Monday, February 22, 2010
This guest post is courtesy of my friend and master skate technician, R.H.
Question from a reader: I've been searching on the Internet for a certified skate technician or professional to advise us on new boots with little luck. We have a gentleman who visits our rink monthly and is excellent, but seems to bring a very limited supply of skates due to the nature of traveling. Is there a Website or resource that lists professionals by geographic location?
R.H.: This is a very good question! I'm not sure who is coming to your rink for fittings and what brand or brands of skates he carries, but ideally you should work with a skate fitter who represents several brands of skates and is (relatively, at least!) impartial. Skates are like jeans - Levis may fit your waist/hip/thigh ratio perfectly, whereas I can't find a pair of Levis that fit my frame to save my life! Every skate brand fits slightly different and offers features that may work better for certain foot types, so to have a fitter who only sells one brand of skate or who is very partial to one particular brand can be a hindrance to finding the boot that is best for you! An experienced fitter will measure you for several different brands (as each brand runs different in sizing and width) and then steer you in what he or she feels will work best for you, your foot type and your skate needs.
Unfortunately there is not a Website that offers this information. Each and every boot company has a list of retailers in your area that carry their brand of skates, but this is not a guarantee that you'll be fitted properly by someone who has adequate experience. The best method for finding a shop/person who does an excellent job is to first ask your coach. Most coaches do have an opinion as to the skate shop he/she prefers and trusts, and this advice is worth considering. If the coach doesn't have an opinion or you dislike the shop he/she mentions, then my recommendation would be to ask AT LEAST 5-10 people actively involved in the sport WHOSE OPINION YOU RESPECT (if you are willing to travel, even ask around at competitions, skaters who are novice, junior and senior most likely didn't get to that level in consistently poor fitting boots, so their opinion will be worth a shot). The key is to ask a variety of people, and if necessary, you may have to travel a good distance.
How far you may ask? Well, many of my customers come from within an hour's drive of my store, but we do have several customers who drive 4-6 hours each way for fittings and sharpenings. That may seem like a long drive (and to me it is), but considering that the skate is the foundation of everything the skater does, it is important that the equipment be fitted by technicians who are experienced and can give you the benefit of their knowledge.
Question from a reader: Does anyone know of any formal training courses offered for this?
R.H.: Another awesome question! I wish there was...unfortunately there is none. The skate companies do offer some educational support to their retailers, but the training mainly comes from working with a highly experienced boot fitter on a daily basis for at least several years. Best of luck in finding the skates you deserve!
Update: From reader Anonymous who thinks driving to a good skate shop is worth it: It is so important to get skates that fit properly! The last time my skater was complaining about the fit of her skates, I assumed that she had just grown - again. We took her to a different skate shop (based on recommendations) and discovered that her feet had not grown. Not only were her boots the wrong size but the boots were just plain wrong for what she was doing (also based on her height and weight). My skater was well on her way to serious foot problems. [...] We are several hours away from our closest skate shop (and the new shop is even further) but the trip is worth it! I like to save money wherever possible and skates are definitely the place to apply those other savings!
Update: From skate coach, skate parent, skate blogger, and Advisory Board member Xan of Xanboni!: Just another word from a coach--when you buy your first "real" skates, please go to a reputable dealer, not to SportMart, or the bike shop, or that hockey guy, or the used skate store, or grandma's garage. Get the tech or the salesperson to give you a primer in skate technology and don't PLEASE don't lie about the skater's tested level.
So many people quit skating because they think they're incompetent, when really they just have the wrong skates.
Update: From reader Jillybean: Remember that just because someone works at the rink, it doesn't mean that they know how to properly fit a skating boot. I had a bad experience with my first pair of "real"skates. I was fit by the guy at the rink, and I ended up with a pair of boots that were too big, and much too strong for my skating level at the time. I ended up with some serious foot problems. My doctor wanted to operate on my foot to fix one of the problems and told me that after I healed, I would need to get custom made skates. I decided to skip the surgery and go straight to the custom boots, and the problems that I had just went away!
It's worth it to spend a little more to get the right boot.
Update: From reader poorer but wiser, who had a bad fitting experience: [...] sometimes even an experienced pro can screw up. Do as much homework as you can before hand, read reviews from other skaters using various boots and try to be as educated a consumer as you can possibly be. And don't let the fitter strong-arm you into buying something you're not comfortable with ...
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