July 6, 2010

Breaking In Figure Skating Boots: Blisters, Ovens & More!

Breaking in skates is one of the most painful, and annoying, things a skater has to go through. Although many skaters go through a pair of skates a year (or season...) I know a lot who keep theirs a great deal longer.

I got scared out of doing this some years ago when I broke my ankle on a triple flip take off due to boots that had broken down without me realising it. The importance of foot and ankle support is so paramount I don't even know how to express it with words (so unusual for a blabbermouth like me!)!


That's what boots are all about. Yes ok they let you skate, they act as the intermediary between you and the ice, they are your tool. But they are also your support, your strength, and your confidence needs to be well over 100% in them or else you're not going to feel right, and sooner or later something is going to happen (or else maybe I'm just insanely pessimistic due to my unfortunate accident? How long do you guys keep your skates?).

Choosing the boots that will accompany you through tests, hundreds if not thousands of hours of training, and those precious competitions (let's not forget the fun galas too!! Gotta have some of those or it all becomes so dull after a while!) is a really though choice. You might have a preference, you might not. I've been with Graf for about 7 years now and I'm not going anywhere. The transition from free skate to dance boot was effortless and it still only takes me 3 days to break them in (I promise). I changed boots 3 weeks before the biggest event of my season last year. God bless Graf Dance!

So how do I manage to break skates in in just 3 days? Well, I guess a lot of Lady Luck is involved. Some people just have it easier than others. There are many methods to help things along though (some which I do find rather dubious including this post's title word "oven"...). Let's have a look at what advice has been floating about since I've been wearing booties, and I'll let you know what's worked for me. If any one with experiences to share and/or fab tips is reading this I'm sure all of our beginner readers could really use a hand getting to grips with this painful experience, so please do leave a comment.

1) The Oven!! Yes, crazy. In my opinion. The idea is to place the skates in the kitchen oven for a little while on a low heat to "soften" the leather. Then wear the skates. They are supposed to "meld" to the shape of your foot easier. I don't know about you guys but when I spend around £480 on boots, I ain't putting them anywhere near a baking tray!

2) Wear them around the house. This I do. The general advice is to actually walk around the house in them but I usually stick them on infront of a DVD, feet up on the sofa. The heat of my feet alone is softening the leather and helping them form to my feet. They start to hurt a bit after around 30 mins so I take them off for the night.

3) Punching. Getting your skates "punched out" at the point that hurts the most is a practice many skaters use, including myself. It's usually my foot arch (although that's quite hard to punch) and my malleolus which hurt most and therefore I get my skates punched out at those points. This consists of getting your skate guy (generally the person who looks after your skates, sharpens your blades, etc) to put your skate on a machine which applies large amounts of pressure to the leather in order to deform it outwards. This gives your foot/bone more space in the boot relieving pressure and therefore pain.

4) And beeeeend!! Getting onto the ice and just bending down in the those knees, ankles, and therefore, skates. You're not going to get into a full sit spin on day one, but you should be able to by day 3. Lots of stroking, lemons, and ski-slalom movements to get you down in those skates and bending that leather.

5) Relieve the pain and you're half way there. The worst part of breaking in skates is the pain that it causes to your feet, not the fact that you feel like you just lost 5 years of skill! My skin usually comes right off my ankles in one thin strip. I pain new skin on and use silicon pads to take all the friction out of these raw patches. You can get them for a fortune at skate shops, or you can buy those Scholl "Party Feet" pads that are meant for ladies wearing high heels all night. I buy thrift store versions (for the UK folks reading this Primark do a pack of 2 for £1!!!). I wouldn't recommend using blister plasters on raw skin or blisters as the friction and rubbing caused by skates is far too great in relation to what those plasters are designed for (running shoes at the most!).

6) Padding. Get down to your cheapest store and buy a couple of car sponges. I cut mine in half to make them a little thinner then cut into a manageable size. Now cut out a hole (round, square, doesn't matter as long as its the size of your ouchie), this is going to be placed over your little injury. Every time you put your boot on strap this into place (even just stuffed down a sock if you wear them, will do) and the sponge which is not in contact with your pain point will take all the pressure, leaving your raw skin a little less irritated.

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9 comments

  1. ЬMy first figure-skating was not a success, so I'm afraid of it and I can't defeat my fear((( Though i would really like to learn how to skate, I can't do it cuz when I see the skating rink, I'm scared to death((

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  2. Well, the tutorial on fast becoming a figure-skater is great, but...))) As a matter of fact I'm afraid of ice-skating since my childhood, that's why even having a strong desire to figure-skate I'll never ever be able to get out on the skating-rink)))

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  3. Ouch, I've had tendentious in my foot and it is soooo painful. First thing, you really need to be careful with any form of exercise that causes any pain to the foot, at least for now.
    http://www.footcentersofnc.com/common-foot-problems.html

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  4. I just purchased new skates (Reidell 223s). How do I know if I need the bunion/ankle punched out, or if I need to continue breaking them in? They are much stiffer than my last pair (a different brand and too big). Thanks! This is an awesome blog btw. I have gotten some great advice.

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  5. @Anonymous thanks for your comment I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog!

    Congrats on the new skates, that's always an exciting, if painful, time! With regards to getting them punched out, a lot of people just go ahead and do this right away anyway. I used to get mine punched pretty much before the first wear, but it's personal preference.

    Every brand, model, and more importantly foot, is going to have different needs when it comes to breaking them in so I'd say that if you don't want them punched if you can help it, persevere and use other methods I've outlined here to help you get through it. Before you know it, they'll be soft and moulded to your foot :)

    Happy skating,
    Gigi
    XOXO

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  6. I've just started skating a few weeks ago and my new boots are so painful! My feet get very cold and the circulation in my feet goes awry (I have poor circulation anyways) and I don't know what to do I've heard wearing wet socks helps? :/ But I don't want to do this, my skates are Jackson Glaciers and have memory foam inside, do you have any tips?

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  7. Thanks for the great advise. I skated in my new Jackson Competitors this morning and very much felt like I had lost the past so many years lessons and skill. Love the idea of the sponge, (my instructor suggested some gel pads but they seem very expensive). I will be walking round the house in my skates for the next few days too!
    I wouldn’t put my skates in the oven myself, however when I bought mine in Sheffield, UK, they offered the ‘moulding’ which was where they put the skates into a heat devise and then I sat in them for 20 mins for them to mould to my feet. Im not sure how much this has helped although she suggested it was more for people with ‘niggly’ bones etc.
    Ill also head to Primark for the great deal! :-)
    Thanks for the advise!

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  8. I'd just like to input my own thoughts on using the oven. When I first got my skates they did the oven treatment and laced me up tight. I did not have any break in time or blisters after the oven!! They molded to my feet perfectly! I would not recommend using your home oven, as skates are probably touchy and not meant to be in a baking oven. The ones at skate shops are made for skates, and the people using them are trained. I would highly suggest giving it a try on your next pair! (If the skates are made to be heat-formed that is.)

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  9. I have never heard of putting them in the oven. I know I used to do similar things with my leather baseball gloves but it is different. I think if you keep the heat very low it could work. http://edgeskateshop.com/shop?olsFocus=false&olsPage=t/figure-skates

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