Skating is one the most competitive winter sports. Speed skating, ice hockey, ice dancing, and figure skating are major events in the Winter Olympics, and often require training from childhood. Early specialization in sports generally makes injury more likely. One of the best ways to avoid injury is to make sure that your boots are always properly fitted, even if you are just starting out in the sport. Ill-fitting skates lead to injury and poor skating form-- which can often be hard to correct later. 

When Your Boots Are Too Big

Skates that have some room for your foot to move around are detrimental to your foot health. Large boots cause:

  • blisters. The constant rubbing of the boot on the foot as you execute different maneuvers will lead to intense blistering.
  • clenching. When you try to move with a large skate, your body involuntarily tries to keep the foot steady by clenching the toes and flexing the arch. This can cause painful muscle cramps and lead to plantar fasciitis.
  • fractures. Figures skaters will find that jumping in a large skate will cause stress fractures, requiring rest from practice until the foot is healed. 

Also, some skaters compensate for the large fit of a boot by stuffing the skates, or by lacing them too tightly. Stuffing skates causes your weight to move to far forward or too far back, which can seriously increase your chances of injury, especially at high speeds. Figure skaters will find that jumping in stuffed skates is challenging, because it can be difficult to land on or maneuver a skate if the foot is not in control of the entire blade. Lacing skates too tightly reduces circulation to the feet, which can lead to clumsy skating. 

When Your Boots Are Too Small

Sometimes, skaters will continue to train in boots that are too small. This is common in children and youth, who still have growing feet. Custom fit boots are expensive, and so many athletes push a pair until they absolutely need to be replaced. However, wearing small skates can cause the following problems.

Hammer Toes

If the foot is cramped in the boot, especially during jumps or high speed maneuvers, the toes are pushed up against the front of the skate, causing them to remain in a curled or bent position throughout the training session. Hammer toes occur when the toes stay permanently bent, either upwards or downwards. Sometimes, if the toe can be corrected by moving it with your fingers, hammer toes can be fixed with the help of a podiatric sports medicine clinic. However, sometimes the tendons lock into the hammered position, and surgery is needed to fix the toe.

Increased Pressure On The Foot

Skates should be laced snugly, but skates that are too small for a foot are already too tight. When they are laced, they put intense force on the top of the foot, where there are many soft tissues. These can bruise, or create a condition called entrapment neuropathy, which means that the nerves become pinched, leading to pain whenever the foot is wearing the boot. This condition can also come when properly sized skates are laced too lightly against the top of the foot. 

Other Considerations

Skaters can also improve the fit of skates by making sure the skate provides excellent support for the foot. You can improve support in your skates by:

  • getting custom inserts for your skates to improve arch and ankle stability.
  • refraining from lacing your skates loosely. Loose laces put intense stress on the ankle, leading to sprains and fractures. 
  • investing in boot liner that molds to the shape of your ankle.

Spending the time and money from properly fitted skates will help your performance and help you stay injury free on the ice.