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Skates That Are Too Big
Because kids never seem to quit growing, parents are always concerned about getting skates that are bigger than their child’s foot. That’s completely understandable and, to a degree, a skate can be fit that’s somewhat larger than the child’s foot that can subsequently be grown into. The key is to get a fit that allows room for the child to grow without it being too spacious because a skate that’s too big simply doesn’t work right and can be dangerous.
Let me explain.
Width is an Issue
As skates get longer, they get wider. For example, a size 5 medium is wider than a size 4 medium, even though they’re both a “medium.” A skate that’s too wide doesn’t hold the foot in place properly which allows the foot to move around and slip inside, generally resulting in the skater ‘rolling in’ or pronating in the skate. This can be seen all the time in rental skates because rentals are made so wide that they are a ‘one size fits all’. As a result, no one’s feet fit properly in rentals. What happens is that due to the extra room inside a skate that is too wide, the foot is not held in place and will slide towards the inside the skate, closer to the body’s center of gravity. Now, there are a few things that happen with skates that roll in.
- The weight of the skater becomes concentrated on their inside ankles and edge of their feet. Not only can this be physically uncomfortable after a period of time, but it puts pressure on a boot where it is not intended to be. This greater than normal amount of pressure on the inside quarter panel of the skate will eventually cause the skate to begin to breakdown in this area and as a result, it will progressively offer less and less support over time, resulting in the pronation (rolling in) increasingly getting worse.
- The rolling in causes the blade to sit at an angle on the ice rather than perpendicular as it was designed. This results in uneven wear as the inside edge of the blade dulls more quickly than the outside edge resulting in an ‘uneven’ grip on the ice by the blade, making skating more difficult.
- When a skater pronates and their skates roll inward, it’s much more difficult to control the skate. A left foot that rolls inward does not want to turn to the left, even if that’s where the skater wants it to go. A right foot that rolls in does not want to turn to the right, even if its owner desires it. It’s like driving a car that needs a wheel alignment. Each wheel/skate is fighting one another, resulting in less driver/skater control and making driving/skating – even going straight - more difficult and resulting in even more wear and tear on the tires/blades. Imagine having a problem just skating straight – now, try and skate on one foot, perform a cross over or spin – it’s nearly impossible. So, width is a problem, regardless of whether the skate is the right length.
- Finally, another problem with a skate being too wide (or long, for that matter) is that the skater’s heel will slip up and down. To be able to skate successfully, the heel needs to be locked in place. Think about when you wear a pair of shoes where your heel slips up and down. You can’t help but feel that they might slip right off – especially if you were to exert yourself in some manner. Same with skates – the skater’s heels slipping up and down not only lead to blisters, but also instability and the danger of the skate landing on the ice after a jump without the heel and foot securely locked in place.
Lots of times parents think they can easily solve the width problem by having the child wear thick socks. Unfortunately, socks don’t completely solve the problem. They do take up some space, but they don’t provide the skater with the snug fit that is required and they still permit the foot to move around inside. Leather skates stretch and so will “stay ahead” of the skater’s foot as it grows for a long period of time. Adding thick socks just accelerates the stretch.
Length is an Issue
Just as with width, a skate boot that is too long can cause problems as well. In addition to causing a width issue, as discussed above, skates that are too long can also result in these sort of problems:
- When too much growth room is given length-wise, in addition to sliding to the inside of the boot, the foot will also slip forward and back, making it difficult for the skater to balance. You can potentially overcome this by tying the skates tight and locking the heel back, but that reveals another problem – the toe pick. The toe pick projects out from the front of the skate and a skate that fits too long and has the heel locked back is going to feel like a pair of skis – with a toe pick in front. That means lots of tripping caused by a toe pick that is too far out in front of the toes to be controlled by the skater.
- The longer a skate gets, the longer the blade and a blade that’s too long means that the ball of the foot does not rest in the proper place in regards to the rocker. This makes balance, spinning and overall skating more difficult.
- In addition to tripping and unsteadiness, another problem caused by skates that are too long is that the ball (the widest part) of the foot oftentimes falls into the arch (the narrowest part) of the skate. This can result in pain for the skater. We often think that a bigger skate will be more comfortable because the skater has more room, but based on experience, I can tell you that this is not the case. Oftentimes a skater will choose the smaller skate because it fits the contour of their foot better, is more comfortable as a result, and they feel more stable and in control.
- Yet another issue with length is that because the boot doesn’t match up well with the foot and ankle, it tends to crease and bend in places where it wasn’t designed to do so. This results in the boot breaking down prematurely and losing its support which results in….you guessed it - a skater that is unstable and unable to perform to the best of their ability on the ice.
At Houston Skate & Sports Orthotics Center, we always fit a growing skater with the largest size possible to the point that if it were any bigger, the skate would be too big. Overall, you want a snug fit with room to grow for a growing skater, but skates that are too big simply aren’t worth buying – you already have that feature in rental skates so why spend the money? Skates that fit properly will give a child room to grow for 9 months to a year and yet be snug enough to provide comfort, stability and performance. This, in turn, enables the parent, coach, and skater to get the most out of the skating experience.