SKATE FITTING BASICS for the Female Player –
Guidelines to buying great fitting skates!
As a female growing up on the ice as a figure skater and hockey player, I noticed that when I went to the the Skate Shop to try on new skates, they always measured my foot with the same stick they used for guys! And then once they determined my size I’d still end up trying on a bunch of different pairs of skates and none of them ever felt quite right. That’s normal, right?! Then, even with the thickest sock I had I still couldn’t fill the big space around my ankle, and when I tightened them more my arches would start to ache! So then I’d try on a smaller size and my toes would get squished. It always seemed I had to choose… floppy ankles. numb arches or bruised toenails…. And because I thought that was all normal I’d simply suck it up and live with the pain.
But of course, for years as a Power Skating instructor I was on the ice a lot so it was a lot to live with…and as importantly- I knew it was affecting my skating performance. I began to hang out at and learn from the guys at Proskate. They had experience and expertise from all aspects of skating. Years and Years…hockey skates, figure skates, speed skates. From boot design to fitting tips and tricks that no one else understood at the time. They even built a pair of skates for a man who had half a foot! That told me a lot about what they could do in the shop with their understanding of athletes and skates, with their ingenuity, creativity and a few tools!
Together, me on the ice and them- in the shop and in the store we began to build and create unique ways of discovering what skaters needed, in terms of skate fit, to perform to their maximum on the ice.
25 years later, I’m often shocked at what I keep seeing happen. With all of the knowledge out there and the improvement in skates and blades we, Quantum Speed Instructors, are still seeing players show up at sessions with skates that don’t fit, poorly aligned blades and other issues that, based on how much we try to educate the skating public, are still occurring. This is not a price issue. Proper skate fit does not equal more expensive skates. That is a false and financially incorrect assumption.
Here is what happens. Every fall before try-outs you go buy some skates and get them sharpened. Off you go to the rink to begin the painful process of ‘breaking in your skates’. Well, it feels more like you are breaking in your feet, but you just think that’s normal. You skate around for a bit then they start to loosen up- you skate over to the boards and when you go to tighten the boot up and cannot, for the life of you, get it to feel tight enough. Oh well- that’s normal too. Then, the blisters…the pain…your back starts getting sore and your stride starts to shorten. Is that normal TOO? NO It’s not- but what do you do?
It may be too late. You may have taken a shortcut, run in and just grabbed a pair and bought what you believed to be the right skate. The young guy at the store brought you the right size, didn’t he? Well- It’s not just about size. Especiailly for the female foot!
The first thing to note is that girls (women too) feet are generally smaller and narrower than boys/men’s feet. Because more males use hockey skates the manufacturers design the boot for men. It’s rare that Skate Manufactures build a skate designed specifically with the female in mind. Some have tried but honestly I’ve not found anyone who has made it work.
Until a Brand begins to design a boot specifically for females, it is important you have as much information as you can so you know what to look for and what questions to ask.
Quantum Speed’s Tips for fitting the female foot:
- Shop for skate when you have time to spend to get a good fit. Don’t rush or try and fit it in between other errands or family plans. Bring a coffee, a book or your iPad!
- Plan to spend 1-2 hours to get a proper fitting pair of skate. If you go on a weekend, just know it may take even longer.
- Don’t go in to the store ‘knowing’ what size you are or what brand you want. Stay open to what is new and what someone may know. You are likely different this season (bigger, stronger, faster etc), and the skate manufacturers will often change their models each year. What you wore last year may not even exist anymore.
- Know your budget. Sometimes you may not have to spend as much as you think if you purchase the right skate for the right level of player. Sometimes it may be more but be open to understanding how skate fit and skating performance are inter-connected.
- Bring in the game socks you will be wearing inside your skates, when being fit.
- Tell your skate guy/gal what level you play and how many hours you are on the ice.
- Include the amount of practices, power skating and games per week so they can help you decide on the type of boot you need.
Some details to keep in mind
- Female feet stop growing at about 12-13 years old.
- Don’t allow for more than ½ size growing room per season.
- Once feet have stopped growing we suggest you consider customizing your skates. Females can wear the same skates 2-3 seasons or more and making them as comfortable as possible will add to your performance.(ask about Custom Skate work at Proskate)
- When your feet are being measured, note the sizing. Skates fit, roughly 1.5-2 sizes smaller than shoes so most girls can fit into Junior sized skates. Junior skates go up to size 6 (Size 8 Women)
- Ask to try a Narrow (N) boot if you are an adult size fit and think that may work for you. Only some manufactures make an N you may have to try something a bit more expensive. Most skates are a D (standard) or EE (wide) width. Most females are not. We are generally a C or sometimes a B width and no Manufacturer builds that width.
- Don’t get stuck on only trying one manufacturer or model of skate.
- If necessary try on EVERY brand of boot in your size/width until you find one that feels right.
- Every skate brand fits differently. There is NO better skate for girls over boys. It is individual preference.
- Before you lace up the skate, tap your heel back, make sure you can feather your toes up and down and look down and inside the boot to see how much space is around your ankle bone. Ask the skate technician if there is too much or just the right amount. (Proskate has fit thousands of female feet on their Figure Skate side so they know exactly what to look for females in hockey skates)
- Lace up the skates FULLY before you make ANY decisions about how it feels.
- The skate should fit ‘comfortably’ snug WHEN IT IS LACED up. It is impossible to tell if the skate fits you just by slipping it on. If the skate fit is without obvious or painful pressure points- lace it up. Any specific pressure points (i.e. Ankle bones, small toe) can be adjusted and relieved in-store once you decide on what skate is best for you.
- Walk around the store for 10-15 minutes or until you feel your feet begin to warm up.
- Bend you knees and simulate a stride. Note any other pressure points.
- Now the work on making them comfortable can begin.
- The processes of heat fitting, customizing a foot bed, popping out pressure points and checking if a blade alignment is needed, can now all be logically done.
Making the right boot selection, having a comfortable fit, adding a foot bed and properly aligning your blades will enhance your skating performance and comfort... Guaranteed!!
Signs of an Improper Skate Fit and or improper Blade Alignment
• Frequently having to tighten your skates during games or practices
• A Narrow or uneven lace-up pattern
• Blisters, ankle or heel bumps, arch or overall foot pain
• “Speed Wobble” when gliding or before stopping
• Blade Chatter when trying to stop
• Trouble turning, feet sliding out, falling, only being able to turn or stop one way
• Consistently losing an edge
• The look of ‘Weak Ankles’ (feet bending in to or away from each other)
• Inadequate knee bend (skates to stiff for their level of play or the size/weight of the player)
*Bending over from the waist, not the knees to try and get lower
About Blade Alignment
• Blade alignment is our process of positioning the skate blades on the boot precisely for you. We adjust the blades so your center of gravity falls directly on top of them. This is 100% different than ‘Profiling* a blade’. Please ask what the distinctions are and if one or both of these services are offered and assess based on your individual needs.
• Common anatomical foot positions such as pronation (feet rolling in) or supination (feet rolling out), slight leg length discrepancies, lower leg positions like knocked knees or bowed legs can all affect how and where the body weight sits on the blade. Blade alignment does not correct anatomical differences, it allows for the foot to be straight and square on the blade for maximum efficiency
• As a mass assembled product, skates are not always built straight and square. Even with technology the way it is today skate manufacturers can have difficulty consistently mounting the blades in the same position on every skate boot at the factory level.
•Most skates need the blades adjusted to fit the skater (a blade alignment). This can be the difference between being a good skater and being a great skater.
*Important to note:
*Profiling is changing the SHAPE and shifting the rocker of the blade. Blade alignment is adjusting the position of the blade under the Center of Gravity of the individual.
*Quantum Speed recommends working with skaters on an individual basis. Custom fit, blade alignment, custom profiling on blades are all important. However, profiling is recommended only after the age of 12 years old or the player weighs 120lbs or more. Call or email [email protected] and ask why anytime