Equipment: This page contains general information on figure skating equipiment. It includes advice on selecting equipment, recommendations, and links to on line suppliers. You can find everything here from boots, blades, training aids, clothes, and accessories. If you're looking for a second car for the skater in your family you can even buy a zamboni. Be the first person on your block to drive ice resurfacing equipment.


This section deals with the basics of selecting figure skating boots. If you are looking for the on line boot suppliers click here. Otherwise read on oh-pilgrim-of-knowledge.

The biggest mistake many people newly infected with skate fever make is to run out and buy the most expensive top of the line boot they can find. Big Mistake! No, no, no! Bad skater, bad skater! In any given line, all boots are basically the same. The thing that differentiates them is the thickness and stiffness of the leather. Top of the line boots are basically cement blocks designed for big heavy people who do triple jumps. First timers who buy them end up quiting in frustration because their feet hurt all the time and the boot never breaks down. It would be easier to run over them with your car in the parking lot.

The second biggest mistake I see a lot of people make is to buy custom boots. Unless you want gold lame' or purple suede boots most people don't need custom boots. If they did then there wouldn't be much point in a manufacturer making lots of expensive stock boots. Even a lot of seasoned skaters are convinced they were among the unfortunate few to be born with abnormal feet. They are basically paying extra for a warm comfy feeling that has nothing to do with skating. That's not nescessarily a bad thing, but something to keep in mind. Unless you really are one of the few born with mutant feet then stock boots should be fine.

The boot that is best for you depends on three factors: your weight, how often you skate, and what your skating level is. The best thing to do is ask your pro what boot is right for you. If you don't have a pro, get one. If you still don't have a pro, then pick a boot that best matches your profile from the boot table.

A figure skating boot should fit snuggly like a glove. There should be no movement in the heel at all. If there is then you could develop some nasty blisters, bone spurs, or worse. Ideally your boot should feel like it's molded to your foot. Any loose spots will make skating more difficult. The more advanced you are, the more it will affect you.

You should always wear the thinnest socks or nylons, especially when you get fit for your boot. I wear thin nylon socks. I know some guys that don't wear any socks at all and others that wear women's stockings on their feet. As a matter of fact, if you get fitted at the SP Teri factory in San Fransisco they will give you a pair of nylons to put on when they measure you. Sometimes a man just wants to feel pretty.

The reason for this is because your foot will move around inside the boot if you use thick socks. And you will develop a lot more nasty blisters than you otherwise would have. Your foot must be totally snug inside the boot. Thick socks will also stretch out the inside of the boot so, after awhile, you can't wear thin socks even if you wanted to because the boot would be too loose. People often think they should wear thick sweat socks when they put on a pair of skates. This is completely wrong!

Let's suppose you finally get your perfect pair of boots. They aren't too stiff, you have the right socks, they fit snuggly, the sun is shining, birds are singing, and you've got minty fresh breath. You take your first step on the ice expecting to feel like Kristi Yamaguchi. Instead you feel like Frankenstein. This is normal. You can't bend your ankles at all. This is normal. Your ankles hurt so much you can barely stand up. This is normal. Fortunately something can be done about the ankles. If you bought your boots from a professional skate shop, then they should be able to "punch out" the ankles. They push out the leather where your ankles are located to make a little pocket to relieve the pressure.

Ok, so now you've got your punched out boots and your ankles feel swell. The sun is still shining, the birds are still singing, and you still feel like Frankenstein. You will feel like this until you "break in" your boots. That means the leather breaks down enough to allow you to bend your ankles. The length of this break in process depends on what kind of boot you bought and your skating habits. If you got the right boot and you skate several times a week, then it should take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Maybe one or two months if you're conservative. If it takes longer than half a year then you picked out the wrong boot for your skating level. Expect blisters, sore spots, and possibly bone spurs to be more common during the break in process.

Now let's assume you've broken in your boots. You're happy as a clam. Everybody compliments you on your skating and asks if you're somebody famous. How long should you expect your boots to last? If you're an occasional recreational skater they will probably last the rest of your life. If you're a regular skater they will probably last 3-5 years. If you're a professional or competitive skater they will probably last 1-2 years. If you're 12 years old, they will probably last about 6 months before you outgrow them.

How do you know when your boots are ready for boot hill? That depends on you. Skates are broken down when you can't do your "tricks" anymore because they can't support you. I know people who skate with old boots that haven't provided any support since the Nixon administration. They don't need the support because they don't do much. Boots are also broken down when they literally fall apart. I've had a couple pairs rip open along the seam down the back of the boot from top to bottom. Sometimes the sole of the boot will rot out and not be able to support the blade anymore. There are lot's of ways for a boot to die.

There are several major manufacturers of skating boots that can commonly be found in North America. Graf, Harlick, SP Teri, Klingbeil, Riedell, Jackson, and Riseport. Of these, I would only recommend staying away from Jackson. Jackson makes cheap boots for people who skate twice a year. I don't know anything about Risport or Graf, but Harlick, SP Teri, Klingbeil, and Riedell all make quality skating boots. Although some people will swear by one manufacturer or another, when it comes to performance there is no major difference between them. The blade you select will have a bigger impact on your skating than which boot manufacturer you go with.

The best way to buy a boot is to go directly to the manufacturer. For that to happen you have to be lucky enough to live near one of them. Or visit them on your next vacation. I know a lot of skaters that visit Harlick or SP Teri when they vacation in San Fransisco. If you go that route make sure you call ahead to make an appointment for a fitting. Or if you're lucky enough to attend a U.S. Nationals you can get a fitting right at the arena. Some of the major boot makers attend the big events and take orders on the spot.

Harlick and SP Teri have excellent reputations for service. I can personally vouch for SP Teri. George Spiteri is a nice guy and runs his business with the utmost integrity. If you have any problems they will work with you for as long as it takes to straighten it out.

If you don't happen to live near a manufacturer, the other alternative is to go through your local skate shop. Usually they only carry a couple of different brands. Don't go to a general sporting goods store to buy your skates. I've never seen anything but mass produced junk at stores like that. They are a waste of money. You'd be better off skating in rentals.

Here is a partial list of boots. Prices are from the 1997 Rainbow catalog and will vary. Westwood Sports also has a detailed online catalog for boots as well as blades. For beginners the Riedell 220 or 320 is probably your best bet. If you stick with skating they will break down sooner or later and you'll want to move up to a silver star or another manufacturer. In case anybody cares, I use the Super Teri Deluxe.

Mfgr Model Price Comments
Riedell 121 MR $100-$110 bottom of the line Riedell. for the periodic skater. comes w/blade
Riedell 220 MR $150-$185 ok for non-jumping, comes w/blade
Riedell 320 MR $150-$190 for beginning freestyle
Riedell Silver Star $170-$230 for serious kid, intermediate adult
Riedell Gold Star $195-$265 for intermediate to advanced competitive skater or very heavy adult
Riedell Royal $215-$305 for advanced freestyle and dance. not for beginners.
Riedell Comp $325 cement blocks
SP Teri Silver Medalist $240-$270 for recreational or occassional skaters
SP Teri Pro Teri $240-$270 for beginning freestyle or recreational skaters
SP Teri Super Teri $265-$305 for intermediate freestyle
SP Teri Super Teri Deluxe $360 intermediate to advanced freestyle. not for beginners.
SP Teri Advantage $400 cement blocks
SP Teri Custom call they'll make it out of anything that is sewable if you ask.
Harlick Competitor $285-$320 medium thickness. might be too much for a beginner.
Harlick Hi Tester $305-$345 intermediate to advanced freestyle
Harlick Finalist $345-$385 cement blocks
Harlick Custom $445-$650 probably the best custom boot in the world
Jackson   $70-$80 buy if you only skate twice a year

And finally here are the manufacturer addresses and phone numbers if you want to get in contact with them.

Harlick & CO. Inc.
Description: Skating Boot
Contact: Phil Kuhn
893 American St.
San Carlos, CA 94070
Phone: 415-593-2093
Fax: 415-593-9704

Klingbeil Shoe Labs
Description: Skating Boot
Contact: Mr. Donald Klingbeil
145-01 Jamaica Ave.
Jamaica, NY 11435
Phone: 718-297-6864
Fax: 718-658-2396

Riedell Skate Company
Description: Skating Boot
Contact: Daniel Riegelman
122 Cannon River Ave.
Red Wing, MN 55066
Off. 612-388-8251
Fax: 612-388-8616

S.P. Teri
Description: Skating Boot
Contact: George Spiteri
436 N. Canal Street #1
So. San Fransciso, CA 94080


This section discusses figure skating blades. If you want to skip ahead to the on line suppliers click here.

There are two parameters commonly used to characterize blades: radius and hollow. Radius is a rough measure of the curvature of the blade from front to back. It is commonly measured in feet. A radius of 8 feet is less curved, or flatter, than a radius of 7 feet. Radius is a somewhat misleading description because blades aren't shaped like an arc. Hollow is a measure of the groove that runs down the middle of the blade. Hollow is typically measured in inches. A one inch hollow is less deep, or flatter, than a half inch hollow.

The main effect of both radius and hollow is mostly on edges and control. Generally a smaller radius, or more curved blade, will result in deeper edges and smoother three turns. Control, however, may be more difficult. Radius is not a terribly good indicator of performance because it doesn't say enough about the shape of the blade. Hollow, on the other hand, has a very direct and noticeable effect on your skating. A flat hollow of 1 inch will result in smoother running, easier three turns, and easier skidding. A deep hollow of a half inch will result in a "sticky" feel to your edges and three turns. You will be able to hold deeper and stronger edges although they will be harder to control. Three turns will be harder. Skidding will be much more difficult.

Radius is fixed and there is nothing you can do about it. Hollow, on the other hand, can be changed by a skate sharpener. Changing the hollow on your blade is probably the most drastic thing you can do to change the feel of your skating. The normal range for hollow is 1/2" to 1" with 3/4" being typical. Many blades come with a factory grind of 3/8". This is an outrageously deep hollow and virtually impossible to skate on for anybody but ice dancers. I assume the manufacturers expect you to change it. A half inch is usually as deep as a freestyler would want to go, and even then few people go that far. I happen to be one of the few because I'm a big guy and I need the extra edge because of my weight. Most people will be around 3/4" to 1". Beginners should definetly be in this range.

When you first buy your blades you should have them sent to a reputable skate sharpener for a sharpening. Despite what the manufacturer might claim, you can't count on your blades having the advertised hollow or even a decent edge. Despite the fact that some blades can cost upwards of $400, they often come with crappy grinds from the manufacturer. For that much money you would expect better, but that is not case.

Besides radius and hollow, there are other factors that distinguish blades. Dance blades have very small toepicks and short heels, while freestyle blades have bigger toepicks. Some blades are tapered, which means they're thicker in one part of the blade than another. As far as I can tell there is no advantage to a tapered blade. The disadvantage is it's harder to sharpen. Another important characteristic is rocker. Rocker is the bulging curve at the front of the blade. A deep rocker is better for spinning but worse for jumping. Finally, there is a new blade technology called "co-planer" that seems to have died out already. Avoid anything co-planer because you need special boots for it.

I would recommend a good general purpose blade for the beginner such as Coronation Ace. You want to stay away from cheap blades such as Rinkmaster.

For advanced skaters I recommend Gold Seal. Other popular blades for advanced freestyle skaters are Phantom, Gold Star, Pattern 99, and Vantage. Although Pattern 99 is a popular blade, I dislike it and recommend against it. The main reason I can't stand it is because it stands about 1/2" to 3/4" shorter than the other blades and is flat. By "shorter" I mean the distance from the bottom of the boot to the bottom of the blade. You literally stand 1/2" to 3/4" shorter when wearing Pattern 99s. This causes a severe disadvantage in the quality and depth of edges. I've never been able to hold the same deep, long edges on a Pattern 99 than I could with a Gold Seal. I've taken some unexpected and nasty spills on Pattern 99s because of it's inability to hold a deep edge. Furthermore, because the rocker is almost non existent, they are terrible for spinning. Spinning on a 99 is like spinning in mud compared to a Gold Seal. The only advantage to a 99 is they are marginally better for jumping. If your technique is good that shouldn't make any difference anyway.

As a final bit of advice, I recommend having your blades sharpened by somebody who's been around for a long time and really knows what they're doing. DO NOT take your expensive blades to be sharpened by a teenager working behind the rental counter at your local rink. They will screw it up. It can take only 1 bad grinding to ruin a pair of $300 blades and most rink employees don't know how to handle such blades.

Here is a trick you can use to see how good your sharpener is: when you first get your new blades trace the curve of each blade on a piece of paper. After every sharpening check the blades against the tracing you made. The shape should remain the same. If, for example, you notice the rocker has been shaved off your blades, then your sharpener has ruined your blades.

Here is a list of different blades that was posted in one of the newsgroups several years ago. Some of the blades are no longer being made. Although the prices are from 1994, you can still find the blades at prices similar to these mostly because nobody charged MSRP several years ago. A couple years ago MK and Wilson merged and used their new monopoly to jack up prices to an unholy level. Their greed makes Bill Gates look modest. The on line sources are an excellent way to shop around and find the cheapest place to get your blades.

Model Manufacturer Radius Hollow MSRP

Dance Blades

Coronation Dance Wilson 7' 3/8" $167
Dance 99 Wilson 8' 3/8" $240
Wilson Dance Wilson 7' 3/8" discontinued
MK Dance MK 7' 5/16" $349
Silver Dance MK 7' 7/16" $168
Super Dance 99 Wilson 8' 3/8" $338

Patch Blades

Comet Test Wilson 8.5' 1" $167
Gold Test MK 7' 1" $338
Pattern 88 Wilson 7' 1" $502
Silver Test MK 7' 1.5" $188
Wilson Figure Wilson 8' 1" $338

Freestyle Blades

Coronation Comet Wilson 8.5' 3/8" $167
Four Aces Wilson 7' 3/8" $238
Gold Seal Wilson 8' 1/2" $462
Gold Star MK 7' 7/16" $375
Gold Star MK 7' 7/16" $510 (gold)
Hans Gershwiler Wilson 7' 1/2" $418
Pattern 99 Wilson 8' 3/8" $338
Phantom Special MK 7' 7/16" $365
Vantage MK 7' 7/16" $255

Freestyle and All-Purpose Blades

Club 2000 MK 7' 3/8" $35
Coronation Ace Wilson 7' 3/8" $157
Phantom MK 7' 7/16" $320
Professional MK 7' 7/16" $152
Select Classic MK 7' 7/16" $115

All-Purpose Blades

Majestic Wilson 6' 3/8" $102
Mercurio Wilson 6' 3/8" $77
Rinkmaster MK 7' 1/2" $35
Single Star MK 7' 1/2" $93

Training Aids

This section deals with training aids for figure skating. Training aids are used for practicing skating elements in a safer or alternative environment. Using training aids is a hit or miss proposition. What helps one person might not do anything for another. The only way to find out is to try it.

The jump harness is used to prevent a skater from falling down while practicing jumps. Many, but not all, rinks have them. The skater is strapped into a harness which is suspended from a line strung overhead. The harness is held up by a rope and pulley. A second person, usually a coach, holds the other end of the rope to prevent the skater from falling. The advantage of the harness is the skater can put their all into the jump without fear of falling or hurting themselves. It can be just the thing for people who can't get past mental blocks brought on by "rotation-phobia". To get access to a jump harness you usually have to have a coach who works out of the rink with the harness.

Trampolines are also used by some coaches to help a skater get used to rotating. I know of at least one rink that actually has a trampoline right next to the ice. The concept is to jump up and pull in. A trampoline gives the skater a little extra hang time so they can more easily focus on the mechanics of pulling into the rotational position. One of the advantages of a trampoline is you don't need an ice rink to work out on one. If you're a real die hard, you can get your own trampoline.

Roller Blading is a popular cross training method a lot of figure skaters use. Although you can't practice figure skating moves, it's good for building up the same leg muscles you use in skating. It's also a good way to get out on a nice day instead of being stuck in a dingy old ice rink. The balance and dynamics of roller blading are considerably different than ice skating so it's use as a learning tool is very limited.

Crash pads are pads a skater sticks in their pants to cusion their falls. Pads can give a skater more confidence to attempt difficult jumps because the falls won't be as hard. It's not as good as the jump harness, which should completely eliminate getting creamed, although it is better than nothing. I know of a couple companies that make crash pads and pants. Garde' is one you can get at Rainbow. Inside Edge advertises another brand. Although crash pads will help ease the blows, you can still hurt yourself so you should still show appropriate caution.

There are a few other figure skating training aids advertised on the net that I'm mentioning here just to be complete. I don't know anything about them so I can't give any of them a recommendation one way or the other. From reading their web pages, they seem to be better for evaluating skating with various exotic metrics rather than giving you something concrete you can use. One of them uses computerized skating clips similiar to the ones you can get here, but then they give you a video tape back. If they gave you the computerized clips instead of the video tape it would be a much more valuable service. In any case, you can check it out for yourself and make your own conclusions.


Clothing is an important and strange part of figure skating. Find out why by clicking here. Click here if you want to skip the commentary and go straight to the racks.

Scott Hamilton best summarized skate clothes when he said, "The tighter, the better". Clothing should be stretchy and tight. How stretchy and how tight depends on your level of modesty. This tends to be more of an issue for men than women because a woman can always cover up with a skirt. Your skating will improve noticeably the more snug your clothing. It will also feel better.

It's important that your clothing is not restrictive. Jeans are terrible for skating because you can't move. Try doing a camel spin or split jump in jeans and you'll see what I mean. Baggy clothing, besides making skating harder, can also be dangerous. It's not uncommon to snag a blade on a loose pair of pants. Shorts are also a bad idea. Falling on bare skin on rough ice can give you the same road rash you might get on cement. Some women wear hosiery under shorts which is ok.

Ladies: Women have a lot of options when it comes to what they wear on the ice. You can wear skating dresses, stretch pants, sweat pants, leotards, unitards. You can even wears men's clothes. I've seen it all. My only advice is to wear whatever is comfortable for you. Not having worn women's clothing, at least none that I'm willing to admit, I don't have any recommendations or insights.

Men: When it comes to clothing, men's options are considerably more limited than women's. Men are pretty much stuck with long pants and a shirt. I know it's not fair but then we don't have to go through child birth. It's God's way of evening things out. Pants range from the baggy nylon warmups to the tight lycra pants similar to what a lot of bicyclists and runners wear. Speed skaters and many of the top male skaters wear tights. Any cotton t-shirt or sweatshirt is ok. I like the lycra shirts because they feel good and sweat goes right through them to keep you dry.

Index of On Line Suppliers

(more current listings can be found here)

Boots & Blades


Ice rink equipment

Training aids

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Kevin Anderson /

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