Choosing Figure Skates

A properly-fitted boot is the most important part of your time on the ice. A secure fit can prevent painful blisters and improve performance. In addition, your boot and blade combination should be level-specific and should perfectly fit your abilities and needs. For our online shoppers, you can contact Marion@skaterslanding.com  or via our LIVE CHAT for specific information and recommendations. With over 25 years of experience in all facets and disciplines of figure skating, she has fit all levels from first glides to Olympic skaters. Here is a general guide to our selection, and remember that sometimes categories can overlap:

RECREATIONAL

If you can't wait for outdoor skating season and/or you love the public skate sessions at your local rink, the Recreational Skate Packages might be right for you.

The recreational category includes seasonal and leisure skaters, often called “pond skaters” who typically just want to enjoy the sport as a social or infrequent activity, often at an outdoor facility during the winter months. Main considerations in boot selection are comfort, warmth and durability, so they last from one season to another. The Soft-style and thermal boots are a typical choice for this level, but a basic, classic figure skate is also an excellent choice, and will hold up for many seasons of skating. Good Recreational Boots have a stiffness rating between 10-20.Skills include: Basic steps, swizzles, gliding, stopping, forward stroking, basic edges. These skaters may take a group lesson for fundamentals, but do not intend to pursue more than basic skills.


BEGINNER

If you think you can pass your next Learn to Skate Basic Skills test before the season's over and you're thinking about private lessons, Beginner Skate Packages should fit your needs.

The beginner skater wants to be able to do more than go forward, turn and stop. This skater will take group lessons and spend additional time on the ice practicing skills. They often skate through the year at indoor facilities, advancing basic techniques, setting simple goals for a regular exercise regimen and personal satisfaction; often parents who want to spend time on the ice with children who are also taking lessons. Skills include: Basic steps, swizzles, gliding, stopping, forward stroking, basic edges, forward crossovers, two-foot spin, backward stroking. Boots should have stiffness rating between 15 ( youth) to 30.(adults). Skaters at this level usually spend 1-2 hours per week on the ice and take the summers off for warm weather activities. Good beginner boots have a classic design, a snug fit and excellent support.


INSTRUCTIONAL

You have succeeded in mastering most of the basic skills and single jumps are part of your everyday practice. Off-ice conditioning is becoming important, and you are starting private lessons.   You are taking your skating to the next level and your choice of skates or boots and blades is much more important to your individual goals and technique.

This is the primary area where young skaters taking lessons year-round, both group and private, take skating seriously. It is no longer just a fun social activity, but becomes a practiced sport with clear skill goals.

This requires specific individualized choices in boots and blades and encompasses a wider range of skills involving single jumps, spins and additional footwork. Time on the ice is a major consideration in boot choice so that the skater can properly break in skates without injury or frustration (3-5 hours per week).  Lower instructional levels skills include: Back crossovers, three turns, bunny hop, forward lunge, arabesque, ballet jump, beginning single jumps, simple footwork such as Mohawks, hockey stop, T-stop. Boots Should have stiffness rating between 25 (youth)- 45( adult) As skaters progress, so does their time on the ice, intensity level and boot/blade consideration. At this point many skaters choose to pursue other skating disciplines besides freestyle. Synchronized skating and Theatre on ice are team disciplines, ice dance may be pursued for those who want to develop their edge skills and musicality rather than jump technique in both a single track or the standard ice dance pair track.

Landing an axel and beginning double jumps is a huge milestone for freestyle skaters and usually when coaches insist on purchasing boots and blades separately. This insures that individual skaters’ specific needs are taken into account for the smoothest path forward. Unfortunately, prices also go up with the quality of the merchandise so budgets are important. Advanced instructional skaters often begin a full on and off ice training regimen and have private instruction, with their eye on competition and may start standardized skill testing and learning programs. Training time is 5+ hours per week. Skills include: All single jumps, half and single jump combinations, axel and beginning double jumps, spins such as backspin, scratch, and sit, camel, spirals, more complex footwork. Boots should have stiffness rating between 45(youth) – 70(adult).

COMPETITIVE

There is typically some crossover between the competitive and instructional freestyle categories, as many instructional skaters may participate in basic skills and local figure skating competitions. Testing within the USFS, ISI or other national figure skating organizations  as well as a concentrated off ice training regimen become high-level considerations and priorities within the training program.

Prefer a less stressful competition atmosphere? ISI ( The Ice Skating Institute) offers a competitive track including many local competitions with level appropriate divisions, all of which are "non-qualifying." Still requiring specific skills with good technique and presentation, many consider ISI competitions to have an "even playing field" because they do not allow maneuvers from higher levels to be performed in any individual category. These competitions are created, planned, and implemented solely through the work of the club members in the sponsoring clubs. These events do not lead directly to any National or World competition, but do provide skaters the opportunity for experience in the competitive environment, the chance to earn medals and ribbons, and the opportunity to preview the work of skaters in other clubs.

Learning Moves in The Field also becomes a necessity at each level in order to compete in a qualifying USFS competition. ISI which is non- qualifying, does not require moves in the field. Perfecting each skill to a testable level becomes a priority with any skating organization, so time on the ice and private instruction may increase. Skills include: All single jumps, combination jumps, axel, some double jumps, Change foot spins, flying spins, more complex footwork, spiral sequence. Boots should have stiffness rating between 55 (youth) – 75 (adult).


ADVANCED COMPETITIVE

Everyone has their favorite competitive skater from the days of Tenley Albright, The USA’s first Ladies’ Olympic Figure skating gold medalist, to today’s modern champions. They elicit images of grace, beauty and explosive strength in the minds of people who dream of filling their skates. For most skaters, reaching superstardom is a long shot -- it takes an immense amount of dedication and time to get there. Fortunately, there are many levels at which figure skaters of all ages can compete: preliminary, pre-Juvenile, juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior, senior and adult. U.S. Figure Skating enforces only two age requirements for testing purposes: Skaters testing for an adult level must be at least 21 years old, and those testing for senior status must be 50 or older.

At each level, whether based on ISI or USFS guidlines,( Other National associations, like Can skate or Aussie Skate have similar requirements) there are different classes of tests in every discipline, that all competitive skaters must pass to participate in qualifying competitions. The intensity and required proficiency increases with every testing level. U.S. Figure Skating (which abides by the stipulations set forth by the International Skating Union) Decisions have been made as to a specific discipline being pursued, training is intense and because skills are more difficult, avoiding injury is paramount. So equipment must meet that challenge. Skills include: All single jumps, all double jumps, combination doubles, lower level triples, flying spins, complex footwork, both in individual tests and programs. Coach input on equipment is helpful, but the fit is essential for progress and the avoidance of injury. If a particular brand has been effective, there is no reason to try the latest “flavor of the month” in skates to help master a particularly difficult skill. There is no magic in the boots or blades, but there is individual appropriateness. Freestyle Stiffness levels should be between 75-100 for maximum durability and protection. Flexibility is also essential to proper break in and enough knee bend for jump propulsion.


If you're a first-time buyer, here are a few good tips on how to size skates:

1) First, most recreational skates run close to or 1/2 size under shoe size; however, to be safe, you can always give us a measurement in inches of the length of your longest foot. Stand with your heels against a wall and measure perpendicularly to the end of the largest toe. Refer to our information on How To Measure for Skates. It provides very clear and specific details on every step.

2) For children, add a 1/2 size for growth room. NO MORE. It does not benefit the skater if their feet are sliding around on the inside of the boot, causing painful rubbing and blisters. Adding thick socks often makes things worse, making the fit more uncomfortable . It also puts the blade too far out in front of the toes, which will cause tripping and lack of proper control.

3) Some skates come in N (Narrow) M (Medium) and W (Wide) widths. Unless you are a high-level skater, width is common sense: if you think your feet are wide for their length, they probably are. M widths are a good bet for those who feel perfectly comfortable in all sneakers. It is also important to remember that different brands will fit your feet differently.  PLEASE CHECK OUR INFORMATION ON FOOT SHAPE AND BOOT DESIGN TO SEE WHICH BRAND WOULD BE APPROPRIATE. Do NOT go up a size to accommodate extra width; it will cause uncomfortable creasing and heel slipping as the skates break in.

4) Keep in mind, that thin socks are best (the thinner, the better). Trouser socks or tights for ladies/girls and dress socks for men/boys are most appropriate.

5) When lacing skates, always lace the instep firmly. Then, lace the ankle eyelets snugly enough that there is ankle support but not too tight that you cannot comfortably flex your leg in a deep knee bend. You should be able to fit two fingers into the top of the Achilles heel of the boot when the skater is flexed forward in the boot. Proper stroking requires bending your knees. If laced too tightly at the ankles, it makes bending extremely difficult and can cause irritation of the front tendon.

6) Make sure the heel is all the way to the back of the boot, or the foot will slide forward when standing upright. It is sometimes necessary to bang back on the tip of the blade tail to force the heel backward. Warming the skates gently with a hairdryer will soften the leather and enable the skater to get the heel back more easily, providing a more comfortable, initial fit.

7) When it is in proper placement, the skater's heel should not lift out of the boot when walking, unless the skater is a child and you are accounting for growth. In this case a small felt or sponge pad should be placed under the heel area of the insole to put the foot in proper position. Lift-out should be kept to a minimum (less than half an inch) or blistering may occur.

8) When standing, the skater should feel centered on the blade. Rolling to the inside or outside indicates that an adjustment should be made to the blade position so that weight distribution is balanced. This is not unusual if the skater has "flat feet"( Pronation). Your technician can make all adjustments and even correct for any tender spots or pressure points.


These are just some of the things to look for when sizing skates. We have provided additional informative charts, FAQs and specific sizing charts for most brands to help in your choice.  If you have additional questions, use our LIVE CHAT to speak to a qualified skate technician or you can email marion@skaterslanding.com or call 978 810 9576. To ensure a proper fit, it’s best to consult with a professional. We are more than happy to answer any questions you may have.