If you’re new to hockey, or ice skating in general, you may not be aware that there is a difference between hockey skates and figure skates. When beginners first take the ice, they’re often confused as to which skate they should wear.
So, whether you’re a beginner or just curious as to why figure skaters and ice skates for hockey are different, read on as we explore what separates ice hockey skates from figure skates.
Different Uses and Functions
While both hockey players and figure skaters require skating proficiency in order to excel, the skills for each sport isn’t exactly the same. Figure skating involves:
- Acrobatic jumps
- Aerial twisting and turning
- Spins or pivots in place
Hockey players don’t often learn the acrobatic side of figure skating, so their skates are designed for:
- Quick stops
- Instant change in direction
- Protection against pucks and sticks
Different Blade Designs
If we start examining the two types of skates from the bottom up, you’ll notice a distinct difference in the blades.
The figure skating blade is longer, flatter and has ridged teeth near the toe. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this design?
The longer blade gives figure skaters more surface area to work with. This allows them to build the momentum over the length of the ice rink that they’ll need for long jumps and aerial skills. The extended blade also aids in the long arcing turns and stable one-foot glides that must be performed smoothly and gracefully during figure skating routines.
The ridged teeth at the end of a figure skaters blade is known as the toe pick. The toe pick is what allows figures skaters to spin in place and jump higher than hockey players. The teeth of the toe pick dig into the ice so that a figure skater can balance or push off with one toe without falling. Without it, there would be much less grip and the skate would simply slide out from under the skater making certain movements impossible.
There are drawbacks to the figure skating blade design. The long blade makes tight turns much more difficult and the toe pick can dig into the ice during sprints making it difficult to achieve short bursts of acceleration.
The blade of an ice hockey skate is much shorter and curved at both ends. This curve, or rocker pattern, is designed for quicker acceleration both forwards and backwards. The game of ice hockey is lightning fast, and players need to be able to make short, quick bursts in almost every situation. A blade curved at both ends makes this possible.
The shorter blade also provides more stability in tight turns. Figure skaters tend to make long, looping turns on the ice while hockey players turn quickly in tight spaces to avoid opponents or circle around the back of the net. The curvature of a sharp ice hockey skate blade helps make this easier.
Different Boot Construction
Just a quick glance clearly shows that ice hockey skate boots are quite different from figure skate boots, and this is because the skating styles and skills are so different, the boots must be constructed to perform in different ways.
The boots of figure skates are composed of pliable materials, most commonly leather, that mold tightly to the feet and ankles. This flexibility, especially in the ankles, gives a figure skater the flexibility they require to perform the jumps, twists and spins during complex routines. The material of the boot is much thinner than that of a hockey skate boot because figure skaters require much less protection from foreign objects.
Ice hockey skate boots are made from much more rigid materials. The feet are a vulnerable area during hockey competition. A player’s foot is in danger from pucks, sticks, goal posts, other players’ skates and even the boards. Because of this risk, ice hockey skates must be made from hard materials that will protect the sensitive areas from injury. Hockey goalie skates have even more protection too.
Hockey players don’t often have to perform the types of jumps and spins figure skaters must, so a more rigid boot isn’t much of a hindrance. In order to compensate for the lack of flexibility in the ankle area, many ice hockey players don’t lace their skates incredibly tight through the last few eyelets.
The rigidity of the hockey skate boot also serves a purpose when it comes to mobility. Unlike figure skaters, hockey players are often in situations where they have to stop on a dime or perform tight turning maneuvers. Without the stiffness in the boot, the ice hockey skate would not offer enough support for these types of movements. Wearing a figure skating boot to perform sudden stops, turns and other small area maneuvers could increase the risk of ankle injury.
Which Should Beginners Wear?
If you’re just taking up ice skating or want to learn for fun, it may not be too important which type of skate you choose your first day out on the ice. Beginners often start slow and learn easier skills that aren’t too affected by the type of ice skate they choose. So, if you’re a casual skater simply interested in recreation, then the choice should be made based on what feels more comfortable to you.
However, if you’re shopping for an ice skate for a specific purpose, then you should select one based on which sport you plan to participate in.
Conclusion: Which Should you Get?
We hope that helps make sense of the differences between hockey and figure skates. There’s more than initially meets the eye to separate them.
If your goal is to learn how to play ice hockey, you should start with an ice hockey skate regardless of your skill level. Ice hockey lessons will teach you ice hockey skating skills, so having the proper skate is a must so that you’ll be able to have the best experience possible.
The same is true if you plan on becoming a figure skater. Choose the skate that is designed for the sport you wish to participate in, and you’ll find you learn faster and obtain a better grasp of the sport. Just remember to clean your ice skates which ever ones you go for!