The difference between ice skates and figure skates
When you are thinking about buying a pair of ice skates, it is important that you first define what type of skating you plan to do. Just as the word “ball” can mean any of a hundred different types of balls, the term “ice skates” encompasses bladed ice boots for playing hockey, racing, figure skating and ice dancing, or simply recreational skating. Different skates are designed for each of these types of activities.
Figure skates are designed with a very stiff boot so that the foot and ankle are well supported when a skater jumps or spins on ice. Lack of boot support can cause the skater’s foot and ankle to twist upon landing, which can cause injury.
Although it is difficult to see the difference from a distance, the heel of a high-quality figure skate will be made of leather, rather than the wood typically found in recreational skates. Leather provides a stronger cushion when the skater’s weight falls on one foot.
Hockey and racing skates do not have the type of reinforced heel that you will find on an figure skate. These boots generally have a flatter sole.
All figure skates have prominent toe caps, the serrated part of the blade that allows the skater to “dig” into the ice when jumping or pivoting. Racing and hockey skates do not have finger spikes, because these skaters do not perform these maneuvers. Recreational skates will have slightly smaller and less sharp toe tips.
Because they are made of heavy leather, figure skates are typically much heavier than skates designed for hockey, racing, or simple recreational skating. Various skate makers are now designing recreational ice skates out of plastic, vinyl, soft leather, or thick canvas, all of which are lighter and generally more comfortable for simple ice skating activities. The break-in period for soft skates is usually very short or non-existent. Soft ice skates also have more internal space for additional padding to provide warmth and comfort on ice.
All ice skates will be available in various high-quality and inexpensive versions. Simple and beginner recreational skates generally come with attached metal blades. Skates intended for more advanced skaters are generally sold without paddles, as advanced skaters in any ice sport want to choose their paddles and professionally mount them on their skate boots.
All ice skate blades need to be sharpened from time to time. Dull blades don’t work well on ice. Anyone who has been skating with rented skates will be amazed at the improvement in performance when first getting on the ice with well-sharpened blades. Blades must be sharpened by a professional. Sharpening the blades is not a DIY task.