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Boost Your Performance: Tips for Choosing the Best Boot Strength

We usually only focus on what hurts. It’s normal. You come off the ice and bemoan the toll the skating session took on your quadriceps. Your back hurts; your arms are sore. You negotiate with yourself that skating is your passion and is worth all of the aches and pains.

But what about my skating boots? I mean, they were made to holster you up! But am I choosing the best boot strength for me?

When I came back to skating, I put on my 15-year-old Klingbiel skates that fit like a glove. I started skating conservatively at first. But, as my Senior-level skating skills came back, disaster struck: I split my boot (see the below image). The boots that were made for my 13-year-old competitive self could not stand up to my 30-year-old adult body. So, I went to my local skate tech.

Boot with tear

Buying boots is simple!...Or is it?

A very nice, helpful skate tech helped guide me through the world of figure skating boots. When I was a kid, I lived near the Klingbiel shop and it made sense to go there for my skate needs. Now, with Klingbiel out of business and no knowledge of other boot brands, I was very reliant on the help of this skate technician.

The skate technician asked me what I was working on and what skills I had accomplished. He put me in a boot that was on the softer side but, according to the chart, could still suit my skill needs. It made sense: I was just coming back so a softer boot was a good place to start and the boot still suited my level.

What could go wrong?

It wasn’t long before I split this new boot as well. Straight down the back. According to the chart, this was the boot for me. But, my height and weight were never taken into account (I’m a bit of a giraffe). The boot did not have the increased stability I needed to absorb the shock of my weight. So, it split straight down the back.

Figure skating boots are sold in different strengths through most vendors. The main idea is beginners should be in softer skating boots and the boots increase in strength as you get more advanced. Jackson Ultima (Jackson Ultima Support Rating System – Jackson Ultima Skates) even has a support rating system that separates the boots based on what ISI or USFS track you are on.

Underneath the Jackson Ultima Support Rating System is the disclaimer: “Recommended models are just a suggestion. Please discuss with certified skate tech and coach. Height, weight, and age could result in higher or lower models than recommended.”

Major props to Jackson and other figure skating boot vendors for the clarification.

But, now what do you do?

My foray into buying boots over the years has taught me that you need to advocate for yourself. If a boot fits your skill level, ask your skate technician if the boot is suitable for your body type. You do not need to be in a certain boot to land an axel. If you are on the svelter side, a boot that is too stiff is equally as dangerous. Your skate should feel reinforced at the ankle - supported but not restricted. If you need a more supportive boot, do not be put off by the price increase. The price difference is less than a pair of new boots!

The figure skating boot charts are incredibly helpful. They are a great resource especially when you are a newbie buying skates. But, remember that your skates are there to support YOU! No chart can accurately reflect your physiology or injury history. When choosing the best boot strength for you, ask your skate technician as many questions as possible and advocate for yourself!

After another break from skating, I returned in 2021. This time I went to buy boots after doing weeks and weeks of research and knowing the support I wanted for the type of skating I wanted. I decided to look at every brand and not discriminate. I landed on the Edea Showgirl: they had the strength that would support my skill level and height/weight. Also, they came in tan! (Yes: I watched way too many '90s professional skating shows.) I have had my boots for three years and have not split them yet (fingers crossed!)

May your boots always support you and, as always: glide with purpose!

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