How to choose Skates for CanSkate
Hockey versus Figure Skates?
Skaters in the PowerSkate programs must wear hockey skates! Skaters in the WTSC Pre-CanSkate and CanSkate programs are welcome to wear either hockey (on the left) or figure skates (on the right). There are some important differences between the two types of skates, but these don't matter too much at the early stages of skating (and falling over). Figure skates have less of a curve on the blade than hockey skates, which make them easier for some skaters. However, figure skates have 'toe picks' on the front of the blades which are a tripping hazard if you are not used to them. If your skater knows that they want to learn to figure skate (spin and jump etc.) eventually, it will speed things up if they start in figure skates.
Skates have to provide good support to Skater's Ankles
The most important thing to think about when buying skates in amount of ankle support they provide. A good pair of skates will provide firm support around the ankle, preventing your skater's ankle turning inwards or outwards as they stand on the blades. When skates are laced up snugly, the ankles should be straight in the boot so that the whole skate/blade becomes an extention of the foot.
Moulded plastic skates are not a good choice. They provide a lot of support but they cannot be 'broken in'. This prevents the boot from flexing properly to allow the skater the required range of motion. Plastic skates with buckles instead of laces may be convenient but they often come loose leaving the skater with no support whatsoever.
Skates should fit more snuggly than regular shoes, particularly around the heel. A properly fitting skate should have no more than 1/2 inch of space at the toe. The skater should be able to wiggle toes inside the boot, but the heel should not move at all in the skate. There should be no more room than one finger space between the back of the foot and the skate. The ball of the foot should come just ahead of the point where the sole starts to cut in for the arch. This ensures the proper positioning of the arch and is extremely important. You should be able to pull the laces tight in the front and the tongue of the skate should be wide enough to prevent the laces touching the foot.
Skates that are too small will be very uncomfortable for the skater and feet will tend to get cold very quickly. Skates that are too big do not provide sufficient ankle support. They may even cause blisters due to rubbing inside the boot.
Skates should be worn with one pair of thin socks. Thick or extra socks may appear to fill up the space in a skate that is too big. However, as soon as the skater tries to exert pressure against the boot, the extra thickness compresses and the skate doesn't provide the needed support. Don't buy skates too big so they will last another season. There are lots of used skates around that are suitable for CanSkaters. It is better to buy a used pair that fits than a new pair that are too large.
Skates should be laced fairly loosely over the toe and front of the foot, but snugly over the ankles. Laces should be hooked securely with sufficient tension to permit one finger down the back of the boot. Laces should be long enough to be tied in a double bow and tucked in. Never wrap laces around the ankle of the boot before tying.
If you are not sure how to lace up your skater's boots, please ask one of the program assistants (older club skaters that assis with the CanSkate group classes), a club skater, a parent of a club skater or a coach. Everyone had to learn sometime! (Hot Tip: It is easy to put skates on the wrong feet of a small, wiggly skater, especially when you are in a hurry. It saves time to double-check which one is which though before you start.)
Skating blades are supposed to have two sharp ridges, with a trough between them. When skates are new, they need to be sharpened. The blades will need to be re-sharpened because they wear down when the metal makes contact with a hard surface. How oftern? The rule of thumb for skate sharpening is 30 to 50 hours of ice time. This is a very rough guideline and can be greatly affected by use and care. Walking across concrete in skates is fatal for the sharpening on the blades! Try to keep your skater on the black mats on the arena floors, or ensure that they wear rubber guards on the blades. Ensure that the blades are wiped dry when they come off the ice. If skates are put away very wet, or with guards on them, rust can form on the bottom of the blades. A good test for sharpness is to try scraping a thumb nail across (not along!) the blade. If it takes fine shavings, it is sharp; if not, maybe it's time. Be sure to check both inside and outside edges. Inside edges often get more wear than outside.
The arena staff at Mary McCormick Arena and many sporting goods stores will sharpen hockey skates blades. However, they should not be used for sharpening figure skates because they will take too much off at the front and back of the blade changing the balance of the blade and dramatically shortening the life of your blades. A few places that sharpen figure skates in this area are: The Figure Skating Boutique (Richmond Hill), Jake’s Skate Sharpening (Thornhill) or Esta (Mississauga).