Pre Season Prep – Seven
BOOTS AND BLADES:
Ahhh, wintertime has come to the Midwest! The snow is falling, the wind is howling, and you have to be aware of wayward snowballs flying past your face!
It’s time to grab a scarf and hot tea on your way to practice. The rink is freezing and I know that I always wished that my skates felt like slippers on days like these. Well, up until about a month ago I had the luxury of feeling that way. It was so easy to slip them on, they were so perfectly molded to my foot. Unfortunately, skating is not always the most comfortable of sports. Usually some amount of discomfort means you’re doing things right. So with my skates being very comfortable and bending every which way when I stepped on the ice I knew it was time for a new pair. This past week I had my new skates mounted by Jesse Stoery. He has been mounting and sharpening skates in the Chicago area for over 20 years! What better time to ask him some so very pertinent questions about skates for people of all levels while he was mounting mine? Jesse filled me in on all you need to know about boots and blades whether you’re a beginner or a serious skater.
Let’s assume that you are a beginning skater- child or adult. New figure skates can be pretty pricey if you are just starting out,especially if you are not sure if skating is for you yet. As a beginner, a new or used skate is an option. Used skates are less expensive and the break-in process has already been started for you. When looking for a used boot it is always good to ask how much life the boot has left. If you feel extremely wobbly in it, it’s probably already too broken down to be used again.
There are many makers of boots and blades. Klingbeil, SP-Teri, Riedell, and Harlick were pioneers in the art of crafting durable bootsand blades. They are still around today and any of these makers is an excellent choice depending on the level of the skater. In addition, many new boot makers have come on the scene and provide good options as well.
New or used, Jesse would recommend Ridell boots as his boot of choice for beginning skaters. According to Stoery, “Riedell would be my first choice because these boots are commonly found and have proven to be a solid boot for beginners.” He also recommends the Club 2000 or any low end blade.
He added that SP-Teri, his personal preference, is coming out with the Escalade boot. This is a low-level boot that can also be used for recreational skating. It is very comfortable and cost-effective.
Blades for beginners are of less importance, especially for younger children. Basically, Stoery says, “any blade that is properly sharpened and mounted” works well for skaters. If you are older and starting out in skating the blade is slightly more important because you have more body awareness. You can feel if you are on an inside or outside edge and know how much pressure to apply to change edges, so on and so forth. When you’re younger it’s not as easy to feel those subtleties.
Still Jesse still has some advice to offer beginners regarding blades. “The Majestic, Coronation Ace, and Celebrity blades are all good models for beginners and even those more advanced”, says Stoery. As far as buying blades go it is always best to bump it up if you can. Bumping up the quality a tad will help you get more longevity out of the blade, especially if the skater is improving rapidly. You want to get them in a blade that will grow with them.
In general Jesse offered some important tips when trying to choose skates at any level. First you must remember that every person is an individual, with a different build, skating style, and different needs. Age, weight, and skill level must be taken into account when choosing boots and blades. You don’t want models that will over power a skater, but you don’t want something that is too weak either. It’s important to talk with your instructor and also those selling the equipment about all of the above in order to make the appropriate selection. Bumping up the quality is always good to do. If your child is growing, it is possible to buy a blade slightly larger than the size needed. “A good fitting blade will meet the toe in the front and can be short by 1/8 of an inch or hang over the back by ¾ of an inch” says Stoery. So maybe you buy the better quality blade a little too big, but the skater will grow into it eventually and also have a better quality product in the long run.
What if the regular stock boot does not feel comfortable? A custom boot is always an option. Custom boots are valuable because, “they are made around each individual’s foot”, says Jesse. There are many options available to increase comfort. If you have orthotics the boots can be built around them. Customs boots are more expensive, but they ensure that any comfort concerns can be fixed by tailoring the skate to your foot.
As you progress to a higher level your equipment becomes more important. It’s best if you can consistently stay with the same boot maker throughout your skating career because you know what to expect each time you buy a new pair. Jesse suggests switching over to that consistent maker once you start working on your axel because the axel lays the foundation for your double and triple jumps. The sooner you can get used to a particular boot the better.
For higher-level skaters Jesse speaks highly of the SP-Teri boot because “it is a comfortable, quality, durable boot”. There are three customs options for their higher-level boots. They have an easy break-in process; offer padding, as well as Heel Hugger with Achilles tendon padding. The Pro-Teri is lightweight and they are soon coming out with a helium version boot that only weighs around 1lb 3 oz. There are other models available for competitive skaters including Graf, Harlick, Jackson, and Klingbeil. This is not an exhaustive list, but includes some of the more popular brands.
Blades also become more important as a skater progresses. MK John Wilson Gold Seal blades are the most highly recommended blades around. It is made to increase a skater’s power and speed and has more of a rocker that allows skaters to vault themselves higher into the air. John Wilson Phantom blades are also a good choice, more so for the men because if its aggressive pick for toe jumps. Pattern 99 is a good blade for general skating. It has a flat rocker and is good to use at any level. Many synchronized team skaters use this model.
For competitive skaters maintenance of equipment is just as important as choosing the correct model in the first place. Jesse has found after approximately 40 hours of on ice practice it is time for the blades to be sharpened. “If a skater waits too long”, he says, “I need to take down more of the blade during the sharpening which means the blade will not have as many sharpenings left as it should. The blade doesn’t last as long”. It’s best to sharpen blades at least five days before a competition so that the skater has time to get used to the sharpening and call with any concerns they may have. If time is running out stoning the blades is always an option. Stoning will take nicks out of the blade and add better flow to the blade.
Finally, for anyone regardless of level, it is of utmost importance that your skates fit properly. They shouldn’t be pinching your toes and putting pressure on your ankle bones. If they are, speak up! You can always have them punched out or stretched. If that doesn’t work, the boot may be too small.. It should be stiff, but not too stiff. Breaking in boots should not take long these days, with most companies make lighter weight and softer boots. Remember to get the blades mounted properly so that you feel secure and in control of your edges. Make sure you wear your guards when walking around the lobby. And Jesse’s last piece of advice? “Make sure that equipment problems are eliminated. Skating is supposed to be fun and that’s hard if your feet are killing you.”
So please take your equipment into consideration when you start skating. Having the proper equipment can eliminate pain and make skating more enjoyable, help you improve more rapidly, and save you a lot of trouble in the future. So are skates as cozy as slippers? Not exactly, but they can be pretty close.
Jesse Stoery has been sharpening skates in Chicago for over 20 years. He also mounts and sells used boots and blades. He was a sales rep for SP-Teri at the Upper Great Lakes Regional Championships this past year.
Thank you, Jesse for the interview. Please, keep these things in mind as you go looking for that perfect boot and blade. There are some well established pro shops out there as well to help you such as Rainbo Sports and Skater’s Landing.