Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How-to: Buy figure skates

While Ice Girl was in the early Basic levels of Learn to Skate classes, I bought her skates from the local Play it Again Sports Shop. I had read somewhere that breaking in new skates is painful and we all know that kids' feet grow. So, all of Ice Kid's skates had been used and cost about $10, plus $4 for sharpening. Each time I bought a new pair, I'd bring in the old pair; the guy behind the counter gave me $4 for the old pair. Not a bad deal.

Ice Girl now has a private coach who told me that I.G. really needs better skates. I'd been avoiding it because they run about $150. I looked online, I read about skates in articles, but I still felt at sea.

We live near Madison, Wis. and it's a hockey town. We have many rinks, but the pro shops have hockey equipment. I took I.G. to the Pettit National Ice Arena last Saturday for their ginormous open skate (1 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.) and to visit their fabulous pro shop, Rainbo Sports.

I'm telling you: going to the shop was so worth it. Kevin, the guy who runs the Milwaukee Rainbo Sports shop, was very helpful. Let's face it: I'm pretty clueless about the whole skating thing. I didn't know that the skates don't run in traditional shoe sizes. Not only do they require special measurements, but also each skate company has its own sizing system.

Why a professional fitting is fabulous, part one: foot evaluation. Kevin had I.G. stand and he assessed her arches and how her feet bent slightly inward. He measured around the foot at the instep. He explained how the skate should fit on her toes and showed her where it shouldn't pinch.

I.G. tried on the Riedell Blue Ribbon skate, but I.G. has wide feet, so the fit was pretty tight. The Jackson Classique fit so much better. Kevin showed I.G. how to lace the skates, tighten the laces, and explained about breaking in skates.

Why professional fitting is fabulous, part two: heat setting. As a newbie Ice Mom, I had no idea that good figure skates can be heat set to a skater's feet. You need a convection oven, not a plain ol' kitchen oven, or a hairdryer and patience. Kevin had the convection oven, so he popped I.G.'s new skates in the oven, warmed them up for six minutes, then put them on I.G.'s feet. Ice Girl sat with her feet in the toasty boots and the boots molded to her feet. Heat setting decreases the pain and time involved in the breaking-in process. Kevin also encouraged Ice Kid to break in the skates at home with the blade guards on.

Oh! And socks! My goofy kid is sock challenged. I bet no one else has sock management problems, but my family does. We lose socks very efficiently when left to our own devices, but our wicked cat loves to swipe them and hide them under the couch, under beds, in a heap near the sunny window, on the stairs. What is up with that cat? Often I find that I.G. has on two different socks, but I make the discovery when she's shutting the van door in the school parking lot or when we're an hour from home and about to buy new skates. I stopped at Target to pick up some white cotton socks and made her put on two of the same ones. I bet the mismatched pair is under one of my van seats.

Here's what I've learned about socks: I was so proud that I.G. took off her shoes in the pro shop and she had clean, white, matching socks on both feet. Kevin wasn't impressed. Cotton socks are not the way to go. Seriously. The cotton absorbs foot sweat and keeps the water close to the foot, chilling the foot as the kid skates. The cotton also stretches and bunches in the boot, which makes the kid's foot uncomfortable and causes blisters. Trouser socks, or tight-fitting nylon socks, are the way to go.

Why professional fitting is fabulous, part three: tweaking. My daughter, bless her, thinks she's dying every time she has a paper cut. Imagine I.G. with stiff, new skates that rub her feet. After 45 minutes of ice time, she wanted her old skates back. I took her back into the shop and consulted Kevin. He told me that he can punch out the leather in some spots to accomodate her foot, but he'd rather try a blister pad first. He gave me a soft foam circle that I remember from my '80s roller skating days. He also had this nifty gel sleeve that wraps around a skater's heel and ankle. The sleeve protects the foot from rubbing against the leather. But it's $15. Yeah. Pricey. I dithered a little, but I ended up popping for the gel sleeve. I'd just spent $150 on skates. My reasoning was that the cheap option wouldn't be cheap if Ice Girl never put the skates on again because they hurt too much. The gel sleeve worked like a charm: she had her skates back on and a big smile.

Jackson Classique skates: $145-ish
4 pairs of skating socks ($5/pair): $20
purple soakers: $13
Gel sleeve: $15
Olympic Video: $22

Total damage: $215

Useful Internet resources:


Anonymous said...

Great blog, Ice Mom! This post was the most helpful I've seen on the net about how to purchase skates!

How long did it take Ice Girl to break in the skates? Do you have any opinions on the Softec brand as opposed to the Jackson Classique for the casual skater who might do Freestyle?

Unknown said...

wonderful site Ice Mum. your daughter is lucky. I am new to the expensive ice-skating world, and my daughter loves it. I got the crystals at a sale, but.....errr errr, what glue is used to stick them on? will they wash off in the wash? i contentedly got them out the little packet, and was excited to get them onto a "trial shirt" only to look at my daughter, have a laugh, and tried fabric glitter glue to invent something. (now a pyjama shirt)

Ice Mom said...

Hi, Sandro! Thanks for the comment! You can buy hotfix crystals and a tool to melt the glue that comes on the back of the crystals. If you buy plain, flatback crystals you can use E6000 glue (hardware store) or GemTac glue by Beacon (I haven't tried this).

I have a couple of posts on hotfix and E6000 glue on my blog. Good luck! I bet your ice girl has the best looking p.j.s around! :)

Anonymous said...

Good tips. I am a skate mom as well. When my daughter started skating I had no idea what to get. Four years later I wrote an article on eHow about how to buy skates. You can see it at

I think it's great to see skate moms share advice.

Anonymous said...

Used skates are wonderful in those early levels! Cost effective and feet friendly. Rainbo Sports does sell used skates on consignment. The first brand new pair of skates my daughter had were the Riedell Blue Ribbon which she outgrew in 3months when she was 8 years old. Darn growth spurt! Paid $115 for them but was able to resell them to another grateful parent for $65. Bargain for them and helped pay for the next used pair. Those were the days! She is 13 years old now and (knock on wood) we think the feet are finished growing. The longer they stick with it, the higher the sticker shock on the skates and blades. Our first pair of custom skates happened last March-my husband said the price was a down payment on a car! She got Jackson Elite boot-sells for $350 but for $100 more can be custom made for your feet. If we want to discuss wide feet, (which Jackson is great for since stock boots go up to a D) she is EE across the toes then goes down to an A heel. Well worth the $100 for a custom fit! Went with the Ultima Freestyle blade ($350) which is equivalent but much cheaper than the Pattern 99 usually recommended. Boots and blades have been wonderful! She has not has all the break in problems her friends that spent more money have had. I have seen many parents go to skate shops without doing their research and spend way too much money on skates that their kid is not going to be able to break in and be miserable in! Internet research as well as asking other parents at the rink is an excellent resource. Skating parents are always happy to share their information and experiences (good and bad) with anyone who is interested. I have been on the receiving end and am now happy to pay it forward.

Anonymous said...

I also am a skating mom. Last May we had to purchase the boot and blade individually for my eight year old daughter. I also went to Rainbo. In May Riedell offers 10% of days at Rainbo stores. They should start advertising soon. My husbadn and I bought a car at one time for the price of those skates.

SkatingisLifeandLove said...

a reply to "Kath"-

I am a skater, and noticed your comment hadn't really been responded to. Softec are cheaper than Jackson Classiques, true. They also don't really have break-in time. All of that is true.

If you are a casual skater who does Freestyle (like I am at 15, I started late... later than Ice Girl) then I wholly recommend the Jackson Classique. True, it may be more expensive, but the blade that comes with it, the Ultima Mark IV All-Purpose blade, is of much higher quality.

The pros for Softec skates are that they are comfortable, and they are cheaper, but if you get serious about skating, you will most likely end up getting new skates.

Bottom line: Get the Jackson Classique, or something like the Riedell Blue Ribbon or Bronze Medallion. These are a little more expensive than Softec and require break-in time, but have more support in the boot than those Softecs do.

Ice Mom said...

Thanks, Skating is Life and Love, for answering Kath's comment.

Kath, I apologize for overlooking your question. We're lucky that we have a bunch of nice folks like Skating IL&L who will make sure that we share the knowledge!

Ice Mom

SkatingisLifeandLove said...

No problem, Ice Mom!

Love the blog, and thank heavens my mom sews too, or else I would be stuck with overpriced skating dresses... I'll be mentioning the patterns to her when I go visit her later this year (divorced parents)

Dayjoy said...

I just found your blog two days ago and instantly bookmarked it! My daughter is seven and has been skating for two years now and is getting serious. Your blog will be my education! I am starting at the very beginning and will read the WHOLE thing! Thanks so much for this! BTW--Jackson Classiques were my daughter's first "real" skates too--she also has a wide foot.

Ice Mom said...

Thanks, Dayjoy! I'm happy to have you here!

Ice Girl was just fitted for a new boot. She's getting the SP-Teri Super Teri. $500 is a lot more than $200-something. *sigh* I miss $200-something.