoles. These tend to look like fiberglass (and often are). Some contain graphite, carbon fiber or some other top secret compounds. While these are lightweight and strong materials, they also tend to break without any sort of warning once in a while. However the main issue that you will find in composite outsoles is splintering edges. If the edges are pretty badly frayed, the skates might have serious mileage on them. Minor fraying can be checked with a small amount of clear silicon caulk. Serious fraying is going to be impossible to repair and will continue to deteriorate.

Other issues to check are gaps between the outsole and the boot. Many models of skates tend to separate here when they get older. This can be a little tricky to determine since the skate blade holder and rivets often hold things in place. However, if there are major gaps at the toe or around the arch of the skate it is a potential problem. Large gaps might indicate that the outsole is ready to completely separate from the boot. Small gaps aren’t uncommon in new skates, so don’t worry if there are small gaps and everything seems tight. Again, I recommend a little bit of silicon caulk to keep moisture out and help keep things in check here.


The laces aren’t something that I’d worry too much as about $4 will get you a new pair. The only important thing with the laces is to make sure you know what size you need. If the pair in the skates are the proper size, measure them so you know what you need when you pick up a new pair. They come in 1 foot increments and the most common sizes are 120, 108, 96 and 84 inches.

While laces are cheap, a lot of eyelets are not. You should check all the eyelets. Make sure to check both side of them as well. The back should have a flat washer. I’ve seen some skates where the inside of the eyelet had completely disintegrated on every single eyelet. Also make sure that there are no sharp edges as these will shred your laces (which is inconvenient and expenseive). New eyelets will run about three bucks each. Count how many you need and do the math. With 20 eyelets on most adult skates, you could spend more than the cost of a new pair of entry level skates on repairs.

If eyelets are missing or torn out I’d probably skip the skates. While replacing a couple eyelets isn’t a big deal, if a skate has been used without the eyelet for a while, the hole is often stretched out and will no longer hold an eyelet. Eventually the hole will tear out without the reinforcement of an eyelet and the repair will cost anywhere from $20 to $50 to repair. Even if the hole isn’t stretched, it takes a lot of miles and moisture before eyelets pop on most skates. A missing eyelet is an indication that a pair of skates has seen either considerable use or was poorly treated.


Check the lining of the skates carefully. Tears and holes in the liner are only going to get bigger. Any type of hole or tear has the potential to be a very annoying issue as well. These will repeatedly rub you and can cause blisters, bleeding and even profuse swearing.

In one pair of skates that I owned, the lining tore because the plastic support inside the skate had poked through it. It literally stabbed me the last couple times I wore them and ended up bleeding both times. The scary thing is that at only three months old the skates looked (and were) almost new. With a $450 retail price tag on a new pair, a skate like this might make the market and sell for a pretty high price. It would be sad to not notice the tear only to have their new-used skates stab them repeatedly and painfully in the foot.

If you end up with a pair of skates that needs to be re-lined, the cost is well over $100. I charge $160 to do this at my shop. Again, it doesn’t make much sense to do on a used pair of skates.

General Breakdown

Look for any serious creases in the skates. These are most common in the ankle area. If there is a crease where someone might have wrapped the laces, it’s a good bet that most of the support in the skates is shot there. (By the way wrapping your laces is one of the worst things you can do to your skates). Creases anywhere in the skate indicate that the skate is going to bend there more easily then it should, essentially the boot is worn out if it has creases. Skip any skates that have any creases in them. The only way to repair these is a rebuild and re-stiffen which will cost over $120.

Large bulges or indentations are signs that the skates have been heavily punched (fitted) for an odd shaped foot. These indications may or may not have a bearing on how well used the skates are. However, they do indicate that the skate might not fit you as well as it should. Certainly, there isn’t going to be much left to break-in to your feet if they’ve been punched to where you can see them. Break in makes your skates bigger in spots, nothing I know of can make them smaller.

Check the tongues for creases as well. Many players fold their tongues down to fit shin guards under them. If the tongue creases, it can create a pressure point and lead to a painful skating condition called lace bite. It’s essentially where the tongue digs in to your foot and causes it to swell painfully. It isn’t something that normal people want or enjoy. You can replace tongues on skates, but again it isn’t cheap. A new pair of tongues is about $70, labor to install them another $20.

Check the stitching all around the skates. The stitching around the top edges of the boot isn’t too hard to fix, but lower areas can range from difficult to impossible. The areas just behind the toecap on either side of the skate are problematic in some models of skates and nearly impossible to fix, so pay particular attention there.

Tendon guards can be another major issue on skates. The stitching around tendon guards is an area to check carefully. Also check the bottom of the tendon guards for any tears. There are a lot of skates where this is a weak spot. The lining and the outside of the skate are prone to tearing at the tendon guard. Most importantly, check to make sure the tendon guard is still stiff. While a small amount of flexibility is inherent, the tendon guard shouldn’t be floppy by any stretch of the imagination. Most importantly make sure the edges of the tendon guards are not torn. Depending on the skate design and extent of damage, repairing a tendon guard will typically range from $20 to $50 a skate. If there is just a little stitching of the boot liner around the tendon guard, the repair might not be too bad. If the tendon guard is broken or there is tearing, it may be prohibitively expensive to fix.

Parting Thoughts 

If you buy a decent used pair of skates there are a few things you should do to get them ready to go. First, spray them with copious amounts of disinfectant. You don’t know where those things were or who perspired in them and you’re going to put your feet in there.

Next, have your skates sharpened before you use them. The odds are that used skates weren’t sharpened recently. Even if they were, who knows where they were last sharpened? Further, if there is any rust on them, a quick sharpen will take care of it. If you found a pair in good shape, I see many used skates that were never sharpened (I wonder why they gave up?)

Take care of your skates by picking up a pair of terrycloth blade guards. When you’re done playing, wipe the snow off the runners and put the terrycloth guards on the skates. These will help to wick the moisture off the runners and keep them rust free. Rubber guards are for walking in, not storing skates in as they promote rust.

Lastly, remember to take out the insoles when you’re done playing. This is the single best way to take care of your skates and to keep them free of centipedes.

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© 2012 Scott Noble
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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hockey Skates Demystified

A previously published version of this article has had over a quarter million page views, enjoy.

Arguably, skates are the most important part of any hockey player’s gear. They are also the most mystifying piece of equipment to buy. Skates have to fit properly and be of the appropriate level or the experience will simply be miserable.

In this article I will review the following, 
  1. How to pick a skate that fits properly 
  2. Some things you should know about used skates
  3. Modern techniques to make skates more comfortable 
  4. What sort of feet different brands of skates fit best 
  5. How to select the proper level of boot stiffness 
  6. When and how to get skates sharpened 
Selecting Skates That Fit Properly
One of the hardest things to understand for players who are new to the game of hockey is the way that their skates should fit. Unlike shoes, skates should offer a snug fit, tight but not painfully so. The worst thing that a skater can do is purchase skates that are too big. If they are too big, they will only get worse as they stretch. Skates that are a little small 
can be easily fixed. Most hockey shops employ a couple of fitting techniques to enlarge skates. These include: punching – a quick process in which a small and very specific portion of the boot is stretched out; and power-stretching – an overnight process where the boots can be lengthened sometimes up to a size or more and widened by at least a full width.

Skates that are too big are almost impossible to fix. Most people think a second pair of socks will help here. Contrary to what our mothers taught all of us, wearing an extra pair of socks is one of the worst things you can do in a pair of skates. The more room you have for your foot to move about, the more likely you are to develop blisters and even painful, semi-permanent bone spurs on your feet. Serious figure skaters never wear socks. Most wear thin tights no thicker than heavy panty hose would be. Many hockey players and figure skaters forego socks altogether in favor of bare feet. While this ensures a better feel for the ice, it is very hard on your skates. They will eventually smell like rotten, stinky feet and actually wear out faster as they soak up all the perspiration from your feet. I prefer a very thin pair of socks, think dress sock thin.

So the question is how do you determine proper skate size? The first and most important rule in buying skates is to
never buy a pair that you cannot try on first. As internet shoppers this probably isn’t what you hoped to hear. Nonetheless, it is possible to buy skates online, but I’d never recommend doing so without finding them in a shop to try them on first. That said, your local shop should be willing to order a pair at no obligation to you if they don’t have what you’re looking for in stock.

Having fitted hundreds of people for skates, I can tell you that it is annoying to have people come in and take up a long period of your time only to tell you they are going to buy the skates on the internet. If you do try skates on at a local shop, you might ask what services they include in the price. I still spend on average at least half an hour with each skate customer. Rocket Skate offers the first 3 free sharpenings, a heat fit and lifetime comfort adjustments (free boot punching). Even when our prices are slightly above the average internet price on skates, by the time you do the math you’re getting a much 
better at Rocket Skate. We also guaranteed the fit of our skates. Most importantly, if there are issues with your skates we will fix them quickly rather than forcing you to send them back and wait several weeks while it is sorted out.

Often times when you factor in free sharpenings and a heat mold of the boot, the price with shipping on the internet isn’t very different. I charge $12 to sharpen a brand new pair of skates and $15 for a heat fit in my shop, but throw these in for free if you buy the skates for me. Try to factor in the amount of time and service you’re getting before saving a few dollars. If these benefits don’t appeal to you, remember that your local retail shop is NOT a showroom for Hockey Monkey or Hockey Giant.

All of that said, there are sometimes killer deals on the net, and not all players will benefit from all of the services offered by local retail shops. Obviously if you find a pair of $450 skates on clearance for $199, you will be hard pressed to beat that deal anywhere. However, it never hurts to ask your local shop if they can meet the price. If someone find a deal that’s that good, I’m never opposed to them taking it. In fact, if you find a deal that good, I’m going to tell you it’s a good deal and you that you should take it.

So back to trying on skates, it isn’t like trying on shoes. If you put on a pair of skates and they feel as comfortable as slippers, I can almost guarantee that you will have serious issues skating in them. It is important that you can feel the end of the skates with your toes. A perfect fitting on a hockey skate is best described as this:

When sitting with the boots first on and not laced, they might feel uncomfortably short. Don’t panic. First you should kick back into the boot. Kick the heel of the skate on the floor a couple of times to make sure your heel is settled back. Next lace the skates up and make sure they are tight. The forefoot area should be snug, but not crushing. As you get to where the eyelets start to turn towards the vertical portion of the boot, tighten these up a little tighter. This will pull your heel back into the proper position. When laced and still sitting, you might still feel like the skates are too short. Don’t make your judgment yet. With both skates on and laced tight, stand up. You should notice a little less pressure on your toes at this point. Pay close attention though as they should still touch the end of the skate. Now the important part, bend your knees so they are over your toes. You should feel your toes pull off the toecap or still be just lightly brushing against them. This is the perfect length of boot for you.

Keep in mind two things if this type of fit seems a little too short. First the heel pockets of the boots will compress as they break in and actually give you a little more room for length. Second, if by some chance the boots are uncomfortably short after breaking them in, you can still have them stretched for length. Had you erred on the side of buying a pair that was too long, you would have to replace your skates.

If you are unsure of the length even after trying skates on, a good way to double check is by simply taking out the insoles of the skate and standing on them. An adult’s toes should come right to the end of the insole. A child who needs room for growth should never have more than about a finger’s width of toe space. This will get them through about a year without having skates so loose that they cannot skate without their ankles bent. I highly recommend this method of sizing skates for younger children who often do not express how the skates fit in any certain terms.

Now the other factors of width and foot shape are a little more abstract. If you have a full service hockey shop, (by this I mean a place where they fit you instead of handing you a box) competent sales people will be able to recommend skates based on the width of your foot and height of your instep.

The skate fitter should know what questions to ask you to determine the proper fit. If they don’t, this will be up to you as the purchaser to determine this part of the fit. Again, make sure that your skates are snug, but not uncomfortable. Pay attention to the fit of your heel, does it move? Try on another pair. Do the laces feel like they are digging in to the top of your feet? Try another pair. Does the forefoot feel loose? Try another pair. Eventually one will likely feel significantly better than the others did.
Used Skates 
I am generally not a fan of putting my feet into something that other people have worn and sweated in profusely. No amount of Lysol can make a pair of hockey skates seem clean enough for my comfort. Nonetheless, there is a pretty large market for used skates. Even if you aren’t worried about some exotic, new foot fungus that you might develop, there are a lot of other reasons to buy a new pair of skates rather than used. If you are thinking about buying used skates there are some factors to consider. 

The biggest reason to buy a new pair of skates is simple. Unless a used pair has only been used for a few hours, it is already broken into to someone else’s feet. Everyone has different shaped feet. In fact, you might be surprised how unique feet can be. The problem with a pair of skates that someone else broke in is that they will never fit you as well as they should. Think about rental skates, they never fit. The simple fact is, dozens of different shaped feet have broken them down. While a pair of used skates will not be quite as bad, they will likely have a number of spots that fit loosely and shouldn’t. 

The steel is another factor. How many sharpenings will you get out of the runners on a used pair of skates before you have to replace the steel? On most brands, new steel will cost you in the ballpark of $50. There are a number of skates out there where it will cost closer to $100. Often times used skates are being sold 
because they need new steel.

The boot might be broken down. Stiffness is a major factor in hockey skates. Without the appropriate level of stiffness, a boot cannot and will not perform properly. Many used skates on the used market have outlived their usefulness and become soft. If the support is gone, the boot is worthless.

All this said, I have seen some very good deals on used skates. Some shops will exchange a boot that a skater wasn’t satisfied with and then sell the slightly used skates at cost. If you can get a pair that has only a couple of hours on it for half the price of new, it is certainly a good deal. Used kids skates can also be worthwhile. With growing feet, kids are less likely to be affected by the less perfect fit of a broken in skate. Do pay close attention to the other factors, such as the stiffness of the boot and the amount of steel left on the blades though.

How Major Brands Fit 

Bauer has three lines:
The Supreme line skates fit average to slightly wide feet. They are wider in the mid-foot than CCM, but similar in the forefoot. Instep height is low to average. The Vapor line runs a little narrower, fitting narrow and average feet best. Instep height on the Vapors is average.The Nexus (formerly Flexlite) is still the widest boot on the market. The Nexus will fit an average instep height, but even in the D width has been a favorite for skaters with Fred Flilntstone feet.
Graf skates come in a number of different styles which will accommodate numerous foot shapes. The Graf number system designates the stiffness and shape of the skate boot. The first digit on the skate is the boot level. A G or 7 describe an elite level skate. A 6 would be advanced, 5 intermediate, etc. 

The second part of the model number designates the last, or shape, of the foot the boot fits. The 3 is the narrowest skate while the 5 is the same last but 2 millimeters wider. The 35 has the wider forefoot of the 5 and the narrower heel of the 3. The 9 is a high volume skate for players with thick, wide feet. Lastly, the 7 is a special skate originally designed for players wearing an ankle brace. The ankle and foot of the skate are almost independent allowing for the highest level of forward and lateral flex on the market today.

Thus a Graf 709 is an elite level skate for wide, thick feet. A 503 is an intermediate skate for people with narrow to average width feet and a G35 is an elite skate for players with a wide forefoot and narrow heel. Further setting Graf apart is the fact that they are one of the only companies offering most of their skates in 3 different widths, so if you find Bauer Vapors too wide, Grafs in a narrow width might be the best bet.

CCM's current U+ and CL line is something of an intermediate width skate which will cover a fair range of foot shapes. It uses a similar last to the Vector line but fits more narrowly than the discontinued Tacks line did.
Easton skates are best for average width feet. The Easton models have a little bit narrower toes than do some wide models of skates. Their skates aren’t great for players with higher insteps. 
Reebok makes some of their models in three widths becoming only the second major skate maker (after Graf) to do so. Reebok skates fit more like the traditional CCM line. (As confusing as this might seem as Reebok owns CCM and seemed to claim the next generation of would-be -Tack as their flagship skates when they bought the company). 
Modern Skate Fitting 
Up until recently there was a common feeling that hockey skates simply weren’t comfortable until you had quite a few hours of break-in time on them. This was more or less the truth of it. However, in recent years there have been a number of developments that have decreased the break in time of skates. 

Heat-fitting is a process in which the skates are actually baked in a special oven (don’t try to bake your skates at home, 
they will melt). By heating approved skate models up to approximately 200 degrees, then lacing them very tightly on the skater’s feet, it actually helps to round out the stiff sides and upper of the boot. The boots conform to the shape of the player’s feet. Heat-fitting shortens the break-in period often times by about half. Heat-fitting will notchange the size of a boot significantly. A heat fit will cost $20 - $30 and takes about half an hour. Obviously the skater will need to be there for the process.

Punching is a term used to describe the process for expanding a localized portion of the boot. This method can help with the fit by eliminating hot spots in a boot. If you have a bone spur or a toe that is a bit too tight, punching your boots can eliminate these problems. Punching is done on a manually operated machine. It basically entails a small ball or finger shaped piece inserted into the boot with a cup on the outside of it. By pulling a lever, the skate tech applies pressure and loosens up the localized area. Due to the nature of the equipment used, not all areas of the boot are addressable with punching. Most notably, areas that are right on the edge of the boot (i.e. the eye stays and the cuff), and the top and ends of the toecap are difficult or impossible to fix. Also, the heel of the boot is a very critical part of the skate and great care has to be taken to not over do punching in this area. Punch jobs usually range from $5 to $10 a session and are done while the player waits. It is very important for the player to be available during punching sessions as they will have to try the skates on and it might take several tries to get the punch just right.

Power-stretching entails heating up the boots as for a heat-fit and putting them on a device similar to a professional shoe stretcher. This process can deliver remarkable results, and is often the best-case scenario for people with different sized feet. Power-stretching can easily increase a quality boot by a full size in length, sometimes more. While power-stretching of a boot can also add a full width or more to a skate, it only adds width to the middle and front portion of the boot. The nature of the equipment does not widen the heel. This process usually cost $20 to $35 and takes about 12 hours.

CCM’s FIT system is very similar to the conventional heat-fit, but uses a somewhat odd-looking device to apply pressure to the outside of the boot during the boot’s cooling period. The player, with skates on, puts their feet into the top of the FIT system (a large fiberglass box). When turned on the FIT system inflates air bladders that press against the boots to help shape them to the player’s feet.

Custom insoles are another option that help solve some problems. These can range from $30 to $100 or more and come in a number of forms. The less expensive option would be a heat-molded insole that some shops offer. The more expensive would be the orthotic inserts that a podiatrist might recommend. These work fairly well to put player’s feet in a proper neutral position, lowering fatigue and actually increasing stride length. Insoles will often help with players who have a hard time keeping their skates perpendicular to the ice 
if their boots fit properly.

There are several models of skates that offer a “soft boot” now. A soft boot, contrary to the name, is a very hard outer boot shell with a soft lining. The advantage to this type of skate is that break in is very short. Rather than the player having to break down thick leather, the softer lining molds to their feet. Nike was the first to create this style of skate and still makes all their models soft boots. CCM Vector and Externo skates have been very popular and are also soft boots. Most recently, Easton introduced the SBX which is a soft boot. All of these are quality skates that are comfortable right out of the box.

Selecting the Level of Boot Stiffness 
There are two tendencies in buying skates that are simply incorrect. One is that the more money spent, the better the skate. While this is true in the purest sense, it might not be the best skate for a given player. The other tendency is much the opposite, in thinking that all skates are more or less the same, so the cheapest one is best. 

Skate price is generally proportionate to the level of stiffness in the boot. Novice skates will generally cost in the ballpark of $150 for a name brand senior size skate. Elite level skates will run $500 or more. Most skate makers use a numbering system to designate their skates by stiffness. The higher the number, the stiffer the skate is. Note that CCM Powerline and Bauer Impact skates are 
hockey style recreational skates. These are more appropriate to learning to skate than actually using to play hockey in.

The three most important factors in determining the proper level of boot to purchase are player weight, ability level and average hours of weekly ice time. Of these three, weight is probably the most important factor. A child who wears size 6 (senior) skates but is just pushing 100 pounds would never be able to flex a pair of top end skates no matter how often they are using them or what ability level they play at. Conversely, a 275-pound man will destroy a pair of low-end skates in under a year skating only once or twice a week.

Buying too much skate will result in a miserable experience in which the skate will take a very long time to break in, or possibly never break in. A reasonable break in time for skates is 2 to 5 hours of ice time. This can be cut in half by heat-fitting and is highly recommended for top tier skates such as Bauer 8090s and CCM Pro Tacks.

Buying skates that not stiff enough will cause premature breakdown. The boots will actually flex in areas that they should not. In a matter of months or even weeks a boot can degrade to the point where the skater is getting little or no support. Explosive skating is all but impossible in a boot that has broken down. Pinching and soreness sometimes occurs as well.

Sharpening of Skates
Skates are 
not sharpened by the manufacturer. This is one downside to internet skate sales. I have literally seen dozens of skates a year that players used, but never sharpened. How anyone even steps on the ice without realizing this is hard for me to understand, yet I had one mother tell me her son skated for several months on a pair that was never sharpened. She came back a week later to tell me how much better he was with an actual edge on his skates. Make sure to get your skates sharpened if you buy them online!

Sharpening is something of a personal feel. While some grinds are more common, there are half a dozen different hollows regularly used by various hockey players. The most commonly requested grinds are 3/8” and 7/16”.

The way a skate is sharpened is a little bit confusing at first. Essentially there are two edges on the steel (figure skaters will claim there are four, but that would be like arguing there are two edges on a knife, the right and left . . . semantics). The sharpener actually hollows out the very center of the skate blade leaving high spots on the two outside edges of the blade. The hollow is the size diameter that the section removed from the blade would be if it were a complete circle. Thus, the smaller this number is, the deeper the hollow in the blade and the more pronounced the edges on the skate are.

Goalies are the most varied in sharpening of their skates. A good starting spot for goalie skates is ¾”. However I have sharpened goal skates from 1” all the way to 7/16”. (3/8” is a practical impossibility on goal skates for technical reasons). If ¾” grind doesn’t suit you after trying it I would make adjustments, 1/8” at a time until you find one you like. (i.e. 5/8” if you want more edge control, 7/8” if they feel too sharp).

Player skates are much more consistent with the vast majority of players in my area using a 7/16” grind. Again this is a good starting spot for a new player. It is very rare that new skaters will have problems with this grind as their only point of reference might be the very dull rental skates they used previously. However, if it feels odd, I would suggest the same process as I did for goalies, except in 1/16” increments. (3/8” if you want them sharper, and ½” if you want a little less bite).

Another thing to consider is that a deeper hollow starts sharper, but it is also the quickest to need re-sharpening. Since there is a thinner piece of material remaining on either edge, deeper hollows are more prone to burrs and wear. The deeper hollows also use more steel during sharpening and will shorten blade life somewhat. If the shop sharpening your skates uses the European method and cross-grinds before sharpening, a 3/8” hollow will yield approximately 60 to 80 sharpenings before you need new steel. If they do not cross grind, expect up to twice that amount.

Sharpening frequency is another personal preference. Much of how often you sharpen your skates will be determined by such factors as things you might step on, accidentally kicking the goal posts and even the quality of ice you are skating on. As a general rule of thumb, you will want to think about sharpening your skates after five hours on the ice. Rarely will you go more than 10 hours before noticing that the edges aren’t what they once were.

Hopefully, this has been helpful in addressing some of the questions about purchasing your next pair of skates. As a former manager for one of the busiest hockey retailers in the United States and someone who loves to play the sport, I want everyone who plays to have the best experience that they possibly can. Skates that don’t work right are probably the most frustrating thing that can happen. Don’t let the wrong pair ruin your experience. 

If you have personalized questions about skates, please drop me an email. Questions in the comment section may not be answered for several months as sometimes I don't get alerts when they are posted and sometimes I do. 

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© 2012 Scott Noble
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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ten things you didn't know you should have in your hockey bag

Before you head off to another state or even out of town for that big game or tournament, you probably do certain things. Making sure your skates are sharp, that you have at least one backup stick and double checking that you've packed all of your gear before hitting the road is obvious. But the odds are you're forgetting to pack a little insurance. There are ten things you might not have thought about. Having everything on this list won't assure a victory for your team, but it could eliminate a lot of frustration and disappointment for you.

1. A spare set of skate blades
This one might be the least obvious and possibly the most important. There are a few reasons why sixty bucks to keep a spare set of runners in your bag is a great investment:
Rocket Skate stocks Step Steel, the #1 choice of NHL teams. We carry runners for Bauer, CCM and Graf. Titanium blades (pictured), goalie and Easton runners are also available by special order (approximately 5 day turn time).
First, it's no fun to be on the road, amped up for a big tournament just to break a runner in the first period of the tourney. It's even less fun if the two shops within an hour of the rink don't have proper size in stock. Years ago, I was working at another rink side shop when a kid broke his runner on the first day of a weekend tourney. We didn't stock replacements for his brand of skates there. Having flown in from California to skate they weren't too happy about being forced to decide whether to miss his games or break in a new pair of skates during a four game weekend.

Second, when you step on something and lose your edge, you don't want to end up at the mercy of the fifteen-year-old who sharpens skates two days a month. Blown edges in hockey are pretty common, often as the result of bumping another player's skate blade on the ice. However, a bad sharpening can be worse than a blown edge and there's no guarantee you're getting a good sharpening at enemy ice. Buy an extra pair of runners, keep both pair sharpened up by someone you trust. You can change the blades on most skates in about 10 minutes and you're good to go.

Third, Most skates outlast at least one set of blades. By having a spare, you can rotate between the two pair of blades. This way you don't have to worry about suddenly being taller on the ice when you do have to replace your blades. It's amazing how difficult adapting to 3/8-inch of height can be for many skaters.

2. Skate Hardware
Bauer, CCM and Graf Screws always in stock
A broken runner is a sad reason to miss a game. Something as small as a missing or broken screw is even sadder. Keeping a couple of the appropriate screws in a repair kit in your bag is an excellent idea. I'd recommend a little box with the tools you need to replace your runners as well as the hardware. At a few bucks, this investment is a no-brainer.

3. Helmet Repair Kit
We're fans of Sport Mate's
Helmet repair kit - $9.99

Loose screws don't only affect your skates, there's also your helmet to consider. My first helmet was literally one screw from completely falling into two pieces by the time I realized that there was an issue with it. At Rocket Skate, replacing helmet screws is second only to skate sharpening in the services that I provide. It's just one of the facts of hockey--helmet screws fall out.

Some helmet repair kits are better than others, but they typically have one or two of each part and some tools. A repair kit is something that everyone should have in their bag.

4. A helmet with current HECC CSA Stickers
These Stickers are imperative. If you're playing in Canada they won't let you on the ice unless your helmet has a current CSA sticker on it. Any USA Hockey sanctioned event will also require every player under the age of 21 to an HECC certification sticker. Many leagues outside of USA hockey also require one of these stickers for play in the US.The most important, and overlooked portion of this equation is that the stickers have dates on them. HECC stickers are most important for events played in the U.S. and have an expiration date on them. CSA stickers are most relevant for Canadian events and will have a date of manufacture on them.
You'll need to get a new helmet if your stickers are expired or missing. 
Now call me crazy, but having a helmet that isn't certified seems like a dumb idea anyway. That's your brain in there. Check your helmet's expiration date and get a new bucket if you need to do so.
Howie's Laces are as good as they
come. That's why we sell them.

5. Spare Laces
Laces break, and usually seem to do so at the most inopportune times. the odds are good that the local shop has your size. Of course that doesn't mean that the local shop is conveniently located in the rink, or that you have your wallet handy when you snap one right before the game, or that you have time to stand in line re-lace your skates and get on the ice before warm-ups are over. Last time I broke one it was literally as I was thinking, "These are great laces. I cannot believe how long they've lasted." Had anyone else broken a lace just then they might have been out of luck. As it was, I happen to have the key to Rocket Skate, which is conveniently located rink side.
We've got a multitude of colors in Howie's
tape available. Only the best!

6. Tape
Tape is essential, this you know. You probably also know the guys on your team are tired of you borrowing their tape. Even if you don't care about being that guy, there are a lot of tape brands out there and the quality of the stuff varies frighteningly. Without dropping names of the offenders, the top couple brands commonly stocked at shops, are there because they can be sold at a higher profit margin, not because they are good quality. Grab a few extra rolls before you hit the road so you know what you're getting into instead of once again being at the mercy of the selection where you're playing.
All-in-one jock shorts starting
at $21.99 jr, $23.99 sr. Or go old
school with a cup and
supporter - $11.99

7. Undies
Remember the advice your mother gave you and always wear clean undies in case you're in an accident? . . . OK, this has nothing to do with that sage advice. Owning a rink-side shop, the most common emergency purchase is made after uttering the words, "I forgot my cup," or "I forgot my supporter." 
Two things here: 
1. This isn't something that you want to borrow (or loan). 
2. This isn't something that you want to play without . . . just saying.
Make sure your neck guard is
BNQ approved

8. Neck Guard
If you're playing in Canada you will absolutely need one of these. While USA hockey doesn't yet mandate the use of neck guards, many US events may still require the use of a cut resistant neck guard. Further, USA hockey does highly recommend the use of a neck guard. It only makes sense too. While a skate blade cut to the neck is a rare occurrence, it has the potential to be life threatening. A $20 investment will not only assure that you won't be scrambling to make sure you can participate, it could literally save your life. 

9. Tape Tiger
Seriously, this is easily the most clever hockey
invention since ice. At $9.99, there
really isn't a good reason to not own one.
The Tape Tiger is just about the coolest hockey invention in the rather large, but otherwise mundane, "doodad" category. This handy little device offers several helpful tools that you should have at your disposal. Its main purpose is to cut the tape off your stick, this it does amazingly well. It will cut through blade tape like butter and with a small effort even the thickest knob comes off in seconds. The best part is that it actually curls the tape back making removal of the old tape incredibly simple.

As if this feature wasn't cool enough by itself, the tape tiger has a built in edge stone. I don't recommend any of the hand-held "sharpeners" on the market as all of them work much better at un-sharpening skates. However a side hone can be very handy to take out burrs if you kick a skate blade or step on something. There is also a screw driver built in. Rounding out the utility of the Tape Tiger is a lace hook (which you probably won't need unless you break a finger) and a bottle opener, which might come in handy for post game . . . er, soda pops.

10. Spare mouthguard
Another required item, if you're under 18, the odds are good that you're not going to sneak on the ice without a mouthguard. This is another item that has people running into my shop at the last second in a panic. This seems to be due to the tendency of mouthguards to escape from hockey bags when no one is looking. A spare mouthguard in the bag makes pretty good sense. Again, it's not something you're going to want to borrow and even more importantly, it is something that you're going to want to fit first. You might be able to find a new mouthguard 5 minutes before your game, but are you going to be able to find boiling water to mold it?
Mouthguards from XO, which feature the highest level both custom fit and style on the market. These feature 8 color chips which can be inserted to match your team color - $11.99. We also stock selected Shock Doctor styles - $18 and up

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© 2013 Scott Noble
All Rights reserved. Reproduction of this article in whole or part is strictly prohibited without the author's prior express written permission.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Too Disgusting to "Stay in the Room"

The locker room is supposed to be a hallowed place where guys can be guys and not worry about the repercussions of their actions. There's a saying, "What's said in the room, stays in the room." Really depending on the context of that, it isn't a bad thing. If we're looking at hockey as therapy being able to vent your frustrations without fear of having someone tell your boss you want to punch him in the eye, it's kinda like doctor/patient confidentiality. Honestly, we're hockey players. A broken foot or knocked out tooth is only worth missing a few minutes of hockey (even if we're only watching on television). If we're gonna just tape up a major physical injury to get back on the ice why would we go see an actual therapist for our mental issues when we can just grouse about them to our peers? In that context, "what's said in the room stays in the room," only seems like common sense.

Pee here, not in the shower please!
That in mind, I'm not going to break the rules. Instead I'm going to address the elephants in the room. I'm not gonna name any names, but you know who you are and maybe there's more than one of you. So take this to heart: hockey players, we can be a disgusting bunch, but you've taken it too far.

Disgusting Guy #1 - There's a urinal 15 feet from the shower. It's that thing mounted to the wall that you pass on your way to the shower, in fact. It's white, made of porcelain and if by chance it is being used, there is a toilet right next to it. The shower is not a urinal. Are you so lazy you feel like you need to multitask? Do you think that it's OK to pee in the shower because you do it at home? Do you think we just don't notice the smell of urine and the yellow tint to the water? The three other guys in the shower would appreciate if you acted less like a three-year-old. 

Disgusting Guy #2 - Spitting goes in sports for some reason (especially if you count baseball as a sport). In hockey spitting on the ice is apparently kosher. The floor of the team bench is a pretty gross place for it . . . but you, Disgusting Guy #2 have taken spitting to a new level. You're the guy who hocks loogies on the locker room floor. Do you like stepping someone else's phlegm? Do you spit on the floor in your bathroom? Ever heard of meningitis? Think man! There are people walking about in bare feet and somehow you think spitting on the floor is okay. We'd almost rather have you hit us upside the head with a hockey stick than spit on the floor.

Disgusting Guy #3 - The only good thing is that you leave the room to engage in your odd behavior. It's also the bad thing. The street behind your car in broad daylight is not the proper place for you to change your clothing after hockey. Did someone pee on you in the shower? Did you step in some spittle in the locker room? Are you actually trying to be tagged a sex offender for flashing children and women with your odd decision to change your clothes in public? There's a private locker room which you can use if you have issues with the people and/or actions taking place in the public rooms. Don't terrorize the locals please!

Guys, please think about where you pee and spit please! I'm pretty much the last guy to get angry, I've never punched anyone in all my years of hockey, but Disgusting Guys #1 and #2 make me understand why people get punched. If you don't think that your bodily fluids are disgusting (even though they are), the last thing the world needs is a bunch of old men getting dressed in the street after hockey. Disgusting Guy #3, as long as you didn't tell someone's boss they were about to get hit in the eye, the locker room should soon be safe for you again.

This has been a public service announcement. It might save your life . . . probably not.

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© 2013 Scott Noble
All Rights reserved. Reproduction of this article in whole or part is strictly prohibited without the author's prior express written

Saturday, June 2, 2012

New Hockey Skates, tougher than your feet?

OK hockey players, you might have felt left out when I posted about the horrors of breaking in a new pair of figure skates. We all know that breaking in a pair of hockey skates isn't a picnic either. So if you were thinking, "Hey! Where's our article? I wanna know how to make breaking in hockey skates go smoother," well, sob no more. Here it is:

Das Boots

OK, so that's probably grammatically incorrect German for boats, but hey as far as some of your feet go boats is accurate. Yeah, I've seen you out there in your size 13 skates and it's like a pair of kayaks on the rink. But I digress here . . . we're talking about that part of the skate that troubles almost everyone--the boots.

Bauer Vapor X:05 - In stock at Rocket Skate
The conundrum of hockey boots is that if they start out comfortable, they're likely to brutalize your feet for a long time thereafter. Comfortable generally translates to one of too things in skate boots: too big, or too cheap. Here are the issues: Skates have to fit tight to perform properly and they have to offer the appropriate level of stiffness.

So yes, you can find a pair of skates that feel like slippers right out of the box. However, they are going to probably going to be about 2 sizes too big for that to be the case. Skates this big will allow your feet to move around. When your feet move around in the boots, you spend a lot of money on blister pads and a lot of time using the belt sander to remove callous build-ups in odd places on your feet. I have no idea how you're going to treat your bone spurs when they develop. On top of having really ugly feet, your skating is going to suffer since a huge portion of your stride energy will dissipate in the wrenching, twisting motion of your boots as they oscillate in protest on your swollen red feet.

So, the first step in making life easier it to buy the right size of skates. If you're an adult, you need to make sure that your toe touches the end of skate when you're standing straight up. With your knees bent, a perfect fit will have you just lightly brushing the toe cap or pulling slightly off or if. Kid's should be up 1/2 to 3/4 size from a perfect fit so they have room to grow while keeping the skates from completely spinning around their feet.

Reebok 8K - Great heatmodable skates in stock
The other fitting issue is width. You should have some pressure on the sides of your feet, but you definitely don't want to have so much pressure that it feels like the ball of your foot is scrunched up. Make sure that the new skates lock your heel in place. If there is some ankle discomfort, that's not normally an issue. Most people need to have the ankles punched out and it's pretty easy to do. Just make sure you're buying a skate that can be punched out.

Any decent hockey skate these days is heat-moldable (or at least claims to be heat-moldalble). Don't try to bake your skates at home. I've seen a pair that someone melted in their oven--not only was it ugly, but they ruined the batch of cookies they were trying to bake at the same time. Odds are that you're going to get your skates too hot and ruin them, or not hot enough and waste your time. Buy your skates somewhere that fits you properly and have them baked there. Any shop worth their salt offers a free heat-fit with skate purchase. Rocket Skate offers that and lifetime boot punching. (I had a customer a couple weeks ago who would have spent about $180 on skate fitting alone if they hadn't bought their skates from me).

Punching and heat-molding aren't going to complete the break-in process for you. However, they will knock a great deal of time off the process. You should still expect at least 4 or 5 hours of skating before the boots move from mildly annoying to somewhat comfortable.

Holder and Runner

Pretty much every brand of skate has their own blade holder and runner. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but they are all slightly different. Graf Cobra Holders have the most aggressive forward pitch of any brand on the market today while Bauer's TUUK Lightspeed puts the player back on their heels more than its competitors. CCM/Reebok products fall right in the middle.  Runners vary as well with different rockers. Rocker describes the average radius of the curve on the bottom of the blade from toe to heel. The three major brands on the market all use different rockers: Bauer - 9-foot, CCM 10-foot, Graf 11-foot.

This translates to a number of issues that you're going to have to face as a hockey player. Your legs develop muscle memory (gross motor skills) that become a natural part of your skating motion. You don't have to think about how it works, you just do it. When you change the blade and holder combination, it takes some time for your gross motor skills to adjust. The pitch issue is the big issue for a lot of players, especially those moving from a forward pitch to a more rearward one. This issue is pretty easy to fix and is one of the most common customizations that I do in the shop. A pair of heel lifts between the holder and outsole of the skate have improved or flat out corrected the issue for dozens of skaters that I've installed them for.

The rocker isn't as big a deal for most skaters, but expect the performance of your skates to vary slightly with a rocker change. A longer rocker is going to glide better. A shorter one will turn and accelerate faster. None of these rocker lengths offer significant advantages or disadvantages. If you're currently the slowest thing on ice, switching from an 9-foot rocker to an 11-foot rocker isn't going to suddenly turn you into Marian Gaborik.

Insoles can make a huge difference

Sole custom insoles - $39 with
heat molding & adjustments
Insoles can also change the way your skate feels. An increase or decrease in the arch support height may or may not be uncomfortable. However, it will change the relationship between your foot and blade. An arch that is too low can cause pronation (where the skate tilts inward). One that is too high can cause supination (skate tilting outward). Even if these issues don't manifest, we're right back to the muscle memory issue--you've adapted your skating to compensate and other things will feel odd. A pair of orthotics or custom insoles can knock a huge amount of time off your adjustment period to new skates.

In a sport that punishes the competitor's feet between the requisite tight fit of the boots and quick direction changes there's nothing that I can recommend more highly than a quality set of insoles. I've used custom insoles for the last 10 years personally. When you're spending $300+ for skate that come with 10 cent insoles, this is a no-brainer upgrade.

Shock Doctor insoles - $25 at Rocket Skate. These are a nice upgrade from stock  insoles.

Alignment Issues

Alignment isn't a common problem with hockey skates. About one pair of skates out of every 20 to 30 has the blade mounted improperly. Further the vast majority of skates that need corrections are the cheapest models. Still, once in a while even a skate that is set up properly might cause alignment issues for players with um . . . unique feet (that's my nice way of calling your feet freakishly deformed).

A blade that's out of alignment can cause several issues: supination, pronation or yawing (slipping sideways).
If you're experiencing any of these issues you might need your blade adjusted. However in hockey it's always important to put at least 5 hours on the new skates before jumping to this conclusion. If you have serious concerns after you've put some hours on the skates, it's best if the skate technician can observe you skating.

Most shops will look at you like you have carrots in your ears if you walk in talking about needing a blade alignment on your new hockey skates. I've been doing blade alignments for more than ten years. If you have an alignment issue I haven't fixed in the past I would be amazed beyond words.

Bottom line

Breaking in a good pair of skates is probably the most unpleasant thing about skating. Keep plugging away at it and they will get more comfortable. Most skates will take at LEAST 5 hours of skating, but the time frame may be significantly longer with a skater's skill level, aggressiveness during break-in and weight. I generally recommend minimal boot punching and fitting until a couple hours of break-in are completed, but if you are having severe pain, you should have your skates worked on sooner than that.

Most importantly, buy your skates somewhere convenient to have them worked on. If you have to drive an hour to get your boots punched you might as well be on your own. Any good shop will offer free boot punching at purchase. I personally offer free boot punching for life. If you decide you'd like heel lifts or major alignment work, I offer considerable discounts when the skates were purchased from me. Does it make sense to drive across town to have your skates worked on by someone with little or no experience?

Hopefully understanding better what's going on when you are skating in a new pair can contribute to a less agonizing experience.

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© 2013 Scott Noble
All Rights reserved. Reproduction of this article in whole or part is strictly prohibited without the author's prior express written permission.