How are Your Skates Different from those Walmart Sells?
That was the question a female caller asked me the other day and to be honest, it caught me a little off guard. In my numerous visits to Walmart, I’d never seen figures skates on their shelves. I didn’t know Walmart was in the figure skate business – at least not in Houston. As a result, I told the caller I wasn’t aware of what figure skates Walmart was selling but I knew for a fact that their skates didn’t come with the same level of service as the skates we sell. Walmart’s not going to sharpen the blade, provide comfort adjustments, perform a dynamic blade alignment, heat mold your skates or even consider performing a professional fitting. They’re also not going to help you determine the proper level or size skate you should buy and it really doesn’t matter to them whether it fits you properly or not as long as you make sure and pay them at checkout. Houston Skate & Sports Orthotics will do all these things for you for you before you even start comparing the difference in the quality of products.
The caller acknowledged that the service we provide had some value but I could tell she wasn’t overly impressed with my answer. Being more money motivated, she thought Walmart was a better choice for getting skates even though her skate coach had recommended she come to us. What she, like most people, didn’t realize is that buying skates is not the same straightforward process as buying shoes.
I think that’s because people fall into the “rental skate” trap. They go up to the rental skate counter and give their shoe size and get a pair of skates in return and then go out and skate. Pretty simple process. Why wouldn’t buying a pair of regular skates work the same way? Well, it does work the same way as long as you don’t mind having the same foot discomfort and inferior skating in your own pair of skates that you suffer in rental skates.
Anyhow, I was curious to see just what kind of ice skates Walmart sold and took a look online. Guess what? They do sell skates (well, it’s not actually Walmart, it is other companies using Walmart’s online sales platform instead), however, the majority of them are pond skates, of which I’ve discussed the advantages/disadvantages in a separate article. My caller was attracted to these type of skates because they were cheap (< $70.00) and that’s fine…just realize that with skates, you get what you pay for.
That brings up the question, why is buying a quality skate so important, especially when the child is going to outgrow the skate in a year anyway? After all, size is the most important thing, right? People think buying a pair of skates is as easy as a pair of shoes and so don’t really understand that quality of product and the fit matters.
Let’s do a little exercise to illustrate how important both quality and fit are….grab a 2x4 piece of lumber and take it outside and lay it on the sidewalk with one of the 2” sides flat on the sidewalk. Now stand and balance on the top of that piece of wood with one foot (keep your shoes on). Ta Dah! You are now balancing on one foot 4” off the ground on a piece of lumber 2” wide. It’s a little difficult, especially considering your foot is much wider than 2”, but some of us are very athletic, aren’t that old, and have good balance so it wasn’t all that hard to do, right? Now, cut that 2x4 in half so that it’s now a 1x4 and stand on it again with one foot. Keep your other foot off the ground – no cheating! Is the 1x4 any easier to balance on? It’s more difficult, right? Most of us probably couldn’t do it – our weight just won’t stay centered on that 1” wide plank. Now, cut that board in half again…and again…and yet again until you now have a 1/8” wide slice of lumber 4” off the ground to try and balance on with one foot (still have your shoes on, right?). Try not to wobble!
Forget it…what kind of joke am I trying to pull on you anyway? It’s impossible....
Actually, in all seriousness, this exercise should demonstrate just how hard it is, or would be, to balance if you actually got out on that sidewalk and tried it. In effect, we’ve just “simulated” standing on a skate blade which is about an 1/8” wide. The only things missing in this exercise is the hard, slippery surface underneath known as ice and the requirement to generate movement by going forward or backward, turning, jumping or spinning. Wow! What an awkward situation we’ve put our kids and ourselves in when we get out on the ice rink! What would make it easier to balance on that thin piece of wood (blade)? How about a shoe/boot stiff enough to provide meaningful support and ankle stability? Don’t know if you be able to stay on that piece of wood, but it would sure help eliminate that wobble! How about a shoe that held your foot snug, preventing it from slipping and sliding inside so that you could actually balance on that 1/8” wide stick of lumber? How about something that’s going to hold you comfortably snug, keep your heel in place, and support your arch so you could jump, spin, or turn directions without your foot slipping inside all the while giving you the confidence and security to do those things?
That’s what a proper fitting, quality skate does! A pond skate like those sold online at Walmart doesn’t hold the foot snug and has very little support to speak of. They’re mass produced, generic-shaped and not only does the skater’s foot slip easily inside, but we’ve had customers who learned the hard way by having their pond skates break down and lose whatever ‘support’ they had to begin with after just two skating sessions. As I mentioned earlier, with skates, you get what you pay for!
Here’s the bottom line - if you’re paying for skating lessons, don’t disregard the advice your coach gives you. You’re paying that coach for their time and knowledge – they want the skater to succeed just as much as you do. Take advantage of that knowledge that the coaches share. Also, don’t make skating, or learning to skate, more difficult than it has to be. Once again, you’re paying for that ice time while you’re out there trying to learn. Why pay to learn and progress, yet don’t invest in the equipment that will help the skater do just that? (After all, you don’t play baseball with a plastic bat.) Make the most of your time and money by getting the equipment that’s going to help maximize the skater’s experience and skill. We all want our kids to build self-confidence and succeed at what they do and the proper equipment will help them do just that. Quality skates sound expensive, but if you divide the cost of skates by the number of hours you’re skating, it’s the least expensive part of the entire sport. (See The Growth Mindset).