We have customers come into the Houston Skate & Sports Orthotics Center all the time that have been looking online and have seen figure skates advertised there from $30 - $70. They expect when they come into the Shop they are going to find the same price range for skates in the store. They’re surprised when they don’t.
You see, skates that sell for those types of prices ($30 - $70) are referred to as “pond skates.” Although they do serve a legitimate purpose, they are “cheap” skates in both senses of the word. Pond skates are designed for outdoor skating on natural frozen surfaces. These are surfaces such as lakes or ponds where the ice surface is uneven and may even contain embedded debris such as leaves, rocks or sticks. In other words, natural frozen surfaces are not ‘ice skate friendly.’
Skaters on natural surfaces are simply skating for fun and trying not to fall down. They aren’t out there to spin, jump, or work on their skating program. As a result, what they need is a skate that lets them adapt to a constantly changing and uneven surface. A pond skate accomplishes just that. It features a small toe pick that’s less likely to snag on a sudden ripple or irregularity on the ice. Also, the boot is relatively soft and flexible and doesn’t hold the foot snug or offer any stiffness for support which in turn allows the knees to bend and the foot move inside the skate to better absorb the sudden bumps and jolts from an uneven surface. Now while someone wearing a pair of pond skates may not be able to completely stand up straight or have good directional control because of the loose fit and lack of support, they are at least able to stay upright for the most part. Another distinguishing factor of pond skates is that they come with a poor quality blade that is riveted into the sole of the boot and as a result cannot be adjusted to help the skater feel more balanced. The blade is also low quality and has a short life span.
Here in Houston, we haven’t had any natural frozen surfaces in quite some time and so pond skates are ‘out of their element,’ so to speak. When you’re skating on an ice rink indoors, pond skates don’t do much for you other than give you the ability to say “I have my own skates.” Where outdoors that lack of support and loose fit helped you absorb sudden bumps and dips in the ice, on a flat surface that knows what a Zamboni is, that ill fit and lack of support shows up as a lack of control, a tendency to roll inward on the skates, and an inability to perform routine moves on the ice such as skating backwards or on one foot. Pond skates are simply not meant for indoor skating. Because of their lack of support, they break down quickly and in many cases, they don’t even function as well as a rental skate.
For skating indoors, and especially for taking lessons, skaters need a quality Skate School skate. This means a skate that fits the foot snugly, provides quality support, and has a blade that helps the skater perform at their best for their respective skating level. The snug fit holds the foot in place, preventing it from slipping inside and contributing to better overall movement and control on the ice. The quality support helps hold the skater upright and contributes to better balance while at the same time providing the ankle support needed for performing jumps and skating with the proper posture. Quality skates also have the blades screwed into the sole of the boot and can be adjusted to better center the skater over their blades.
Pond skates, like those from Lake Placid, DBX, and American Athletic, can be found at your local sporting goods store for under $70 among the basketballs and sports bottles, or even online. Quality figure skates with a professional fitting and complimentary initial sharpening, can be found at Houston Skate & Sports Orthotics Center.