Do you want to know what happens if your ice skates are dull? Dull skates suck. Period. Tight turns, outside edge stops with the back foot, and takeoff jumps all become more challenging and require greater effort to do.
Holding a clean edge becomes mission impossible. And sliding out, especially when doing aggressive turns, becomes the new normal.
It gets worse. You fall frighteningly frequently during test sessions and games.
In the worst-case scenario, you get injuries from falls and slamming into barriers and even other skaters.
Schedule a sharpening whenever it feels like you’re no longer getting the exact same response you usually get with freshly sharpened ice skates.
Can You Skate With Dull Skates?
You sure can skate with dull skates as long as they’re not too dull as to make gliding on the ice altogether impossible.
If there’s still a bit of bite on the blades and you’re not skidding and sliding all over the rink, you can still use your dull skates. But it’s not something any ice skating coach ever recommends. And neither do I.
What Happens When I Use Dull Skates?
You can’t hold a clean edge. That’s what happens. Also, skating gets that much harder for beginners and seasoned skaters as well.
In fact, when a pro skater glides around on a pair of dull skates, they feel like a complete beginner.
Frustration is what happens when a good ice skater forgets to pack their properly sharpened skates to a rink event. And they end up playing on rental ice skates.
Instances When Dull Skates Are a Good Idea
Is skating with dull skates a bad idea? Yes, for the most part, it is a bad idea. It’s definitely not a good idea to use dull ice skates on good-quality ice.
But you definitely can use dull runners on warmer, softer ice. What if you play on warm and soft ice some of the time and hard-packed cold ice the rest of the time?
Do this: Get two runners. Get a good skate tech to make a shallower hollow on the soft ice runners and to cut a deeper hollow on hard ice runners. And problem solved!
When skating on the hardest and coldest ice you’ve ever played on, it’s best to use sharpened skates.
Not necessarily newly sharpened skates, more on this a little down the road.
Why Do Some Skaters Delay Sharpening?
I know a skater who rarely sharpens her skates. She tells she does it twice a year. And she posts a fair amount of skates.
I asked her why she puts up with dull skates. She said sharp skates have her digging too deep into the ice. Besides that, freshly cut skates always throw off her stops and tricks.
It feels like she’s riding an entirely new set of skates. Skates that require her to do loads to adjust. And why do more when you can get away with a little laziness?
Those aren’t bad reasons. But the disadvantages of sharpening outweigh any disadvantages.
I suggest that you get the blades sharpened to your preferred hollow, get used to that, and sharpen again when responsiveness decreases noticeably.
Why Do Ice Skates Become Dull?
Put another way, what causes dullness in skates?
If you frequently skate on bad-quality ice, your edges will dull way sooner than you imagine.
Bad ice is often a consequence of bad rink maintenance. When a rink’s management fails to remove leaves, pebbles, sticks, and whatnot, these materials make the ice abrasive.
And when you skate in a poorly maintained rink, these embedded items make dents, nicks, burrs, and gouges on the edges.
These outcomes make skating a tad harder and somewhat less enjoyable. Time to schedule a sharpening, skater.
Another cause for dullness is rust and deposits on the blades. If you don’t remove the guards and let them stay on for too long, the blades will get rusty. And rust sure makes them less sharp.
Is Slipping Always Caused By Dullness?
No. I keep coming across comments online where someone says that dull skates cause slippage. And this is true, but not all of the time.
In my experience, bad technique can also make it feel like your skates are dull. If you don’t skate much each week and it feels like your skates need a sharpening a week after the previous sharpening, the problem is most likely bad technique.
How to Know When Your Skates Are Dull
There are several ways (at least 6) to determine whether ice skates are dull.
If your skates are not responding the way they always have after a sharpening that could be a sign they’re dull.
Another way to know whether your skates are dull is to use your index finger. This blade sharpness assessment method requires you to run your index finger along the edge of the skates.
Don’t press on the edge, or you will get cut. Place the tip of the finger at an angle of 45˚ to the edge. When moving the finger back and forth along the edge, notice if it catches on some spots. It does, it’s time to schedule a sharpening.
The third method involves sliding the index finger or thumb across the blade Move the finger sideways perpendicular to the blade.
Don’t worry, you won’t get cut. If the blade feels smooth, like it can’t cut your finger, this means it isn’t sharp enough and needs a sharpening.
Next, you can do a physical examination to determine if it’s necessary to take the boots to your skate tech. If you notice deposits or rust on the blades, definitely get them sharpened. Rust often happens when you leave the skate guard on for longer than necessary.
Guards are meant to prevent your expensive skates from nicks and dings. Especially when walking to and from the ice, or on surfaces without ice. Once your skates are nice and safe in a dry skate storage bag, take the guards off.
And whenever you are in doubt, consult your coach. Ask them if they think your blades need a sharpening or not.
You may also ask the skate-sharpening guy at the shop what they think. Well, skate shops may not always know what’s best for you.
In some cases, it’s best to approach the skate sharpener with clear instructions in mind. Tell them what you want and that’s it.
I have found that the best sharpeners have long waitlists. You may have to book your sharpening a week or two prior to the day you need them sharpened.
Can I Skate in Freshly Sharpened Skates?
You certainly can, but for many skaters adapting to a fresh sharpening takes a couple of games.
I know a competition skater who gets her ice skates sharpened a day before the event. But she does skate down some of the sharpness later in the day.
Me? It takes a week skating at least 3 times to get to the right “feel.” Every skater is different, and what feels great to you might feel overwhelming for someone else.
Skating on Dull Ice Skates: Final Thoughts
While you can skate on dull skates and still enjoy yourself, it’s not a bad idea.
Getting comfortable gliding around on unsharpened skates feels comfortable and familiar. However, it often leads to bad skating habits that detract from your overall technique.
Inspecting your skates for nicks, feeling the blades with a finger, and noticing changes such as frequent falls and slippages are indicators of dullness in ice skates.
Tell me: do you ever skate on dull skates and if yes, do you enjoy it? Or do you only skate on properly sharpened skates? Tell me about your preference in the comments box below.