How to Break In New Hockey Skates for Maximum Comfort

A common question hockey players have is how to break in new hockey skates. New hockey skates are great, but they’re also stiff. If you don’t break them correctly, you could find your first few sessions with them rather uncomfortable. So, whether you’re replacing an old pair or buying your first pair of skates, below is everything you need to know on how to break in new hockey skates to ensure a comfortable and safe skating experience.

Benefits of Breaking in New Hockey Skates

Break in new hockey skates
Image by Taylor Friehl is licensed with Unsplash License

Taking the time to break in your new hockey skates before using them in games comes with a few benefits. For starters, they’ll be more comfortable. New hockey skates can be a little stiff and won’t fit your feet perfectly. If you don’t break them in before using them a lot, you could find yourself dealing with blisters after you take them off.

Breaking in your new hockey skates can also help you prevent injuries. A snug fit helps to reduce common foot problems like chafing or hot spots. You’re also less likely to unconsciously adjust your skating style to make it more comfortable, which could result in injuring a muscle or joint.

Lastly, breaking in new hockey skates can improve your performance. When your skates fit properly, you’ll have more control, which leads to better agility and responsiveness. You’ve spent a decent amount of money on your new skates, so you might as well get the most from them by breaking them in properly.

Understanding Skate Anatomy

To start breaking in your new hockey skates, it’s important to understand the anatomy of the skates. Here are the key components you need to know:

  • The Boot: This is the outer part of the skate, likely made of a synthetic material or leather. The boot provides structure and support to your foot and ankle, which is crucial for stability while you’re skating.
  • The Tongue: The tongue is the padded piece of material that sits on the top of your foot and guards it against pressure from the laces. The tongue also helps to evenly distribute the pressure from the laces along the entire foot.
  • The Laces: The strings that allow you to tighten your skates securely. When you first buy new hockey skates, you may need to unlace them entirely and re-do them in a lacing pattern that’s comfortable for you. Check out some of the hockey skate lacing patterns listed below to see which one works best.
  • Ankle Padding: Inside the boot along the ankles is extra padding. This ankle padding provides additional support and protects your ankle from some of the dangers of hockey.
  • Quarter Package: The quarter package is a part of the boot that contributes to overall support and responsiveness. It’s typically made of a stiff material like reinforced plastic.
  • Outsole: The outsole is the bottom part of the skate, which comes in direct contact with the ice. Common outsole materials include carbon fiber or plastic, helping to provide additional stability.
  • Blade Holder and Runner: The blade runner, which is often made of high-grade steel, is the part of the skate that makes contact with the ice. It’s the blade runner that provides grip along the slipper surface and allows you to make precise movements. The blade holder attaches the skate blade runner to the boot.
  • Toe Cap: At the front of the skate is the toe cap. The tow cap is a reinforced area that provides additional protection to your toes against impacts, such as collisions against the boards, whacks from opponent sticks, or errant pucks.
  • Footbed/Insole: Finally, the footbed or insole is the interior padding of the skate. It provides arch support and cushioning, making your skates more comfortable. It also helps to reduce fatigue during longer periods of play.

Preparing Your Skates

Once you buy your new pair of skates, it’s time to start preparing them. The first thing you’ll want to do is take them out of the box and give them a thorough inspection. Make sure there are no visible signs of damage. While there shouldn’t be any issues with new skates, you never know what might happen during the manufacturing or shipping process so it doesn’t hurt to give them a quick inspection.

After that, you’ll want to make sure you have a good pair of hockey skate socks. If you don’t have a good pair of socks, you’ll find your new skates uncomfortable no matter what you do. It’s a good idea to choose which pair of socks you want to use before you break in your skates so that you can mold things based on the size of your foot with the socks on.

Using the Heat-Molding Process to Break in New Hockey Skates

Heating-molding, or baking, is a process that uses heat to break down your skates. It’s a common practice for new skates as it allows you to break them in faster. Heat molding involves putting your new skates in an oven at around 175 degrees Fahrenheit for around 15 minutes. Then, once the skates have cooled a bit, you put them on. You then use shrink wrap to form a tight seal around the skates and wear them for about 15 minutes. You can do this heat-molding process at home but there are a few points you should be aware of first.

For one, it’s best to do heat-molding on higher-end skates. Higher-end skates are made of more durable materials and are better able to withstand the heat-molding process. If you bake lower-quality skates, you may find that they wear down prematurely.

Secondly, heat-molding skates on your own can be a little dangerous. For example, the metal parts of your skates can become very hot during the process and leave burn marks if you’re not careful. It’s often better to bring your skates to a local hockey equipment shop and pay to have them baked for you.

However, if you decide to heat-mold them yourself, be sure you take all the necessary safety precautions. Also make sure you have the proper tools in place before you start. For a step-by-step guide on how to heat-mold your new hockey skates, check out the video below:

Lace Tightness and Techniques

How you lace them is a big factor in ensuring your skates fit comfortably. First, you need to know what kind of laces you have. There are two options – waxed and non-waxed. Waxed laces have a thin layer of wax along the string, which can give them a stickier feeling. The purpose of wax on laxes is to help give them a better grip on the eyelets, making your ties more secure.

However, while wax laces are better at retaining tightness, they’re also a little harder to tie. This makes them a better fit for children or beginners who don’t have much experience in tying skates, as you only need to lace them once. Non-waxed laces are better for experienced players, as they give you more flexibility in your feet. Waxed laces are also a little more durable, which is ideal for players who want to save money.

After choosing your preferred lace type, you then need the right size. You should have long enough laces to fit through all the eyelets, plus enough to tie a double bow. Roughly speaking, you’ll want the following lengths based on your age:

  • Youth 8 to Junior 3: 72 inches.
  • Junior 3.5 to 5.5: 84 inches.
  • Adult 6 to 8: 96 inches.
  • Adult 8 to 10: 108 inches.
  • Adult 10 to 13: 120 inches.
  • Adult 12 to 15: 130 inches.

Choose a Lacing Technique

Image by Matthew Sichkaruk is licensed with Unsplash License

Finally, with the right laces acquired, it’s time to tie up your skates. There are a few methods you can select, which ultimately comes down to personal preference.

Under lacing

The most popular technique is called under lacing. Under lacing is where you insert the lace into the bottom eyelets from underneath, then run the lace diagonally across the tongue. Underlacing is a common choice for beginners and kids.

Over lacing

The next option is over lacing. With over lacing, you insert the lace into the eyelets from the outside, then follow a similar diagonal pattern as underlacing. Over lacing gives you that classic ice skate appearance along with a little more tightness. However, you’ll likely need longer laces compared to under lacing.

Lock Lacing

If you want a more secure feeling in your foot, lock lacing helps to lock your feet into place. It’s a common technique among runners, reducing slippage and anchoring the foot. To use the lock lace technique, start with either under lacing or over lacing, but leave the top two eyelets open. Then, thread the lace through the second eyelet from the top from the inside and into the adjacent topmost eyelet from the outside.

Partial Lacing

For more advanced skaters, try the partial lacing technique. Partial lacing gives you more room around the ankle, which is helpful for tight turns and quick movements. With partial lacing, you essentially lace your skates using under or over lacing, then simply leave the final eyelet empty.

Double Cross Lacing

Finally, there’s double cross lacing. Double cross lacing improves tightness but also takes a little longer to undo. For double cross lacing, start with under or over lacing as usual. Then, when you get to the final eyelet, cross the two ends of the lace twice rather than once.

For help visualizing some of these lacing techniques, check out this video:

On-Ice Break-In

Finally, with your skates prepped, you can begin to slowly break them in on the ice. It’s often best to do this incrementally, as it will take some time for your feet to adjust to the skates. Try using your skates for 15 to 30 minutes at a time during some skating drills—experiment with skating in different scenarios, such as fast breaks or tight turns in the corner. After you do this for a few sessions, your skates should be ready to use for a full practice or a game without too much discomfort.

Tips and Tricks

Here are a few additional tips and tricks that may help you break in your hockey skates:

  • If you don’t have much ice time to break in your new skates, try walking around in them at home. This will at least help to loosen up the skate materials a bit before you hit the ice. Just be sure you have hard skate guards to protect your floors and the blades.
  • For skates with tightness in select areas, try a blow hair dryer. This applies heat to a localised area, allowing you to soften them up without impacting the already comfortable areas. However, remember that heat is only recommended on high-end skates, so be sure yours are suitable before attempting this.
  • Blisters are almost inevitable no matter how much pre-treatment you perform on the skates. Consider using a band-aid or athletic tape on susceptible areas when breaking in your skates to prevent them.

Break In New Hockey Skates For Maximum Comfort

With some time and patience, you should have no trouble breaking in your new skates. Just follow the suggestions above and listen to your body as you go along. Then, before you know it, your new skates will feel just as comfortable as your old ones.