So you’ve just bought some new hockey skates, unwrapped them, put them on and they’re really painful and don’t feel anything like your last pair. Don’t worry, this is totally normal for new hockey skates and you’ll just need to break them in to get them feeling right.
In this post we’re going to cover all our tips of how to break in hockey skates to help you speed the process up so they fit your feet snugly and properly.
Why you Need to Break in Hockey Skates
Hockey skates are designed to fit a general foot size, but not every foot has the exact same shape. High-quality ice hockey skates are constructed from durable materials such as leather, nylon, composite fibers and other components in order to put up with the rigors of skating, provide support and last longer than older ice skate models. While these materials provide an enormous amount of benefits, they can also be rather rigid when worn right out of the box.
This rigidity can be fairly uncomfortable at first, but the good news is that although these materials are stiff and durable, they can be broken in to mold to the unique shape of your foot.
Get the Right Fit
The first key to breaking in hockey skates is to purchase skates that fit right to begin with. There are different nuances between brands and models of skates, so be sure to research which type of skate is best for your feet and skating style. The best place to start is by looking at your shoe size.
Ice hockey skates typically run a whole size to a size and a half smaller than shoes. For example, if you wear a size 10 shoe, you’ll probably need a size eight-and-a-half to nine hockey skate. You’ll also want to look into the types of fit of hockey skates that are available. Hockey boots come in different widths and some are designed with a tapered, standard or ergonomic fit. Each of these will feel different depending on the shape of your foot.
The best way to assess the size and shape of your foot is to actually try on skates before you purchase them. If you’ve purchased a skate that is the wrong size, width or fit, no amount of breaking in will ever make it feel as comfortable as you’d like.
For more information, check out our post here on how to fit hockey hockey skates.
4 Popular Ways to Break Hockey Skates In
Many athletes have their own take on how to break in new gear, and hockey players are no different. There are several different ways to break in new hockey skates, some more trusted than others, but we’ll provide an overview of a few of the more popular ways.
1. Breaking Them in by Skating
If you survey hockey players who have been through many pairs of skates, nearly all of them will tell you that the best way to break in new skates is to head to your local rink and skate, skate, skate. The first time you hit the ice in a new pair of skates, you may find them stiff and uncomfortable, but the more time you put into it, the more molded to your feet the skates will become. There really is little substitute for skating motions to properly break in skates tailored to your feet and stride.
If you know you’ll be due for a new pair of skates in the near future, you may wish to purchase your replacement skates before you’ve worn out your old ones. This will allow you to break your new set of blades in your free time while wearing you’re comfortable, older skates during games and important practice sessions.
2. Walking around the House Wearing Skates
If you just don’t have the time or opportunity to spend hours at the rink breaking in your shiny, but stiff, fresh out-of-the-box skates, you can always put your skate guards on your new ice hockey skates and wear them around the house. Although the motion of walking is much different from that of skating, walking around the house may help the stiff sides of the boot to become more flexible and fit tighter to your feet.
If you choose to wear your skates indoors, we’d recommend that you wear hard skate guards rather than the soft, pliable ones. Skate guards with the soft bottoms are just fine to protect your skates on the rubber floors of ice rinks and for walking or standing for a limited time, but if you’re walking on hard surfaces to break in your skates, you could dull or damage the blades with soft guards.
You may also wish to consider specialty guards with roller blade wheels. You can mimic your skating stride in the garage or on other smooth surfaces. This will help mold the skates to your feet using the motions you would naturally use on the ice.
3. Baking Them
If you’re unfamiliar with the term “baking” new hockey skates, it’s a common method to begin the break in process. Most hockey pro-shops and hockey specialty stores have a small oven designed for baking hockey skates.
A skate bake will heat up the leather and other components of the skate boot so that it will be more pliable. Once your new hockey skates have been baked, you’ll want to lace them up tight and wear them while they are still warm. This will allow them to conform to the unique shape of your foot. Be careful not to walk around or put too much pressure on the sides as you may over stretch them before the leather cools and conforms to your foot.
Baking your skates may not fully break them in, but it will give you a head start. There are ways to bake your skates at home, but we recommend relying on a professional since they will use equipment designed for the process. For more information, check out our guide here on how to bake hockey skates.
4. Blow Dry Method
If you’re looking for a quick way to heat a new hockey skate boot to make it more flexible to fit your foot, you can try to use a blow dryer to loosen up stiff portions of the skate.
A blow dryer can be used to target sections that just don’t feel right while leaving comfortable portions of the boot just as they are. Just heat up the leather of the skate and lace them up tight. Be aware that some blow dryers can run quite hot, so choose a temperature setting that will make the leather moldable, but to hot enough to burn or damage the leather of your skate.
If you’ve ever broken in a pair of skates, you know there’s a high chance that blisters could form in pinched areas that rub uncomfortably. Don’t neglect blisters if they form, and be aware of signs that your skates maybe rubbing your feet the wrong way. Ignoring a blister can lead to infections that could put you out of action.
While blisters may not be completely preventable, you can help avoid them by wearing Moleskin, athletic tape or a Band-Aid over commonly susceptible areas. The back of the heel, the sides of the ankle and the toes are prone to blisters due to the natural skating motion. If you are skating with blisters, be extra careful to cover them properly and clean and bandage them after every skate.
If blisters remain a common issue, you may want to reassess the fit of your skate. If a skate isn’t initially shaped properly to fit your foot, even broken in skates can rub skin the wrong way causing painful blisters.
Breaking in new hockey skates can be a lot of work, but if you take the time to purchase the best fitting skate and put in the time to break them in properly, every skating session will be a rewarding experience. Just remember that it won’t happen overnight, but when you get it right your skate will feel like an extension of yourself.
To review, the most common and trusted methods used to break in skates include:
- Choose the right fit
- Skate, skate, skate
- Wear new skates around the house
- Bake or blow dry to temporarily soften skate boots