|How important is the fit of the skate, especially when someone is just starting to take group lessons?|
Skating equipment can usually be purchased from the rink's skate shop, an independent sporting goods store, or the skater's coach. Boots are sold as stock or custom fitted. The equipment is available in a range of prices.
The support the boot provides to the ankle reduces the physical strain of maintaining the ankle in an erect position balanced over the blade. Both the length and width should be considered. The skater should wear a thin cotton sock when being fitted for a new pair of skates. The heel of the boot should grip the skater's foot so it can not move up and down when firmly laced. The foot should not slide forward towards the toe of the boot if a good fit has been achieved.
Improperly fitted boots can cause serious foot problems. A used boot that fits properly is better than a improperly fitted new boot. Don't purchase boots with the intention of having the skater “grow” into them in six - nine months.
Entry level figure skates are generally available in common sizes and come ready to skate with factory mounted blades. These boots are not available in a wide range of widths which can be a serious problem for anyone with very narrow or wide feet.
Stock boots that are manufactured in widths, ranging from AAA to D, are designed to provide a better fit. The stock boots provide an option that are much less expensive than custom boots. Skate shops may need to special order boots of sizes they don't commonly stock.
A custom fitted boot may be a necessity for skaters who have arch support problems or their feet are different sizes.
Fit is the most important aspect of selecting a skating boot because of the assistance the skater receives in learning to balance on their skates. The support the boot provides to the ankle reduces the physical strain of maintaining the ankle in an erect position balanced over the blade. Never add height to the heel of one or both boots unless suggested by an orthopedic specialist to compensate for a physical problem related to a difference in length of a skater's leg.
Over the years there has been a tendency by boot manufacturers to provide more lateral ankle support and flexibility of the boot to allow the skater to flex or point the toe of the boot.
The young skater needs to develop the control and strength of their ankles.
The height and weight of the skater, plus their aggressive jumping style should be the primary consideration of deciding how much support the boot should provide. Don't put a young skater into a boot whose support (stiffness) is designed for elite senior skaters performing triple revolution jumps.
Skaters, especially pre-teen skaters, may out grow their equipment every six months. Older, more experienced skaters who have stopped growing, will replace their equipment because of physical damage to one pair of skates caused by their intensive practice schedule.
The constant humidity inside the boots and repeated sharpening of the blades required by elite track skaters, in the junior and senior levels of national and international competitions, necessitates the replacement of boots and blades biannually. Acquisitions of new equipment should be planned to coincide with the skater's competitive schedule.
High priced gold plated blades will not help a beginner learn to skate faster or better than a moderately priced blade model. The designs of different models of blades feature combinations of the rocker of the blade and design of the toe pick.
Never put a young skater on dance blades that have the back part (heel) of the blade radically shortened.
Most rink sport shops normally stock sizes of blades that are commonly in demand of models recommended by the coaching staff. The customer selects the model of blade of their choice that will fit the boot and the rink's sport shop, an independent sporting goods store, or the skater's coach will waterproof the sole of the boot and mount the blades.
Submitted by Claude Sweet
USFS Gold MITF, Free Skating, Pair, and International Dance test judge; Intermediate Figure judge.
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