How to Break in Figure Skates
Figure skaters need plenty of ankle support to perform difficult jumps and spins. To ensure the feet are properly supported, skaters use boots made from multiple layers of leather. Because of the heavy-duty construction techniques used to create these boots, skaters typically require a few weeks to break in new skates, according to the Bozeman Figure Skating Club. During this time, the skater works to soften the leather and mold the boot to fit comfortably to her foot shape.
Wear thin socks when breaking in new skates. Wear socks similar to those you plan to skate in. Most skaters choose tights, nylons or very thin synthetic socks to maximize comfort and reduce blisters.
Take advantage of heat molding where available. Some figure skating manufacturers produce specially made heat ovens that can be used to speed up the break-in process. During heat molding, your skate shop pro places the skates into an oven, then helps you put them on and lace them up. You'll sit with the skates on your feet until they cool completely, which softens the leather and causes the boots to conform to your feet. Heat molding should only be performed by a trained professional at your local skate shop to avoid damage to the boots.
Lace your new skates with care. The first few times you use your new skates, don't pull the laces as tightly as you would with older skates. Tie them fairly loosely, and don't lace them all the way to the top hook until they are fully broken in. Some skaters lace to the second hook from the top, while others go to the third hook from the top. Skipping the top hook for now allows you to flex your ankles slightly within the boots so you can break them in.
Skate in your new skates for short periods at a time. Focus on moves that keep your knees and ankles bent to break in skates more quickly. Try forward and backward crossovers, stroking, and simple jumps and spins.
Use bandages or gel pads to cushion any friction spots or sore areas. If your bandages won't stay put in your boot, try liquid bandages, allowing them to dry completely before putting the boot back on.
Wear your skates around the house, using plastic guards to protect the blades. Some skaters wear damp socks while breaking in skates, while others prefer to wear dry socks. Simply sitting with your skates on your feet can help, but walking around often speeds up the process. Use caution to avoid injury.
Rub leather softening products on the inside of your skate. Apply a small amount to the inside of your boot and massage it into the leather.
Visit your local skate shop for help breaking in tough skates. Have them add padding as needed, or use a special machine to "punch out" uncomfortable areas of your boot. Use this as a last resort because skates often seem bigger after you break them in a bit. If you punch the boot out right away, you may find that parts of the boot feel too loose after a couple of weeks.
Always follow the manufacturer's recommended instructions when breaking in new skates.
Don't try to break in new skating boots that are not yet mounted to the blade. Standing or walking in a boot with no blade attached can damage the boot beyond repair in extreme cases.
Stop skating if your feet get numb, or if you experience pain. If you keep skating in pain, you can not only cause injuries, but also prolong the break-in process. For instance, continuing to skate with blisters or cuts on your feet can leave wounds that make it impossible to skate for an extended period.
Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.