Step into a pair of skates fresh off the factory line and you’ll feel like you just put on a pair of hiking boots. The tough leather of a pair of skates will keep your feet well protected from slapshots, but skates need to be broken in so that you do not end up with blisters or twist an ankle halfway through a big match. While breaking in skates doesn’t require some of the eccentricities of baseball players, who famously microwave their gloves to make them more supple, it’s important to mold the leather of skates properly in order to get a perfect fit.
Get The Best Size
When buying skates for younger kids, it’s tempting to get a size or two larger than their feet so that they can grow into their pair of skates. That’s a good strategy for buying shoes, but never for buying skates. Even though skates are usually the most important piece of gear in an equipment bag, Pittsburgh Penguins equipment manager Dana Heinze suggests buying used skates that fit well rather than new skates that are too large — as the latter will keep a developing player from achieving the right stride, acceleration and stopping capability. Skates that are too large and have too much room around the feet, furthermore, won’t support the ankles properly and seriously increase the risk of injury.
Heat and Bake
Just as many stores offer the first skate sharpening for free, many will offer the chance to bake brand-new skates in order to provide the perfect fit for your heels. Baking skates is exactly what it sounds like: Applying heat so that when you put on the skates for the first time, they adjust to the contours of your feet. While we think of hockey skates as being made of leather, there’s a lot of protective foam and plastic that can be molded into a better shape for your foot. All you need to bake a skate is a hairdryer, but a pro shop will professionally bake the skates if you’re nervous about heating your newest hockey purchase. You only need to apply heat for a few minutes to a skate for it to adjust — so if you use a full oven to bake skates, make sure to set it on a lower temperature (no more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit) and pay careful attention to the temperature and time. Once the baking is done, keep your skates on for 20 to 30 minutes in order to adjust their fit.
Skate and Skate Again
While proper fitting and baking will go a long way toward breaking in a new pair of hockey skates, there’s only one way to make certain that the skates perform come crunch time. Make certain that you have ample time to skate on the ice prior to an important match-up so that your skates hold up when you’re playing an intense game. Try to skate at an open ice or stick-and-puck skate several times before wearing them for a real contest. By the third skate, you should be able to feel the leather flex to the motion of your stride. If there’s still not enough flex in the skate, apply shoe polish or shoe oil in order to make your gear more pliable, or consider re-baking your skates at a higher temperature or a longer duration.
About the author:
Erin Wozniak is the Director of Marketing at Pro Stock Hockey, an online supplier of pro stock hockey equipment. Erin is an expert in web strategy and digital marketing and is a devoted hockey fan. Some of Pro Stock Hockey’s products include sticks, protective equipment, hockey skates and more.