Figure skating offers a great cardiovascular workout, as well as fun, expressive aerobic exercise that will help you build muscle, lose weight, gain balance, increase flexibility and improve your posture. However, these health benefits will be short lived if you buy the wrong pair of figure skates to start out with. Beginner skates should be comfortable and easy to maneuver; otherwise, you’re apt to quit before you ever really get started.
There are many different brands of high-quality, beginner figure skates and they all fit and feel differently. Many popular brands of figure skates offer a beginner line of leather boots and basic blades. Each brand of skate caters to a different kind of foot -- some work better for those with wider feet, while others work better on a narrow foot. Some of these boots are heavier than others and some have stronger support. You should stick to the beginner, student or recreational line of skates, which have the boot and blade together as a package. As you get more advanced with skating, you may want to buy your boots and blades separately, but at the start, there’s no need for this and you could actually hinder your progress if you buy too advanced of a skate or blade.
Skates should fit snugly, as if they were a second skin. Buying skate boots that are too small or too big will make it hard for you to learn and enjoy skating. Each brand of skate has a size chart. Some skates will fit the same as your street shoe size, while others run a size smaller. Skates that are a size seven in one brand are unlikely to fit just the same as a size seven in another brand. The best way to buy boots is to go to a reputable pro shop that specializes in figure skates. Many ice skating rinks have their own pro shop, with an expert who will measure the length and width of your foot and make recommendations as to the best skates for you. If you’re considering buying used skates or boots off of an Internet site, you will have to measure your own foot. The best way to do this is to pull the footbed out of your shoe, if you have one that is removable. Measure the length and the width of the inner sole for a head start as to what size foot you have and what size skate you’ll need.
Factors to consider when buying skates are your height, your weight, how often you plan on skating, your skill level and your foot width. There should be no movement at the heel of your skates; if there is, the skates are too big for your foot. If you wear skates that are too big, you are apt to get blisters, which will make it painful for you to skate. Skates that are too small will cause bunions and other foot problems.
A pair of beginner skates will run anywhere from $50 to $100, depending on the type and any customizations needed to make the boots fit your foot. If you have extra wide or extra narrow feet, pronation problems or issues with the arch of your foot, you might have to buy custom designed boots. Some brands specialize in custom boots to fit difficult-shaped feet; however, you will pay much more for any customization, rather than a standard out-of-the-box boot.
Bonnie Crowe is a mother of two teenagers; a teacher and author of children's books, curriculum and articles on English grammar, literature, technology, art, parenting and career guides for high schoolers. She's a former director of AOL Parenting, a member of SCBWI, and a graduate from the University of California,Berkeley.