Our guest columnist is Rikki Rendich Samuels, an instructor at Rockefeller Rink in NYC for over 25 years. As a four-time USFSA national competitor, Rikki received her gold medals in figures and freestyle, and is a former two-time Middle Atlantic Senior Ladies Champion. As a professional, she has been awarded the highest awards from the Professional Skaters Association, a master's rating in figures and freestyle, and a master's rating in program administration.
Everyone agrees that breaking in new boots can be time-consuming and painful. But experts disagree on how to make the process easier. Here are some suggestions:
- If you've been a once a week skater, allow six to eight hours of practice time for breaking in new boots. Start with short sessions, a half-hour at most, and build gradually to your usual practice time.
- Competitors should time their purchases so they can break in new boots in the summer, before the competition season starts.
- Begin breaking in new boots off the ice. Wear the skates, including the boots, blades, and hard blade guards, at home. Walk around with your knees and ankles well bent. Do not walk in the boots without blades, as you may distort the metal shank that keeps the boot rigid. (This advice is for you skaters who have the boots and are waiting for your blades to arrive. Never walk around just in your boots. I know it's tempting!)
- At first, don't lace the top pair of hooks. If you have custom made skates, get advice from your boot maker about whether to lace to the top or not. Stock boots, generally, should not be laced on the highest pair of hooks at first.
- On the ice, do back crossovers in both directions. Because this move requires deeply bent knees and ankles, it is the most efficient way to create flexibility in the boot.
- You can ask the staff at your pro shop, where you bought the boots, to punch out the ankle area or other tight spots on the boot. Most boot specialists will ask you to point out on your bare foot the places that hurt. Sometimes they mark the trouble spots with lipstick on your bare feet, then you put your boot on, and the lipstick rubs off on the lining of the boot, showing the expert where you need more room.
- Wear knee-high socks (of the same thickness as your usual leg wear) instead of waist-high tights while breaking in new boots. When you remove your skates, take off your socks and examine your feet. Look for red spots or blisters so you can have the boots adjusted before a small injury becomes more serious.
- The "wet sock treatment" has a lot of fans. They believe that if you wet a pair of socks and put them on your feet, towel them dry so they are not dripping, then put your new boots on for at least a half-hour, your body will warm the moisture in the socks, and that in turn will soften the leather so that it molds to fit your foot. This is best done on the ice, not at home. True, your feet will feel cold for a short time, but this technique can shorten the break-in period enough to make it worthwhile.
- Replace your laces regularly, not just when they break. Old laces stretch, compromising their ability to support. In addition, they can make a dent in the tongue, which makes it difficult for you to lace your boots tightly.
|When you purchase new boots, allow plenty of time to break them in before a competition, test, or skating event. No one can skate well with boots that are not broken in. Also, make a note of how long it takes you to break in your new boots, so that in the future you will know how much time to allow.|
[Rikki has also written a book called Kids' Book Of Figure Skating: Skills, Strategies, and Techniques which contains information on: proper technique, how to purchase skates, warm-up exercises, rink rules and skating etiquette, how to be an informed fan, skating clubs and associations, and many other relevant topics. You can also check out her website at RikkiSamuels.com.]