SKATES - Buying Guide and Advice
Jarick asked me to write a Skate buying guide for addition to the database above and I gladly obliged. For more specific questions or suggestions, feel free to PM me :)
Skate Buying Guide
FIT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT
THIS IS NOT A FITTING GUIDE, BUT A PRIMER
So I guess you get where I’m going with this guide, so here goes.
It is important to understand that no skate will make you a better skater, just like any other gear, but on the flip side, having an improper skate for your foot/playing level will definitely hamper your ability. Plus, it’s just damn uncomfortable to boot (pun intended). Next to helmets, skates are probably your most important piece of gear and thus, it is imperative to take the time and the money to outfit yourself properly and if you’re fortunate to have a competent shop nearby, by all means go and seek their advice and support them with a purchase.
I also must stress that this guide is NOT INTENDED TO FIT THE READER, but intended to provide a good starting point for anyone looking to undertake a skate search, by no means is it a definitive rulebook. I write this guide to cater to anyone from the absolute beginner to the advanced level player and from toddlers to adults. Enjoy!
Technically a part of fit, finding the right numerical size is not an exact science, even though there are devices to measure it. Go to any skate/shoe shop looking for size and you’ll likely be sized with a Brannock device, with notches every half size along. Skate brannocks are different than shoe ones obviously and should always be used. A SENIOR size would be size 6 and above, a JUNIOR would be size 1 – 5.5 and a YOUTH would be 13.5 and below.
A very common belief regarding the relationship between shoe and skate size is that skate size is 'x' sizes down from shoe. This is absolutely INCORRECT. There is no concrete relation because of things like the fact that many people wear shoes either smaller or larger than what they should be in, or the fact that there are sizing inconsistencies from even within both shoe and skate manufacturers. The most accurate way to find your size is to determine the Brannock size and go from there. Some fitters prefer to figure out the smallest possible size that one would fit into and go around that mark, but the results should be the same. For those with differently sized feet, it is advisable to size yourself to the smaller foot, as the shop can stretch/adjust for the longer foot if they have the hardware.
For adults whose feet have stopped growing, the perfect fit is when, standing up, your longest toe skims or barely grazes the front of the toecap. One has to keep in mind that when in a skating motion and post-break-in, your foot slides back slightly, giving you a little room between toe and toecap and that your toes are not always perfectly flat when skating.
The dangers of getting a skate too big would be the risk of blisters due to a sliding foot or even bone spurs and other discomforts. Energy transfer in every stride is lost due to a sliding foot and heel lock is also compromised. For more insight into fitting children for skates, message me or post a comment in this thread.
FIT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT (this section is probably the least useful, because fit is unique to every person)
Ahem, now that that’s out of the way and you have found a size, it’s time to consider what type of boot from a manufacturer will fit your foot. The only way to achieve this is to understand where to start looking and trying on as many pairs in that ‘fit range’ as you can.
Each manufacturer offers a different type of fit within each of their lines. It’s also important to know that some manufacturers have changed the type of fit/style of boot over the years so that ‘x’ brand skate from 5 years ago might not fit the same as today. For this section, I’ve decided to list out each manufacturer’s lines from recent/current times and explain some characteristics. Again, this is a rough starting point and my descriptions are (if you really want to get technical) arbitrary; it doesn’t mean that if you have a ‘wide’ foot, you’ll necessarily fit into those categories.
• Typically runs narrower, so a narrower forefoot and narrow v-shaped heel pocket
• Shallow boot (shallow instep)
• Slightly forward leaning stance due to aggressive angle of boot, tendon guard/back spine and lacing pattern
• Widens out with a boxy toecap
• New for 2013 (APX2 - X60) : Lightspeed Edge holder with quick replaceable runner system
• Wider forefoot/midfoot and heel (Supreme C ~ Vapor D, Supreme D ~ E etc.)
• Rounder heel pocket, prominent ankle padding, more anatomically shaped than Vapor, overall a focus on an anatomical fit
• Deeper boot
• Boxy toecap
• Wider and deeper than Supreme
• Round, traditionally shaped heel
• Boxy toecap, wider than Supreme
• Nexus 1000 - different fit than price points below it
• Nexus 800 and below - Very similar to Flexlite with different fit profile, more 'figure 8' shaped
• Traditionally-built skate with newer materials/technology = more forgiving/flexible than current models
• Wide boot, larger/deeper/wider toecap
• Round, deep anatomical heel pocket
• Deeper boot
• Similar to U+CL line with better out-of-box feel and slightly less ankle padding
• ***Unique sizing scheme throughout the line, refer to sizing guide in 1st post : http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh....php?t=1464383
• Tremendous level of heat mouldability on higher end models
CCM RBZ (top end) : http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh....php?t=1464383
U+ CL series (U+ CL, 12, 10, 08, 06, 04, 02, 01) :
• Wide boot with tapered/rounded toecap
• Very deep boot, slightly deeper than Supreme
• Thicker ankle/quarter package foams
• Improved quality of construction over U+ Pro series = stiffer and more durable
• Greater heat mouldability compared to U+ Pro series due to better/thicker U Foam
• Mouldability level so great that baking a high end U+ CL or U+ 12 can adjust for width (ie. a D width can expand to an E depending on your foot)
Post – 2009 models (11K line, 20K line) :
• Wider fit in general
• Thicker ankle padding (air bladder in there)
• Pump feature beefs up ankle area for better heel-lock
• Shallower boot than CCM and Supreme
• Round toe cap
• Note on 20K and 18K skates : Narrower heel pocket than 11K series (AA compared to A), Pump moved further back to push down on ankles for better lock and not inward like before
Stealth RS :
Full line update will come when I've seen the lower models; but no one's carrying them
• Wide forefoot, narrower heel; very similar to Supreme
• Anatomically formed ankle padding
• Edge comfort strip similar to TotalOnes and APX
• Flexible tendon guard similar to TotalOne NXG and 2012 Reebok
• New arch insert system with 3 inserts on footbed for low, mid or high arches
Graf - This is one series of skate I have little knowledge on, for more info, visit their website (http://www.grafcanada.com/hockey_skates/) and consult a fitter carrying Graf skates.
A quick note regarding widths; you’ll likely see letters denoting width such as ‘D’, ‘E’, ‘EE’, ‘R’, ‘W’ or ‘C’ as the most common examples. I just want to clarify that a ‘D’ or ‘standard’ width is not consistent across skate lines and same with every other letter. For example, a Supreme ‘D’ width is actually a true ‘E’ width (due to the wider last) whereas a Vapor ‘D’ could be considered the true ‘standard’. Similarly we could also say that a CCM ‘D’ is not exactly equal to either a Reebok ‘D’ or Supreme ‘D’ either. They may be similar and some of you may find little difference, but it essentially depends on your own foot shape.
As a rule of thumb, the width denominations within each skate line simply denotes whether a particular skate is wider or of regular width within its own line. It’s hard to give examples in this context since everyone’s foot is different. However, it’s safe to say that if you’re not 100% confident on a width, you shouldn’t be set on a purchase without trying either narrower or wider. Ultimately though, one must remember that a skate should wrap snugly around the forefoot without feeling pressure or pain along the sides.
Provided that you have narrowed down your right fit to a line or two, it’s time to consider how much you want to spend and the relation to your skating/playing level. Fortunately, since this is up to the buyer, this section should be pretty straightforward.
Top-End Skates : ex. Bauer Supreme TotalOne NXG/One.9, Bauer Nexus 1000, Bauer Vapor APX2/X100/X90, CCM RBZ, Easton Mako, Reebok 20K
This range geared towards the pro/high/competitive level skater playing very frequently over the course of the season. Built with the highest quality materials, you can expect this range to have the greatest level of support and performance for those powerful strides and movements needing maximum energy transfer; this is the biggest selling point for this level. The amount of support in both the boot and tongue is top-notch, heat mouldability should be at its best while the quality of the holder and steel should be at its highest as well (more on these below). Weight should also be at its lowest.
Upper-Middle End Skates : ex. Bauer Supreme One.8, Bauer Vapor X80, Bauer Nexus 800, CCM RBZ 100, Easton Stealth RS, Reebok 18K
This range is geared to those playing at a high or intermediate level desiring top end performance without the price. In my opinion, this price range has the greatest value as you get most of the high end features at a lower price. Also, skates in this range are often (so, not always) an older top end skate (ex. Vapor X90 ≈ X7.0, Supreme One.9 ≈ One100) with a few differences. Materials and every other aspect should take a very slight downgrade (not always the case).
Mid-End Skates : ex. Bauer Supreme One.7, Bauer Vapor X70, Bauer Nexus 600, Reebok 16K/14K
This range caters to the average or intermediate level skater needing a skate that will perform for them without the unnecessary stiffness and price. Specs-wise it’s simply a continuously proportional level of downgrade (obviously, right?). In my opinion, this is a great range for your average beer-leaguer or house-league/lower competitive level youth player.
Lower-Middle End Skates : ex. Bauer Vapor X60, Bauer Supreme One.6, Bauer Nexus 400, Reebok 12K
This range caters to your beer leaguer, house league player and the frequent rec skater desiring a good level of durability and performance. Great pricepoint to be at for that level of play.
Entry Level : ex. Vapor X30 - X50, Supreme One.4 - One.5, Nexus 200, CCM RBZ 40/50, Reebok 5K
This range caters to your beginner hockey player and casual rec-skater. In my opinion, one should opt for the level of skate one (or 2) above the very bottom in this range since I find that the level of performance/durability seems to be better disproportionally, though ultimately it’s up to you on how much $$ you want to spend. At this level, the level of heat mouldability is very slight to non-existent, so you’ll have to break them in the old-fashioned way.
As the years go by and technology improves, the level of skate has progressed with it. Today’s mid/low-mid level skates are almost always at or above the level of support and weight of traditional leather-made skates. For those old-timers moving from older skates such as Tacks or the original Supremes, this isn’t always a positive. That’s why again, I stress the importance of trying skates on in person.
For children fitting into youth sizes, the type of fit should carry over and the ‘finger-in-the-back’ aid would still help. However, most manufacturers offer youth skates only in either 2 or 3 price-points and the same principal of better materials/stiffness still applies, though the youth skates almost never use the same materials as the Junior or Senior models and likely won't fit the same way either. Again, see which fits your child the best and is most comfortable.
The skate holder (plastic chassis) also varies amongst manufacturers and among price-points. It’s important to note that when considering a holder replacement, sometimes the location of the rivet holes might not always match with the boot if you want to use a brand ‘x’ holder on a brand ‘y’ skate. A competent pro shop technician should be able to tell you whether or not it would be safe for them to re-drill holes.
The skate runner (steel), like the level of skate itself, varies according to brand and price-point. At the very low-end, there are runners featuring low-quality carbon-steel (ex. On the CCM U+ 01) which will rust more easily, is heavier and won’t hold an edge as well and for as long. The stainless steel is the most common steel and as you move up, there will be lighter steel and so forth. It is important to note that low-end skates (ex. Vapor X50) will not allow you to remove the runner for replacement (it’s integrated into the holder). It is also important to note that you cannot always use brand ‘x’ runner on brand ‘y’ holder due to different configurations. Consult your pro shop technician for suggestions or alternatives or post a question here.
There are also aftermarket steel options (like Step steel) that offer a higher quality product. I won't get into it here because it's a more advanced option, but feel free to ask about them!
Heat Molding/Baking :
As a rule of thumb, one should almost always opt to have new skates baked so that the break-in is shortened. All current skates save for the lowest-end models have internal foams that are heat sensitive enough to be able to form better around your foot. It is important to understand that baking WILL NOT make a poorly fitting skate fit any better. It simply increases comfort and minimizes the break-in period. After each subsequent bake however, it is also important to understand that the breakdown of the foams/liners is slightly accelerated. One shouldn’t have to bake skates more than 2-3 times.
Baking should be included as part of the cost of the skate as well. DO NOT bake skates yourself at home, as a proper skate oven at the proper temperature (a small compact convection oven) is always required. Baking at home has a very high risk of damaging the skate and voiding any warranties. If there is no other option, there are videos online telling you how, but do so at your own risk.
Note : Reebok skates with Pump are able to be baked provided that the air bladder is deflated before putting them in the skate oven and remain so on the foot.
Radius of Hollow, Sharpening Tips:
Now that your skates have been properly fitted (hopefully) and baked to your foot, the next step to every new skate purchase would be to sharpen them, which, like baking, should be included as part of the cost. This is necessary since skates come out of the factory unsharpened and you simply cannot skate on them.
Radius of Hollow (ROH, also referred to as ‘cut’) is simply how deep or shallow you would like your sharpening to be. ROH measures the depth of the groove between your 2 edges and comes in denominations from 1” (shallowest) to 3/8” (deepest) and can be asked for in increments of 1/16” (ex. 9/16”). The deeper the cut, the more bite or grip into the ice you will receive, at the expense of glide and vice-versa. For the most part, the ‘standard’ cut is 1/2” and if you’ve simply been dropping off skates to your local sharpener, that is your likely hollow. Most people stay in the range of 5/8” to 3/8” (think bell curve) and I wouldn’t suggest you stray away from that unless you know for sure what you’ll be getting and what you need. The cut, thus, is personal preference. I do, however, recommend that heavier-set players try a shallower cut as they can dig into the ice with the same force while lighter-set players could try the deeper cuts. There are also other types of cuts such as Flat Bottom V (FBV), Z-Channel etc. so consult your local shop or post a question here about those.
A good sharpening would result in both edges being even. A good way to check this is to bring a quarter with you and after a sharpening, lay it flat against the edges (you should do this in the front, middle and back end of the steel to be sure) and see if it’s level. If not, then politely request the sharpener to redo them while showing him/her the uneven edge. One should get skates sharpened after every 4-5 sessions or so. Again, this is up to personal preference and level of play. One should also note that outdoor ice is tougher on your edges as well. Also, make sure to never walk on areas other than the rubber layered floor as any other surface can ruin your edges; thus it’s a good idea to also invest in some skate guards. Take care of your skates as well. Make sure to wipe down the steel and holder after every session as the water can seep in and cause rusting and damage the steel.
Personal preference, but generally it is advisable to go with thinner socks for better comfort and feel of the ice in my opinion. Avoid ankle socks obviously. For those not looking to buy a pair of hockey-specific socks, there’s always the option of dress socks.
Again, personal preference, but it is generally advisable to replace stock laces with another hockey-specific brand one (ex. Elite Hockey, Sidelines Sports etc.). Bauer stock laces are notoriously horrible while one could conceivably get away with sticking to CCM/Reebok or Easton ones. Wax laces simply offer more grip so that the boot doesn’t loosen as much over the course of the game.
The necessity of after market footbeds (ex. ShockDoctor, Superfeet etc.) is of some debate and there is no set guideline for requiring them. Some people require orthotics, there are footbeds for heel support and there are arch support products. For more details, search around in this sub forum : http://www.modsquadhockey.com/forums...key-equipment/
Buying Used - not ideal, though again, fit is the most important, so if you can find a good fitting boot, then it becomes a possibility. Depending on its condition, the possible necessity to replace steel should be considered as well. Generally not advisable to re-bake used skates depending on condition as it further accelerates its breakdown.
Pro Stock - Most pro stock skates are so heavily customized (see below) that they fit that particular player’s foot the best and not necessarily yours. The skate itself might not even resemble it’s retail counterpart anymore! Only consider if you’ve tried them on/know exactly what you’re looking for in a skate.
Custom - An option for the high end player or the player willing to drop the cash (typically an upcharge above the retail price, up to dealer, and only on certain models of top end skates). There are also some skaters with ‘abnormally’ sized feet (ie. Very very wide or narrow, differently sized feet) requiring this route as well. For custom skates, contact your local shop and they will guide you through the process.
I must stress that this guide is no replacement for a competent fitter. Nor should it be your only reference if you must resort to online shopping. The privilege of having the help of a good fitter and the availability of actually trying on skates yourself cannot be surpassed. This guide is simply meant to be an introductory read into skate shopping.
Speaking of a competent fitter, for those you in reasonable proximity of a shop, head there now. If you want to see whether or not you should trust the person assisting you, simply ask them what the ‘best’ skate for you would be. If their response centres around ‘best skate = best fit’ and they have a good attitude/seem to know what they’re doing, then by all means give them your support. If not, then go elsewhere or seek out a more knowledgeable associate. Also, remember not to judge a book by its cover ;)
Note : I will add a section devoted to other aspects such as pitch and profiling at a later date.
You didn't say which skates were best though :D
Brilliant man, very well done. Great reference going forward!
Great guide, but my challenge is finding a good shop. It seems if I try a big store, like Sports Authority, they're clueless wonders, and the smaller franchise, Play-it-Again Sports, they just want to sell me the most expensive ones.
If anyone here knows a good place in the Anchorage, AK area, let me know.
If those PIAS have the mid-range models, just tell them your budget. If they won't sell them to you, tell them they lost a sale. Or you could be a d-bag and get fitted then buy online, but I really only recommend that if they truly will not sell you a mid-range model. Plus you have to pay $50-75 for a baking and sharpening.
Since you're an expert, I might as well ask here..
You see I'm looking to replace my Vapor X2.0 with a Vapor APX... the X2.0 is veerrry weak for me and it's only been 2 months, I bought it for $70 after discounts (again, this is what i get for being cheap).
While some of you might think the APX is an overkill... let's put things into my perspective.. you see, we don't have a LHS here so it's not often i get to buy skates since i prefer to ask my friends to carry it for me when they're returning home.. international shipping costs are ridiculous (again, i'm cheap :p) So I thought I get a top of the line skates that will save me years of buying a new pair..
That said, I've got a fit issue with my X2.0.. the forefoot is a bit tight on my right forefoot but no pain whatsoever. While on my left forefoot, it gets painful even with regular tightness (left forefoot is about 3 millimeters wider). Current skate size is 6.5D.. so based on my current skate, I assumed that for the APX I would get a 6.5EE.
However, I've been doing research this past month and found that some people are saying the APX is "roomier". Can you explain if this is true? And what exactly do they mean by roomier? Now I'm confused whether I should get the 6.5EE or stick with the 6.5D..
Any feedback is welcomed
Michael, PM me pictures of your foot. try to capture the top-view, side profile and the rear-view.
This is tough, Vapor would probably be too narrow and too shallow for you. The APX fits slightly different than the other Vapor offerings but essentially keeps its profile. It fits slightly deeper and wider at the ankles iirc due to the similarities of materials with the T1.
No one can give you a definite answer on which line would fit you the best, though if I had to guess, I'd probably say Stealth in a Regular width. You should look at the S12 or S17; might be difficult to find though. The depth, forefoot width and ankle widths might be addressed here. Stress on MIGHT.
I hope you're a competent skater because moving to such a high end range from X2.0s could be really detrimental to your learning.
Really? I thought choosing 6.5EE would solve the forefoot issue, but if you say it fits differently then I guess it makes sense. Darn it... back to square 1 then..
I think I will be fine with higher end skates, I tried my friend's CCM U+CL.. it was nicely stiff. His size was 7D though..
See, that's the problem. Getting the EE APX could solve your problem, but without having access to a proper skate oven, you can't make those smaller adjustments after baking. How severe is the issue on your wider foot in the D width? EE is definitely wider there, but if you feel that it's a big issue than getting the EE might not fix it.
On a side note, a section on sharpening has been added.
On my wider foot, it will get painful if i tie my 3 bottom laces tightly. Not so much problem if i loosen it up.. but the pressure is definitely there, even after it's loosened.
Does the APX came with a baking instruction? I've succeeded once in baking my own skates using a conventional oven, but that was around 8 years ago...
btw thanks for your feedback, man
Oh I see, then EE would be better. I thought it was a more serious pressure. I wouldn't bake your APX boots with conventional ovens. You really do need a carefully controlled skate convectional oven set at the right temperature and baked for the right amount of time as the ALIVE composite materials are delicate. Overbaking the skate could result in irreversible damage and loss of warranty coverage. That's the thing with these newer foams; it's not like your traditional nylon/leather of 8 years ago. It doesn't mould the same way. If you do decide on the APXs, I suggest you break them in traditionally.
cool! well, another friend is buying an x7.0 size 6.5EE.. i'm gonna give them a try when they arrive.. just to be sure..
anyway, thanks for the extensive information!
I was wondering if anyone know of the differences between the Vapor X:40 and the X4.0. Hockey monkey had them up for sale for around the same price, but the 40 seemed like it used to cost a ton more, and the 4.0 compared to the X:30 on the list here.
Is there much of a difference between the two?
Don't wanna start another thread, I found this on ebay:
Good enough deal? Shipping's a bit steep though...
If you can get that pair at that price, it's a good deal.
Nope, my insteps are pretty low, fortunately.
Yeah.. it's still 2 days. Hope no one else is looking for that size :D
All 3 can be considered 'deep', the degree to which it can affect you is obviously unique to your foot.
I ended up buying the One60's, and after a couple skates, I'm very impressed with them.
So I've finally decided that it's time to buy a nicer pair of skates. I am on the same set of skates that I bought for myself when I didn't know how to skate 5+ years ago and I'm now playing weekly in a mid-D-level beer league.
The current skates I have now are the Bauer Silver Editions (basically, the lowest of the low, and it has a collapsible skate boot so I know they aren't giving me ANY support I need). They're also a size and half to a full size too big, so I know I'm moving down at least a half size.
My big question is, should I move up to a higher low-end skate (eg. Vapor X3.0) or should I go right into a mid-range skate (eg. Vapor X5.0)? There is a pretty big gap in terms of cost here and my initial thought was to go with the cheaper skate since I'm still only playing once a week and at a D-level, but after trying on a pair of the X5.0's, I'm tempted by how light the entire skate is and the hydrophobic/antimicrobe liner.
I have a good feeling that either skate would be a big improvement. But I'm holding myself back on budget a bit because I still am a student, but if I get the X3.0 and I end up needing to move up to the X5.0 soon afterwards anyway, I'd feel dumb for having wasted $150 on a pair that I didn't need.
And my local store said they'd include a free sharpen and bake, so I feel like that's a nice deal :)
How often do you skate per week and how much do you weigh?
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