Ice skating has been around for a long time – in fact, thousands of years ago, Scandinavians used to skate on lakes using blades made from animal bones. More recently, the popularization of two distinct ice sports, namely figure skating and ice hockey, has led to markedly different blade and boot designs.
This is all very well for professional figure skaters and hockey players, but what about kids getting their first pair of skates? You have to choose between figure skates vs hockey skates, so which is better for beginners? While each has its own advantages, the truth is that either can work fine for beginners. But if you have a clear idea of the kind of skating you want to do, the below information can help you choose your new skates.
Figure skates provide a number of advantages designed for optimal performance when figure skating. Check out our review of the Best Figure Skates.
- Balance: figure skates are often recommended for beginners because the longer blade makes it easier to balance. In addition, the toe pick and tail prevents you from leaning too far forward or back. If you learn to skate on figure skates, you will probably feel more confident and progress faster in your skills.
- Flexibility: figure skating boots are made from leather, and fit closely around the foot. They provide support, but still enough flexibility to perform precise and graceful choreography.
- Toe picks: this refers to the serrated edge right at the front of the blade. Toe picks are what lets the skater execute jumps and spins. If your child wants to learn tricks, figure skates may be the way to go. However, beginners often end up using the toe pick for propulsion, which is not good technique. Also, check out our guide on what to wear ice skating indoors and outdoors.
- Precision: figure skates are designed for precision and grace, as opposed to speed. If your child is interested in learning tricks, or if you think they’ll need the extra balance, figure skates might be the best choice.
Ice Hockey Skates
Hockey skates also provide a number of advantages to help the hockey player perform at their best.Learn about hockey positioning here.
- Lighter Weight: hockey skating boots are made from synthetic leather or light plastics as opposed to the leather boots designed for the figure skater. As such, they tend to have a lighter weight. This may not seem like a big difference, but it does mean fatigue sets in more slowly so you can practice longer. Check out our top tips for lacing hockey skates.
- Protection: hockey skating boots are designed to be totally rigid, to protect players’ feet against hockey sticks and the blades of other hockey players.
- Maneuverability: a hockey skate blade is curved at both ends and has fewer edges, which allows for more maneuverability. While on a figure skate blade turning is usually done through a wide arc, on hockey skates you can stop, start and turn on a dime.
- Speed: the design of hockey skate blades, as well as the lightness of the boots, allows the skater to achieve higher speeds. If you, your child or whoever is looking for new skates, is interested in skating and turning fast, hockey skates may be the way to go. It may be a steeper learning curve, but on the other hand hockey skating boots are usually more comfortable.
Choosing The Best Skates For You
The truth is that for skaters just wanting to have fun, the quality of the blade and fit of the boot is more important than the type. For more serious skaters, the main difference between figure skates and hockey skates is what you can do with them. If you are interested in learning jumps and progressing fast, figure skates are ideal. On the other hand, if you are more interested in speed and maneuverability, you should probably choose a hockey skate. Read more about Best Hockey Skates by clicking here.
It should be clear by now that neither figure skates or hockey skates are inherently better for beginners! Although figure skates are sometimes recommended for beginners, hockey skates have advantages for first time skaters too.
How To Take Care Of Your Skates
Whether you choose to buy figure skates or hockey skates, proper maintenance is crucial.
First of all, it is important to treat your ice skates well during and after practice. Do not walk on your blades unless you are wearing skate guards. Dry your blades thoroughly when you get off the ice, and take them out of the bag to dry fully at home. Always carry your skates in a bag and protect the blades with blade soakers.
You will also need to sharpen your blades regularly. If you are a very frequent skater, you should sharpen your blades every few weeks. Otherwise, every few months should be sufficient. If you are a hockey player, check out our article about Best Hockey Rebounders.
Frequently Asked Questions
You cannot figure skate with hockey skates. This is because each skate is optimized for each sport, both in the boot and the blade. For example, the toe pick on figure skate blades is an essential feature for figure skating as it allows the skater to execute jumps and pivots, and isn’t a feature on hockey skate blades. Figure skating boots are also more flexible than hockey skating boots, allowing the skater to perform precise movements.
It is harder to skate in hockey skates in the beginning. This is because hockey skates are slightly curved in the front and back, making it possible for a beginner ice skater to lose their balance easily when leaning forward or back. The longer length of the figure skate blade also provides more balance. Nevertheless, you can learn to skate with either type of skate.
You cannot do the same tricks in hockey skates that you can do in figure skates. For example, you cannot perform jumps or spins on ice hockey skates due to the lack of a toe pick. Your feet also won’t be as flexible due to the rigid boots. However, you may be able to do some tricks in hockey skates – especially ones that rely on high speeds and quick turns.
You skate with figure skates the same way you skate with any skates at the beginning. Start by bending your knees and propelling yourself forward. When using figure skates, be careful not to use the toe pick for propulsion. Rather, create forward momentum by ‘scooting’ with your other blade. Once you can glide along on one foot while using the other to push yourself forward, try switching between feet. You’ll find yourself skating in no time!
As you can see, there is no universal winner in the figure skates vs hockey skates debate – it all depends on what you want to do on the ice. If you want to skate fast and turn on a dime, go for the hockey skate. If you want to learn basic skating skills quickly and later learn tricks, go for the figure skate. Whichever sport ends up calling to you, the main thing is to have fun and stay safe on the rink!