This past week, one of my learn-to-skate students cried and complained that her feet were hurting because her mom bought her new skates. I wished the mom approached me first before she blindly went out to buy new skates at her local sporting goods store. I would have helped save her time and money and most importantly, the pain her daughter is now enduring due to her poor fitting and low quality skates. The new skates were hurting my student so badly that she couldn't continue with her lesson and had to get off the ice early and in the end, made the trip to the rink to skate for less than 15 minutes. Given this unfortunate incident which could have been avoided, I thought it would be best to take the time and provide my advice on how to select a good pair of skates.
There are two important things to remember when shopping for a new pair of skates - quality and proper fit. If a skater enjoys skating and wants to continue learning then the parent should be asking the following questions - should I invest in new skates?, what kind of skates to buy?, where should I purchase skates? and how much do skates costs? For those students in my higher level free skate classes and who are more serious about pursuing the sport, I definitely would recommend purchasing your own pair of skates. Rental skates are often damaged, worn out and even broken down, and lack the required support so it would be safer and more beneficial for skaters to have their own pair if they plan to continue to skate. I feel it's very important to have the best fitting and most comfortable skates because if your child doesn't, he/she will constantly complain and possibly experience blisters and worse of all, dislike skating.
What kind of skates?
Whatever you do, do NOT, and I repeat do NOT buy your new skates at your local retail sporting goods or department store, ie. Sports Authority, Dick's, Target or Walmart. I admit the skates sold in these stores are inexpensive BUT they are not adequate and acceptable especially for your child who wants to continue and is serious about learning to skate. These 'cheap' skates are of poor quality and are not made for jumping and spinning. I feel even used figure skates are much better than low quality inexpensive skates from your local retail store!
There are many different brands of beginner skates but there's not one brand that's better than another. It's all personal preference and which brand fits the best and most comfortable for your skater. For beginners, you want to shop for skates that offer comfort and durability, support for ankle stability and of course, good value. The two most popular and reliable brands are Riedell and Jackson. I like Riedells and have been skating in these boots since I was seven years old and never had an issue. However, every skater's feet are different so it is important to try on different brands to make sure you have the best fitting and most comfortable skates for your child. Also, let me save you from much pain and frustration - if your child likes and is comfortable with a certain brand of skates then stick to it and do not switch! When I was nine (or maybe it was when I was ten years old), my mother made the huge mistake of switching brands and buying Jackson skates for me. She heard many good reviews from other moms at the rink and was told by a professional working at a skating pro shop that Jackson makes skates for those who have wider feet. Jackson skates do have a wider last from side to side and also in their heel width. Furthermore, Jackson has a bigger toe box to accommodate those who have boxy toes. While that is all true, I had the worst experience in my new Jackson skates and took months for me to break the skates in. I still recall crying at every practice because I was so uncomfortable and wanted my Riedell skates back. After I finally grew out of my Jacksons, I went back to Riedells and never switched to any other brand of skates since then. So the lesson learned from my experience is to stick to your brand of skates if you are happy and comfortable with them. Jackson and Riedell are both popular and reputable brands and I trust these brands equally but it's all a matter of skater's preference.
Where to purchase skates?
Again, I feel I must repeat that you should NOT purchase skates off the rack at a local sporting goods or department store. Another advice I will give you is to not get persuaded by online sales and purchase skates on the internet unless you have already tried the brand and style and size you need at your local pro shop. It is always better to get your skates fitted by a professional to ensure the best and proper fit and comfort. The ideal place to purchase skates is at at a skating pro shop. They are usually located inside any local skating rink. The pro shop employees are experienced in measuring and fitting skater's feet. They can help you choose what skate to purchase and help determine what size fits best.
How should the skates fit?
Please remember that skate size does not always equal shoe size. The skating boot should fit snug like a glove and should not have much extra room such that your foot would slide in it. Always buy skates for the current season and not longer because oversize skates can cause injury. When I was young, I remember my mom always arguing for a bigger size skate because she thought it would be more economical since a larger size skate would accommodate my growing feet. However, that's one of the biggest mistake in buying skates because you want the skates to fit properly which means that it should fit snug around the ankle and heel with room for toes to move. There should not be too much room such that the foot can slide around and the heel lifts up when the skates are tied and laced up. The way to ensure a good fit when you shop for new skates is to have your skater kick his/her heel firmly into the back of the boot when he/she puts on the new skates to try on. My dance coach came along to a skate fitting with me and taught me that I should only be able to put one finger between the inside of the boot and the heel of my foot to ensure proper fit. He explained to my mom that the extra space would provide more than enough room for growth.
One point I should make you aware is that all new skates will hurt at first. It does take time to get use to and there is a 'break-in' period so do not give up on the new skates too soon. I've included below the Jackson and Riedell links to provide more information on how to choose a proper pair of beginners skates.
REMEMBER 'HAPPY FEET' IS A HAPPY SKATER :)