How to Buy Hockey Skates

I am often asked questions about hockey equipment––like, what brand names are best? what size to get? how much to spend? I have found that there is no “one single answer” to these questions that is correct for everyone. Taste in hockey gear is a very personal thing… and varies from one player to the next. All I can do is tell people what I like, and hopefully that helps to give a good starting point. So––today I’m going to tell you how I purchase my skates… feel free to comment on anything you agree or disagree with!

There are many different types of skates out there… some cheap, some expensive; some stiff and difficult to break in, others soft and easy to break in, some wide, some narrow… you get the point.

I personally look for 3 things when I’m purchasing a skate:

  1. Comfort: I hate breaking new skates in – so I like a skate that will break in quickly, and won’t kill my feet in the process. I remember crying on the ice as a young kid breaking in new skates at the beginning of the season… With the types of materials available in skates today, breaking in skates doesn’t need to be as painful as it was in the past!
  2. Durability: The only thing worse than breaking in new skates is having to do it again in the same season! I’ve found that if you buy cheap, you usually buy twice… especially with hockey skates. The higher-end skates will typically last longer, and you’ll save money in the long run. NOTE: This advice could vary if you are buying skates for a youth hockey player. Kids often outgrow their skates before they wear them out… so you might not need to purchase at the highest end of the durability scale in that case.
  3. PRO-SHOP: This is the most important step for me. Hockey skates are one piece of equipment I do not recommend buying online. Make sure you purchase your skates from a knowledgeable pro-shop that will help you to get the proper size and to purchase a skate that makes sense for the type of hockey you’ll be playing. A good pro-shop will usually have a skate oven to bake your skates for you. This will custom fit the boot to your foot and will help you break in your skates more easily.

Here’s a quick tip I use to get the “perfect fit” as I’m trying on skates:

I like the tips of my toes to just barely brush the front of the boot while I’m standing with my knees straight. Then, when I bend my knees to skating position, my toes pull back in the boot to the ideal spot. Sizing my skates this way usually puts my skate about 1 size smaller than my shoe size.

Also––don’t be afraid to ask for a wide boot. I have a wide foot, and using a wide boot makes a world of difference for my comfort level.

So… you might be wondering which skate fits my criteria… I personally like Graf. I’ve used Graf skates for about 12 years now and won’t use anything else. I have found them to be easy to break in, very durable, and extremely comfortable when I get them sized correctly and baked.

What skates have you had success with? Which ones have you disliked? Let me know!

13 thoughts on “How to Buy Hockey Skates

  • Just speaking from my experience with my son. When with new skates did the laces a bit tighter or used a thiker sock. I know the shops tell you 1 or 1 and a half but I did it win he was 6 or 7 and then had to buy a new pair in March

  • Good article covering most basics, I would add the sizing skates for kids – if you don’t want to buy a new pair at the second part of the season get them with 2 fingers gap – open all the laces and make the player push their foot to the touch the toe inside and push your fingers at the heel – with new skates 2 fingers gap would be a good measurement that will carry you through a season(unless they are in a growth spurt – then it is a bet – I had to buy 2 pairs for mine when he was 13 using the same trick). Also re Grafs (had experience with EU version only) they were great and comfy for my son but usually the boot is a bit heavier than other brands (Bauer and CCM) – was not a problem for him – look wise are more towards an old school leather therefore if the player is a D at older age and playing/practising hard – use skate fenders or equivalent to preserve the outer layer .

  • Good article covering most basics, I would add the sizing skates for kids – if you don’t want to buy a new pair at the second part of the season get them with 2 fingers gap – open all the laces and make the player push their foot to the touch the toe inside and push your fingers at the heal – with new skates 2 fingers gap would be a good measurement that will carry you through a season(unless they are in a growth spurt – then it is a bet – I had to buy 2 pairs for mine when he was 13 using the same trick)

  • Jeremy Weiss


    Great point on Graf’s blade holders… i’ve also had problems there. mine got “soft” on one pair of skates, and would flex with each stride. i’ve also had them break, or get loose and let the blade fall out… graf could stand to work on that!

    Thanks for the input!

  • Rod MacKenzie

    I’ve mostly have worn CCM Tacks but agree with the quality of the Graf skates , my sons have worn them in the past- great boot but they both had problems with the blade holders cracking or breaking.I have a wide foot and find that the CCM skates have a wide toe box. The most comfortable pair of skates that I ever had was the Doaust super 301’s., I wish I would have bought five pair before they went out of business. A good tip- always,always remove the liner from your skates right after you wear them,you will get 3 to 6 months longer life out of them.

  • Jeremy Weiss

    I agree, it definitely depends on the person whether you prefer online or in the store… I think both options have their advantages and disadvantages. I checked out your site at it looks great! That’s a great way to incorporate the power of ebay into your online skate shopping. Also, I like how you can sort based on size, gender, age, width, etc… good work!

  • IMO it depends on the person whether you buy online or buy in the store. If you’re fairly new to skates, or are looking at a completely different make that you haven’t tried before it can be a good idea to at least try them on in the store first to know what works for you. Many will try them on in the store and then look for the same make/model/size online once they have an idea, since online can save some pretty good $$$

  • Great post Jeremy.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a post about how to buy skates. It’s funny how every person is so different with their hockey gear. I hope more people that are new or seasoned hockey players find this post before they spend hundreds on a new pair of skates. In my experience finding a skate that’s right for your feet can change your game overnight.

    I’m with Jodi on this one, I have only ever had Bauers but I’ve heard Graf’s are awesome skates because they’re are so light and wide. Right now I have the XXX’s but maybe i’ll jump up to the XXXX’s one of these days 😉

    Another thing to keep in mind for anyone looking for skates is if you buy a higher end skate, you can actually have them “baked.” For anyone that doesn’t know what that means, basically they heat up the skates for you and immediately after you put them on for about 20 minutes. This is a good head start to break in the skates.

    Cool post Jeremy, keep up the good work!

  • I love my Bauer Vapor XXXX’s. They broke in way fast and they helped me to skate a lot better than my old skates. I had some cheap missions before. They were ok but not great. They were a low enough model that they didn’t even bake them.

  • Jeremy Weiss

    Great comment! I always like to know what skates other people are having success with… Sounds like your “customized” Eastons are doing well for you.

    I agree that you can find huge discounts online. If that has worked well for you in the past, by all means, go with it! I just wanted to clarify what I meant in the post: The main reasons I suggested using a pro shop are (1) to help ensure proper sizing; (2) to get your skates baked (Many pro shops charge $25 or more to bake skates that weren’t bought through them––this can “erase” some of the online savings); and (3) if anything is faulty, returns are generally more easy through a pro shop.

    I’ve been thinking about your question regarding kids out growing their skates… this is a tough one to solve without sacrificing performance. I’ve know some families who buy the skates half-a-size too big, and let the kids grow into them; however, these players definitely go through a phase of “clumsiness” while they grow into the boot. I’ve known other families who developed organized systems of “hand-me-downs.” By keeping good care of the skates, their other kids could usually reuse the same skates 3 or 4 times over.

    I’m afraid I don’t have much more to offer in that realm… anyone else have any ideas? Maybe there is a way of manipulating the insoles in the skates (switching them for thinner ones, or trimming them down somehow) to open up some room in the boot? I dunno… just a thought?

  • Dave P.

    Great article and very helpful. Do you have any recommendations for kids who are outgrowing their skates annually or even semi-annually? We’ve shopped at these used equipment stores before, but for the condition of the skates I think they are over priced. Last year we got half way through the season on a brand new pair of skates when we had to buy new ones. He’s still wearing them this year, but his toes are starting to hit the end of the boot, so we’ll be buying new skates again soon. I guess it’s just the hazard of having a growing son.

    My own skate preference are Easton boots with Tuuk holders and blades (Easton’s blades are too flimsy). I have to drill a couple holes in the bottom of the Easton boot for access to the blade release, but the holders fit perfectly on the boot and I haven’t had any problems.

    I’ve ordered all my skates online and haven’t had a bad experience yet. My feet are big enough that I can usually find high end skates in my size at clearance prices. I’ve saved as much as 50% off the pro-shop price finding clearance skates online. As an adult player I’m not putting the wear and tear on skates that the younger players do, so I can keep my skates several years before I consider replacing them – that gives me a lot of time to find a great deal. I did purchase a pair or skates for my wife at a pro-shop because they had the best deal and I couldn’t find any clearance skates online that would fit her. It was a pair of Bauers, and she really struggled getting them broken in – I tried to talk her into Eastons, but she liked the Bauers better. My son went from Bauers to Easton this last time around and he likes the Easton’s better too. In fairness, we’ve never tried Graf skates, but I know several people who swear by them.

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