Whether you visit an outside rink or a natural pond, one key to a great skating experience is good skates that fit well. I do not pretend to be an expert "skate fitter" . I am a parent with some experience fitting ice skates for my own kids. For additional information, check with your childs skating instructor or local skating club. I will be discussing only figure skates ( as I know very very little about hockey skates. )

That said, here are a few suggestions for other parents:

Figure skates are distinguished from hockey skates or speed skates by the toe picks ( the row of little teeth at the front of the blade) Do not allow a skate sharpener to remove the toe picks if you ever want to use these skates in a figure skating program. The toe picks are critical for jumps and spins. (They are not used for stopping.)

Ice skates come in all price ranges. As with any sporting equipment, you are likely to get what you pay for.

(Cheap "floppy" thin leather skates are the worst). Once the skates are snugly tied, the ankle shold not bend easily to one side or the other. If the child's ankles wobble from side to side when the skates are tied, then the skates don't fit well or are worn out.

Medium priced skates have thick boots, with plenty of padding around the sides and back of the ankle. The blade is good quality steel and well sharpened.

High end skates are the best, if you can afford them. Good quality leather. They are well padded on the tongue, sides and back. The tongue lays flat over the front of the foot and doesn't slide. The blades are high quality carbon or stainless steel with appropriate radius and the toe picks are shaped appropriately for planned activites. Blades are held onto the boots by the proper length screws.

Sharpening of expensive skates should be done only be experienced individuals. The blade has a specific radius front to back and also has a concave groove between the inside edge of the blade and the outside edge of the blade. ( each skate blade has two edges- inside and outside, and these edges are critical to turns, lines, figures, spins and jumps. ) Ask a local skating instructor to make recomendations about the sharpening of any expensive skates. Use plastic blade covers to protect the edges of the blades when walking around the rink and remove them for storage, to allow the blades to fully dry. Keep an old towel in your skate bag to dry your boots and blades after use.

If you purchase used skates, inspect them carefully.

Avoid skates with dry or discolored leather, missing or ground down toepicks, broken eyelets, floppy ankles, rusty or chipped blades, blades which do not fit the boots, Buy skates that have the blades screwed onto the boots, not riveted onto the boots. Leather boots and leather soles are the best. Do not buy double runner skates, even for small children. Purchase new laces and keep a spare set in your skate bag to prevent the nuisance of a broken lace.

Look for reputable brands such as Riedell, SP-teri and Harlick. Ask a trusted skating instructor to inspect any used skates, before first use. Check to see if the skates need sharpening. Be sure the screws holding the blade are tight and secure. (Generally the screw holes on the blade are not all filled with screws, but the blade should certainly be secure on the boot. )

Ice skates should fit rather snugly, and should be worn with thin, well fit kneehigh socks or stockings. A thin ski sock may be good for small chidren, "tights" may be better for the older girls. Don't use socks that bunch up in the skates. Socks need to be smooth over the whole foot.

"Dress for Success". A bike helmet with protection over the back of the head is frequently recommended by skating instructors for the beginners, and especially important for the younger kids. Insulated bib pants offer some padding as well as warmth in the cold rink. Layer sweater and jacket so that adjustments may be made, as necessary. Mittens or gloves are critical for comfort, as well as for safety.

Most folks tend to use skates that are too large. Your skates should be a size or two smaller than your regular shoe size. You should be able to move your toes a bit, but the ball of the foot should be secure. The heel should fit snugly in the boot and should not move up once the skates are laced properly. The skates are designed to have a couple of inches between the rows of eyelets when the skates are laced up ( you see quite a bit of the tongue of the boot between the laces, even when laced up tightly) Keep the skates laced up more tightly around the foot part and lace a bit less tightly up over the ankles.

Sensitive spots may be covered with moleskin, but be sure inspect feet as needed,in a warm place, if a child complains of pain in a specific area. Blisters are not any fun.

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