Ice Skating Essentials

Ice skating is a fun family activity, and a fantastic way to keep moving and stay healthy in the winter months. This article outlines the different types of skates and ice skating essentials to consider.

Ice Skating 101

There are many excellent reasons for you and your family to take up ice skating. If you find yourself falling into couch-potato mode when the chilly weather sets in, ice skating will get you on your feet and help you embrace the winter season. From a fitness perspective, it's a good low-impact exercise that burns calories, improves cardio and tones muscles. And whether you play hockey, figure skate or simply skate for pleasure, ice skating is also a great way to socialize and meet new friends. Before tackling your chosen sport, however, you first need to get the appropriate skates and gear. If you take a bit of time to investigate your options, you'll be better prepared and your outings to the rink or pond will be that much more fun.

Types of Skating Essentials


Hockey Skates

When buying hockey skates, it's a good idea to choose a boot size that's one or two sizes smaller than your street shoes. A snug-fitting skate makes it easier to execute quick stops, fast starts and lateral skating moves. Protection-wise, hockey skates should have a sturdy nylon boot to shield your feet from pucks and sticks. Also, the back of the boot should be solid to support your ankles. Hockey skates for forwards are generally lighter to provide a speed advantage, while skates for defencemen have more padding for blocking shots. Goalie skates have a specialized design to protect toes and allow for easy side-to-side movement.

Figure Skates

Similar to hockey skates, figure skates should fit snugly and provide good ankle support. However, there are some key differences between the two skate types. Figure skate blades are usually longer than hockey skate blades and feature a toe pick used in performing spins and jumps. Also, figure skate boots are generally made of flexible leather to permit the skater to bend deeply at the knees. In choosing a pair of figure skates, you must first determine the kind of skating you'll be doing. The main types of figure skating are freestyle, synchronized and ice dancing, and each requires a slightly different blade and boot.

Kids’ Skates

Most kids can’t wait to hit the ice, but enthusiasm alone isn’t enough to keep them upright. A proper-fitting skate ensures safety and comfort, and is essential for improving your child’s skating skills. Fewer falls also means there’s less chance he or she will get discouraged.
Whether they're skating for fun, playing hockey or ice dancing, they need snug fitting skates to perform various techniques and to improve their skills. Properly fitted skates will also reduce the risk of your child falling on the ice and suffering an injury. It can be tempting to buy oversized skates for kids to save money or cut down on shopping trips, but you're better off choosing inexpensive skates and keeping pace with their growing foot size. 

Skate Sharpeners

Dull blades equal unhappy skaters. Like most things, skate blades need to be maintained to work their best. When your skates lose their edge, you can get them sharpened at a sports specialty store or the pro shop at the arena where you skate. Another option is to pick up a hand skate sharpener to maintain your blades in between professional sharpenings. There’s a bit of technique involved so ask your local pro shop for direction first.  

Ice Skate Bags

Skates are costly and blades can be easily damaged or dulled, so it's a good idea to transport your skates in a protective bag such as a skate bag. These bags have handles for easy carrying and some even replicate the shape of your skates. If you just skate for fun or figure skate then a skate bag will do the trick. Hockey players in the house will need a larger bag to carry all of the equipment, including skates. There’s a range of specialized hockey bags available for all ages.

Skate Trainers

Skate trainers are great for kids (and parents!) just starting to skate. Similar to a walker, they give new skaters something stable to grasp and hold for balance. Skate trainers are lightweight and often foldable for convenient storage. Make sure you get one that's sturdy enough to support the beginner’s body weight. 

Laces & Tighteners

Skate laces are sold in standard lengths that match the different skate sizes. So when you're buying replacement laces, be sure to choose check the packaging and get the right length. Wax laces are better than the non-wax variety for tying your skates up snug, but a good lace tightener is the secret to giving your laces that extra pull for the perfect fit. Also, if you’ve ever tried to tighten lace with frozen fingers, you’ll appreciate the magic of a lace tightener.   Metal types are a bit more expensive, but they’re also more durable.

Safety Gear

Ice skating is wonderful fun, but it can also be dangerous. Helmets are a must for anyone learning to skate or playing hockey. New skaters should also consider knee and elbow pads to protect them when they inevitably tumble to the ice. Skate blades should be covered with skate guards when not in use: it keeps the edges sharp and prevents injury to others. Of course, if you play hockey, you'll need to buy a full set of hockey-specific safety gear, including a visor for your helmet, protective cup, hockey gloves, hockey pants and shoulder pads.

Skating Attire

For recreational skating and hockey, it’s best to wear comfortable warm clothes that aren’t baggy. If your child is figure skating, a leotard with a skirt for a girl and athletic pants and a sweater for a boy is most appropriate.  

Skating Accessories

Feet can get cold when skating, especially on outdoor rinks and ponds. Skate socks provide good insulation and help wick away moisture from the skin. For extra care of your blades and skate boot use a skate wiping cloth. You can also purchase a blade soaker to prevent the blades from rusting when not in use. 
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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