SKATES - Buying Guide and Advice
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02-06-2012, 02:14 PM
Join Date: Jun 2009
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 :
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
Last edited by AIREAYE: 10-20-2013 at
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