Beginner boots are less stiff and generally more comfortable compared to intermediate and higher-level boots, which are stiffer and not as comfortable, generally. But what about ice skate blades? What makes one blade a beginner-level blade and another a higher-level blade? That’s the main question this brief guide on ice skate blades prioritizes.
Also Read: Soakers and Ice Skate Guards
One key difference between new-skater figure skate blades and elite blades is toe pick size. Entry-level blades have a small-sized toe pick that new skaters won’t keep tripping over while elite blades have a remarkably larger toe pick that sinks into the ice deeper at take-off for jumps. If you’re just starting out, stay away from expensive figure skates with oversized picks for your safety and less frustration.
Higher-level blades usually cost more and last longer than beginner-level blades. The steel is of better quality, generally, usually made from high-grade stainless steel or ultra-lightweight titanium. It holds an edge longer, and they won’t need a sharpen as frequently as a lower-level blade. Also, beginner blades typically have a 7′ rocker vs an 8′ rocker for pro-level blades. Beginners need blades that turn easier while not sliding out, and pros need blades that cut less into the ice so they won’t face as much drag or friction.
4 Types of Ice Skate Blades
- Figure skate blades
- Ice dancing blades
- Hockey skate blades
- Speed skate blades
1. Figure Skate Blades: Best Blade for Beginners
Figure skate blades are quite flat and long, and a part of the blade extends beyond the heel. One key feature that distinguishes a figure skate from an ice hockey skate or a speed ice skate is the toe pick at the front of the blade.
Also Read: Good Figure Skates for Beginners
A toe pick is a rugged feature that digs into the ice, enabling the skater to launch jumps and spins of all kinds and difficulty levels. On beginner figure skates, the toe pick is normally smaller in size compared toe pick size on higher-level blades/skates.
If the toepick is too big on a beginner blade, it becomes incredibly difficult to not fall the whole time. The new ice skater keeps tripping over the big toe pick, which isn’t fun even when one has decent pads.
Why Figure Skate Blades Are Good for Beginners
Figure skates are the best choice for beginners compared to hockey skates because they’re flatter, heavier, and longer than hockey skate blades. The new skater isn’t trying to position their weight in the middle of the rocker as is the case with hockey skates, which can be pretty frustrating. And being longer makes figure skates somewhat more stable.
2. Dance Ice Skate Blades
When it comes to ice dancing, you need blades with shorter blades and smaller toe picks. Dance skates don’t focus on jumps, which is why the toe pick isn’t super-sized. The blades are not shorter than on normal figure skates; the protruding portion at the back is also shorter. How much shorter? The blade on an ice dance blade is typically 1″ shorter at the back.
Being shorter at the back makes it less likely the dancer will trip on their heel. The rocker profile has more curvature to it for agility, and the edges are cleaner because precision is super important in this skating style.
Most of the dance blades I know of (I believe it’s all of them) have a 7′ rocker. This rocker profile makes for easier, cleaner turns, and the skater gets more secure edges.
3. Ice Hockey Blades
Ice hockey blades don’t have a rocker, just like figure skates, but the rocker profile is deeper. Rocker simply means the shape of the blades by the way. Both figure skates and hockey skates have a U-shaped bottom, but the rocker profile on hockey skates makes for easier turns and better flow on the ice.
Unlike figure skate blades, ice hockey blades don’t have a toe pick, and they’re somewhat less flat. Balancing on ice hockey blades takes a little more effort compared to balancing on figure skate blades. But if you think balancing on figure skates is super easy, you’re mistaken.
Beginners can learn to skate on hockey skates. But I did find balancing on hockey skates harder. Probably because these shorter blades have a more rounded middle, and obviously because balance isn’t easy for learners.
4. Speed Ice Skate Blades
Speed ice skates are meant to glide on the ice fast. These aren’t beginner skaters. Compared to figure skate and hockey skate blades, speed skate blades are the flattest and longest. But even though the blades look flat, they have a slight curve to help with turns.
They’re also the thinnest. Being thinner reduces the friction between the ice and blades, allowing for faster gliding. There are two types of speed ice skate blades namely:
- Short track speed skate blades
- Long track speed skate blades
Short-track speed ice skating happens on 111-meter tracks. On short-track speed skating, you’re turning more often at speed. You need boots and blades designed to handle more frequent turns. The boots are pretty stiff to provide the skater with resistance against brutal cornering forces. The blades are shorter, measuring 12″-18″, which means more control when navigating tighter turns.
Long-track racing takes place on 400-meter oval tracks. For reference, 400m compares similarly to the standard Olympic athletic track. Here, you’re gliding mostly straight and turning less frequently in comparison to short track. You need longer blades for speed (16″-22″), and since the turns are wider, the boot doesn’t need to be too stiff.
What Are Ice Skate Blades Made Of?
The kind of metal under your feet impacts performance and “feel.” You choose your metal depending on your skating level, intensity and frequency of skates, and budget. Also, how long you want your blades to hold an edge and the frequency of sharpenings are other important considerations. Many blades tend to consist of two metals, one coating the other. For example, chrome covering stainless steel blades.
There are at least 6 different materials used to make ice skate blades namely carbon steel, stainless steel, nickel, titanium, aircraft-grade aluminum, and carbon fiber composite.
1. Nickel blades: Nickel-plated blades used to be common in the past. They’re still available, especially on low-level/beginner and kids’ ice skates. Nickel sure resists corrosion, but it needs sharpening more often and doesn’t hold an edge great. I don’t recommend nickel blades though. It’s steel or better for me.
For the most part, nickel is used to plate other metals rather than on its own.
2. Carbon steel blades: These are steel blades impregnated with carbon. You find carbon steel blades on lots of beginner ice skates. They’re decent blades, but not the finest. One downside to steel blades is that they’re prone to rusting when exposed to moisture for some time.
To prevent rust, be sure to wipe off excess water and cover the blades with soft guards, aka soakers. Learn how to clean ice skate blades here.
3. Stainless steel blades: Stainless steel blades may not rust as readily as carbon steel, but they do to some extent. They’re better-quality blades compared to most others due to them being harder and tougher. They hold an edge better and longer, and they don’t need sharpening as frequently. You can do double jumps and triple jumps and Axel jumps all you want, and they won’t snap that easily.
4. Aircraft aluminum blades: These are strong but lightweight. And there’s a softer feel to the edges.
5. Titanium ice skate blades: If you want really light yet super-strong blades for landing the heftiest jumps, go for titanium blades. If you’re an absolute beginner in ice skating, you probably don’t need expensive titanium blades…because jumps won’t be the main thing for you as you learn how to ice skate.
6. Carbon Composite blades: Made from two or more foundational materials, these blades offer a higher level of rigidity and strength compared to aircraft aluminum and carbon steel blades. But they lack the sheer hardness of stainless steel and the tensile strength of titanium.
Blades generally come unsharpened, or sometimes factory-sharpened, which really means sketchy sharpening or really no sharpening. I strongly suggest that you ask your coach at the rink to advise you on skate sharpening and what might be the best hollow for you.
Alternatively, drive to the nearest skate shop and have a skate tech do the sharpening at a small fee, something like $10-$15, or slightly more. With time and practice, you’ll be able to adjust your sharpening in sync with your evolving skating ability.
BTW, sharpening ice skate blades at home isn’t for everyone. It certainly isn’t a good idea for inexperienced skaters. Some skaters have their blades sharpened once by machine and then maintain the edge by hand, with a sharpening stone. Don’t do this unless you really know what you’re doing. Better pay someone else to do it for you, definitely a top-rated skate tech.
If you’re a beginner and wondering what kind of ice skate blades you need, I believe you learned something in this guide. Stick to flatter blades (figure skates) that still turn great, but you can also learn on hockey skates no problem.
Starter blades tend to be made from cheaper materials that may not hold a sharpening for long. Plus, they may not be hard enough to withstand massive double jumps and triple jumps without cracking or chipping.
Elite figure skate blades tend to be made from high-quality materials and have a bigger toe pick, a feature that makes setting up jumps easier and surer.