Sizing Youth Hockey Skates
For a youth, participating in the great sport of hockey can be one of the most fulfilling and memorable experiences of their entire childhood. However, with participation in hockey comes the need for some essential equipment; equipment, which includes skates. This may lead some who are brand new to youth hockey to wonder how to size skates for the perfect fit.
To size youth hockey skates for the perfect fit, always choose a size that is 1 to 2 sizes smaller than your regular shoe size. Hockey skates always require you to go down a size. Make sure that the skate is tight enough to eliminate instability but not so tight as to cause numbness of the foot.
In this article, we will cover everything that pertains to skates, how to size them, how to tie them up, and what constitutes a good fit. We will also be going over how individual foot anatomy factors into skate selection. Finally, we will look at the best skates brands, which will provide athletes with the greatest quality at the fairest price.
Finding the perfect fit for a pair of skates is not as simple and straightforward as it is with shoes. There is more leeway in how accurate the sizing is for your foot with shoes because, for the most part, you will simply be standing or walking on flat land with them.
However, when it comes to ice skates, much more demand for performance will be placed on them, and therefore, the more securely they will need to be fitted to the athlete’s foot.
Although every different ice skates brand will vary slightly in their shape and the way they are sized, some general rules tend to apply when selecting the proper skate size.
On average, youth skates will fit 1 to 1.5 sizes smaller than would your shoes. So if we assume, for example, that you wear a size six shoe, you will require something around a size 4.5 to 5 skate.
Again, to reiterate, this rule is general, and as such, should not be assumed without physically trying on the skates. Some skates have reportedly been up to 2 full sizes below the athlete’s shoe size. Skates are, however, always below and never above your shoe size.
A well-fitting pair of skates should be tight enough to eliminate wobble and provide stability to the ankle. Still, they should not be so tight as to cause pain, numbness, or discomfort. Skates must be worn for extended periods and must fit well.
For a comprehensive skate size conversion chart, which includes many of the most commonly found brands, check out skate to great’s website here.
Although style and appearance also factor into skate selection, how the skate fits the player’s foot should supersede any visual aesthetics preference. And if you’re interested, we’ve also written about why hockey skates are so expensive.
Above we stressed the importance of having a skate that properly fits, but in this section, we will briefly go over some of the detrimental effects of wearing improperly fitted skates.
Skates which are too tight can cause problems such as:
- Feet swelling
- Poor Circulation
Conversely, overly loose skates will result in:
- Blisters from excessive rubbing
- Wobbliness and instability
- Poor balance
- Diminished ability to accelerate and decelerate
- Compromised performance all around
Over time, if improper skates are worn, these problems may become chronic and lead to more complicated and severe injuries that can ultimately put you out of the sport. When it comes to injuries, we can call attention to the old saying that goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
We go into much more detail on this topic in our article about why skates are so uncomfortable.
In an article that seeks to explain how to size youth hockey skates properly, it is necessary to provide the reader with at least some skate lacing knowledge.
The first thing recommended when shopping for laces is that the laces you will be selecting for your skates are waxed. Waxed laces are coated with a light wax, which makes them more grippy than typical shoelaces. This ensures that once you tighten them up, they will not easily back off.
Always make sure your laces are double-knotted so they will not come untied during gameplay, and also ensure that they are not so long as to drag on the ice, creating a potential hazard.
If you are looking for a high-quality pair of wax laces for youth skates, consider checking out this 2-for-1 pair of Elite Hockey laces.
Now that we have made clear which type of lace to buy, we will now provide step-by-step instructions on how to go about lacing the skates:
- From the eyelets closest to the toe, feed both lace’s ends from the outside-in, and pull all slack through until the lace is tight. Make sure both lace ends are even when held up together.
- Next, we will take each end of the lace through the next eyelet up the skate, which is opposite the last hole it was fed through, and feed it through the hole this time inside-out, which will form an “X” with the laces.
- Repeat this process in the entirety of the skate. It is optional to lace up or leave open the last two eyelets, depending on comfort and individual preference.
Although this is by no means the only way of lacing up skate, and some players may have developed their own style or method, this is the most common way that the majority of skates are laced, and for that reason, we may refer to it as standard lacing.
Exactly how tight a player’s skates should be laced up will depend on the athlete’s preference. Some prefer to leave the top eyelet or two empty to allow for a little bit more movement and mobility from the ankle, while others like their skates very tight to brace the ankle as one full unit.
Some hockey players may even wrap their laces once around the back of the upper part of the skate before tying it, making it extra secure.
In a general sense, we may claim that a looser skate is superior for maneuverability but that a tight skate is better for posting up and loading up on hard shots. The latter is likely to be particularly advantageous for players designated to a defensive position, who will take big shots when necessary to clear the puck out of their zone.
Another aspect of skate fitting often overlooked is the socks that a player wears during the game.
Hockey socks are heavy-duty, thick, and durable, commonly crafted from wool in order to keep the athlete’s feet warm while on the ice.
Hockey socks provide additional cushion and shock absorption, absorb sweat better, and reduce friction between the foot and inside the skate, eliminating blistering and sweat rashes.
It is never recommended that a player wears everyday socks when participating in a hockey game or practice. These will quickly wear out and deteriorate. This may lead to more severe problems later on.
Never play hockey without wearing socks inside your skates.
If you need a quality pair of youth hockey socks that will be sure to keep your feet warm and protected at a reasonable cost, try on these ChalkTalkSPORTS Hockey Half Cushioned Crew Socks.
Something which may seem trivial, but is anything but, is hockey skate hygiene.
When you first purchase a pair of skates, they will be fresh, clean, and sanitary; but over time, and as they are worn in, they will begin to build up sweat moisture, bacteria, and unpleasant odours.
This can lead to fungus, and staph infections, a very severe bacterial infection.
In order to ensure proper hygiene is maintained, a few simple things should be done at the end of each game or practice.
- Remove the soles of your skates after every use, and hang them up to dry.
- Loosen your laces up, pull the skate open, and allow for airflow to dry them out.
- Spray the soles and skates with a disinfectant spray, such as Lysol.
- Always wash and dry your socks thoroughly, and never wear them continually without doing so.
If you abide by these four rules, you can be assured that you will not have to worry about infections and odour.
Also, never wear skates, socks, or any equipment for that matter, which belongs to other players, as this can cause the transference of germs and bacteria and lead to infections.
Another essential thing to understand when it comes to fitting skates is that every foot is anatomically different. Feet vary in length, width, thickness, and arch.
In this section, we will briefly describe each of these variables and how to identify them for yourselves so that you can make the wisest possible choice when settling on which skates to buy.
Something which is also critical to mention here is that since the body is one unit and begins with the feet in contact with the ground, the way your feet are built and how they operate alters the entire way in which the rest of your body will function.
This is referred to as the kinetic chain. For example, suppose one were to break their knee. In that case, they may start to favour their other leg subconsciously, over time leading to hip imbalance and eventual back problems.
The best person to assess your feet and recommend your footwear is a qualified orthopedic specialist. Orthopedic specialists are highly trained to identify and prescribe footwear modifications.
The first factor we are going to go over here is foot width. Some feet are wider than others, and trying to force them into skates, which are skinny and narrow, will cause pressure on the sides of the feet. Wide feet can be identified visually.
When choosing a skate, individuals with wide feet will want to try on different skates until they find which one best allows their feet to sit inside and expand comfortably.
When we refer to the anatomy of the feet, one of the most important things to identify is the arch’s structure. Some people have excessively exaggerated feet in terms of their arch structure in one of two different ways, called either high arches or flat feet, respectively.
High arches simply mean that the arch of the bottom of the foot is excessively high. This can alter how your foot and ankle stabilize and increase the likelihood of ankle rolls, twists, and sprains.
With foot curvature, like width, this will primarily just come down to visually examining your foot’s anatomy to determine the degree of it you have.
Some feet are very straight, while others are more curved, almost like a boomerang. Of course, you will want to find a skate that is more suitable for your specific need to avoid injuries and discomfort.
Suppose you are someone who happens to suffer from excessively accentuated arches or exceptionally high arches. In that case, it will be necessary to fit your skates with custom foot orthotics.
These can be moulded and fitted to your feet by a licensed orthopedic specialist and will allow your feet to function in a more balanced and naturally distributed way.
Non-custom inserts are also available for purchase, which follow more of a general shape, as opposed to one moulded for your exact foot. Many times, however, this may be all you need, and you will be able to save money while still acquiring the support to need.
If you are interested in trying a generalized supportive insole, we strongly recommend Dr. Scholl’s heavy-duty support orthotics. They are very inexpensive and a leading name you can trust, and the comfort you will get from them will be evident from the very first use.
One important point to note is that when it comes to youth hockey skates, their skates may be quickly outgrown because the youth’s feet are still growing through puberty.
In order to combat this, it is acceptable to buy slightly larger skates, which allow them to grow into them, but be very careful with this, and do not buy excessively large skates. One half, to one full size up, should be the limit in such a situation.
The player may be able to fill out skates, which are a half size big, by tying their laces up tighter or by adding an additional pair of regular socks underneath their hockey socks.
Although it is inconvenient and can sometimes be expensive, youth hockey skates will need to be replaced quite often due to natural growth and development.
Athletes will often spend so much time focused on the game itself, the strategy, the opposing team, their game plan, that they overlook maintaining their own bodily recovery and integrity. However, the great news is that there are very simple drills and exercises that can be performed just about anywhere, dramatically reducing the chances of an injury occurring.
The first mobility exercise that we recommend is to roll the bottom of your barefoot around on a tennis or lacrosse ball slowly while applying a reasonable amount of pressure. This does loosen up the fascia on the bottom of the foot, break up knots and adhesions, release tension, and allow the feet to move more freely. This is best performed both before and after a game, for 1 to 2 minutes on each foot. You will surely feel the difference.
The next exercise for maintaining flexibility and releasing trigger points is the toe spread. For this one, the athlete will sit down comfortably in a chair, raise their foot by crossing it over the opposite knee, then splay the toes by placing your fingers between each one. This is great for opening up the feet and toes, but start slow and do not push through the pain.
The third and final drill on this list for maintaining foot health is the towel pickup drill. To do this, lay a cloth or towel on the floor, stand on it with bare feet, and then repeatedly pick it up by curling the toes toward the ball of the foot to grab it. This will create movement in the joints of the toes and get some blood pumping to the feet’ muscles, making it great for a warm-up protocol.
Anyone who has been around the sport of hockey as a participant for some length of time will likely be aware that player skates are wholly different than goalie skates, but this is not necessarily common knowledge to everyone. Hence, it is worthwhile to outline the difference here briefly.
Player skates are designed for travelling forward and backward down the entire length of the ice repeatedly throughout the game and are also made in such a way that makes them advantageous for stopping and changing directions very rapidly. For this reason, they are lightweight, sleek, and have very sharp blades.
Conversely, goalie skates are not designed for mobility, but rather, they are made for pushing off of the ice to propel the goalie laterally and allow them to make quickie saves. One of the main defining features is the longer skate blade found exclusively with goalie skates and provides added balance and stability. Goalie blades are generally more well encased and protected in order to prevent foot injuries, which may result from being struck by the puck.
Never use goalie skates to play any other position on the ice besides goalie, for example forward, or defence. Goalie skates are not designed to accommodate this type of gameplay and may result in injury or destruction of the skates.
Although the brand name does not always mean the skate is the best by default. Some lesser-known brands can often exhibit superior quality to that of the top names. Certain companies have paved the way and proven their worth year in and year out, qualifying them as the most desirable skates.
In this section of the article, we will touch on some of these brands, what they offer, and why they have been so highly praised.
Keep in mind that these are merely suggestions, and while they are very high value, no one skate or brand exists that will be ideal for everyone. As discussed earlier, our feet’s structure differs so significantly that the only realistic way to find a perfect skate for yourself will be to try on many and feel it out.
The last thing we will mention here is regarding buying skates from an online source. Although skates are available online, and this is a great option, those new to the sport of hockey and who are looking for first-time skates are better off going to a physical retailer to inspect and try on skates in person.
Online skate shopping is more suitable for those who have experience with skates, and therefore know precisely what they are looking for.
Bauer company is, in general, the leading maker for all things hockey equipment from sticks to pads, to helmets, and beyond, so it should not come as a surprise that their Supreme model youth hockey skates top this list at number one.
Their durability, style, and affordability deem these skates suitable for anyone from the highest level of competition to the casual recreational player just looking to have fun and get some ice time in.
If you are interested in learning about other Bauer skates, take a look at our Top 10 Bauer Skates article.
Next up are the CCM brand Tacks YT youth skates. These skates are conveniently unisex and are the best skate for the price, which is excellent for those who desire quality on a budget.
The great thing about these skates is that they are rather basic and versatile so that they can accommodate just about any foot comfortably.
These blades are straight to the point, which is mostly why their popularity and staying power have remained so strong over the years.
To see a wider range of available CCM skates, we discuss what are the best CCM skates in another article.
Or if you’re looking to compare Bauer skates with CCM skates, it might be worth taking a read through our article comparing the two.
Because the sharpness of your skate’s blade dictates the efficiency with which the skate performs and functions, this may very well be the most critical facet of this entire article.
On average, a hockey player’s blades should be resharpened after every 15-20 hours of gameplay to keep it in good form. But if you’re looking for more guidance around skate sharpening, take a look at our article describing how to know when skates should be sharpened.
Blade sharpening is a skill performed by running the blade against a grinder to mould and form it.
Upon buying a new pair of skates, they should be taken to be sharpened before being played with in-game or practice. When you purchase a brand new skate, the blade comes with a factory cut, which is generic.
A good skate blade cut is customized to your style and preference. It should therefore be formed by a professional blade grinder.
Expanding on the points mentioned above, another aspect of blade sharpening is what is known as blade profiling.
Blade profiling refers to the shape which is given to a blade during the grinding process.
Many different profiles are possible and should be chosen based on personal preference and play style.
Some blades will be more rounded or curved towards the toe, allowing the player to lean forward to a greater degree when travelling down the ice. Other players may prefer a more flat blade, with more ice contact surface area, to allow them to plant their feet firmly and create an excellent base from which to shoot incredibly hard slap shots without compromising their balance.
Blade profiles are classified in terms of feet by radius, with the blade’s roundedness corresponding to the radius of a circle, which would share that same level of curvature. For example, let us say you have a circle with an 8-foot radius; the curvature of that circle (circumference) would be more rounded and pronounced than the case for a circle with a 10-foot radius.
The most common profiles are somewhere between 8 to 11 feet. Still, some prefer an even flatter blade, rendering the entire blade nearly flush with the ice.
High and low profiles offer their own sets of drawbacks and advantages, and like anything, this will come from experience, as well as trial and error.
For a complete understanding of skate blade profiling, see this article from Skate Doctor.
In this article, we set out to explain just how to size youth hockey skates for the perfect fit. To size youth hockey skates, you must go down 1 to 1.5 sizes from your regular shoe size and try on the skates properly before committing to them financially.
Skates must be snug to function appropriately, but overly tight skates can cause injuries and other problems. When it comes down to it, go with what feels best, and always remember, comfort is key.
- Skate To Great: Skate Conversion
- Amazon: Elite Hockey Laces
- Amazon: ChalkTalkSPORTS Hockey Half Cushioned Crew Socks
- Wikipedia: Staphylococcus
- Ace: What is the Kinetic Chain?
- Wikipedia: Orthotics
- Amazon: Dr. Scholl’s Orthotics
- Amazon: Bauer Supreme
- Amazon: CCM Tacks YT
- Skate Doctor: Profiling the Profile (Skate Blade Profiling)