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How to Buy Hockey Skates

Find the right pair: a guide to help you fit and buy hockey skates.


Ice hockey player
Bernhard Lang / Iconica / Getty Images
Consider your age and experience.

Beginners are not likely to benefit from the advantages of a top-quality skate. Better to stick to a less expensive skate that provides good fit and solid protection.

A child will often outgrow a pair of skates within a year, so durability is not an issue.

For an adult whose feet have finished growing, the durability of high-quality skates could be a worthwhile investment.

Avoid the department stores and discount warehouse.

If you’re an experienced hockey player who has worn through several pairs of skates and researched the latest models, you can probably go to a department store and pick out new skates by yourself.

Most of us – especially beginners – need the knowledgeable staff and wider selection found at a specialty sports store.

Don’t look at figure skates or speed skates.

Hockey, figure skating and speed skating are very different sports using very different skates.

Also, don't buy anything called a "recreational skate." It might look like a hockey skate, but it isn't safe or suitable for the game.

Don't buy your shoe size.

Skates should fit more snugly than street shoes. For most hockey players, the proper fit will likely be one or two sizes smaller than the shoe size.

Don't count on "growing into them."

Skates that are too large do not allow proper skating technique, no matter how many pairs of socks you wear.

Bring your sports socks to the store.

Some athletes skate barefoot. But that means excess sweat soaking into the boot and quicker deterioration of the skate.

Whether you prefer thick or thin sports socks, make sure you take a pair to the store and wear them for your fitting.

Don't buy skates without trying them on.

If an online bargain is too good to resist, at least go to a store and get fitted for the exact same model so you know which size to order.

Consider also that an online purchase does not include services provided by retailers, such as an initial skate sharpening and a "heat molding" to mold the boot to the shape of your foot.

Don’t skimp on protection.

Your skate should have a reinforced toe and a tough nylon boot. The tall part on the back of the boot should be solid, providing ankle support and protecting the Achilles tendon. Look for a tongue that stays in place when the skate is laced.

Ask about the stiffness of the boot

Most skate models come in varying levels of stiffness. Generally speaking, the stiffest boots are suitable only for advanced players carrying adult or near-adult weight. Children need flexible or moderately stiff boots. The stiffer boots tend to be more expensive, so don’t let the sales staff sell you more skate than you need.

Get a proper fitting.

See out article on How to Properly Fit a Hockey Skate

Ask what “extras” are covered.

An initial skate sharpening should be included with your purchase. Ask if subsequent free sharpenings can be thrown in with the deal.

Ask if the skate is fitted by “heat molding.” This is a process by which the skate is warmed in a special oven and then worn for 20 minutes or so as it cools, molding the inner lining to the foot.

Ask if future fitting adjustments are available. If a skate proves a little small, the boot can be stretched or precise areas can be enlarged with a technique called “punching.”

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