Ice skate

Last updated
A pair of ice skates Tubeskate.jpg
A pair of ice skates

Ice skates are metal blades attached underfoot and used to propel the bearer across a sheet of ice while ice skating.


The first ice skates were made from leg bones of horse, ox or deer, and were attached to feet with leather straps. These skates required a pole with a sharp metal spike that was used for pushing the skater forward, unlike modern bladed skates. [1]

Modern skates come in many different varieties, which are chosen depending on the nature of the requirements needed for the skating activity. They are worn recreationally in ice rinks or on frozen bodies of water across the globe and are used as footwear in many sports, including figure skating, bandy, ice hockey, ringette, rinkball, speed skating and tour skating.


Ice skating in Graz in 1909 Eislaufverein Turnhalle Graz 7 Feber 1909 mit Johann Oberhammer.jpg
Ice skating in Graz in 1909
Medieval bone skates on display at the Museum of London Medieval-skates-London.jpg
Medieval bone skates on display at the Museum of London
German ice skates from the 19th century, the boot came separately Schlittschuhe-kufen.jpg
German ice skates from the 19th century, the boot came separately

According to a study done by Federico Formenti, University of Oxford, and Alberto Minetti, University of Milan, Finns were the first to develop ice skates some 5,000 years ago from animal bones. [2] This was important for the Finnish populations to save energy in harsh winter conditions when hunting in Finnish Lakeland. [3] [4] The earliest known skate to use a metal blade was found in Fennoscandia and was dated to 200 A.D., and was fitted with a thin strip of copper folded and attached to the underside of a leather shoe.

William Fitzstephen, writing in the 12th century, described the use of bone skates in London. The following seems to be an Early Modern English translation of the Latin original:

when the great fenne or moore (which watereth the walles of the citie on the North side) is frozen, many young men play upon the ice, some striding as wide as they may, doe slide swiftly... some tye bones to their feete, and under their heeles, and shoving themselves by a little picked staffe, doe slide as swiftly as birde flyeth in the aire, or an arrow out of a crossbow. [5]

Types of ice skates

There are five main types of ice skates: the figure skate, the ice hockey skate, the bandy skate, the racing skate, and the touring skate.

Figure skates

Figure skate Figure Skates.jpg
Figure skate

Figure skates are used in the sport of figure skating. Unlike hockey skates, they have toe picks on the front of the blade, which are usually made out of stainless steel or aluminium with a steel runner. The toe pick has a variety of uses, but is most commonly used for certain jumps in figure skating, such as the Lutz jump and toe loop, or starting a backspin. Figure skating boots are typically made of several layers of leather and the leather is very stiff to provide ankle support. In addition, the figure skate's blade is curved, allowing for minute adjustments in balance and weight distribution.

The base of the figure-skate blade is slightly concave, or "hollow ground". The hollow, which runs the length of the blade, creates two edges, which come in contact with the ice. The forward part of the blade, the toe-rake, is saw-toothed and is used for jumps and spins on the toes. [6]

Ice hockey skates

Ice hockey skate Ice Hockey Skates.jpg
Ice hockey skate

Ice hockey skates are used for playing the games of ice hockey and ringette but are occasionally used for recreational ice skating alone. Each individual skate consists of a boot, laces, blade, and a blade holder. The boot is generally made of molded plastic, leather (often synthetic), ballistic nylon, or a thermoformed composite material. [7] Each skate blade has two edges. Skates used in competitive ice hockey and ringette rarely use molded plastic for the upper boot, as this results in limited mobility.

The skates used by goaltenders are cut lower in the ankle [8] than a normal hockey skate and the boot sits closer to the ice for a lower center of gravity. The boot itself is encased in hardened plastic, called a "cowling", protecting the toe, ankle and heel from the force of the shot puck. The blade is usually longer and has less rocker (curvature to the blade) to make it easier for the goalie to move side to side in the crease. Goalie skates lack a tendon guard. Unlike regular hockey skates, goalie skates are usually protected by a synthetic material covering the toe-part of the skate. This is to prevent damage from the puck. The blade of the goalie skate is not as useful in turning as regular hockey skates, because the blade is rockered less, thus making turns slightly inconvenient. The material used to make the boot of the goalie skate historically was is a harder synthetic material than regular hockey boots.

Hockey skate being sharpened Skate being sharpened.jpg
Hockey skate being sharpened

Sharpening ice hockey skates plays a key factor in a player’s ability to skate and players will sharpen their skates hundreds of times throughout their career. Similar to figure skates, the blade is hollow ground in cross section, creating two edges that contact and cut into the ice, allowing increased maneuverability. The blades are sharpened with round-edged grinding wheels that create the two edges. The wheels grind out a hollow semi-circle along the length of the underside of the blade, forming the sharp edge on each side. Skate blade sharpness is measured by the thickness of the round-edged grinding wheel being used, the smaller the radius, the sharper the edge will be. The sharpness chosen by a player is based completely upon preference, not player size or level of play. While a one-half-inch (13 mm) radius of hollow is the most common and standard sharpening for most players, the standard radius of hollow for goalies is three-quarters inch (19 mm). [ citation needed ]

Bandy skates

Bandy skates are used for playing the game of bandy. The boot is generally made of leather (often synthetic). The boot is lower than the hockey version, often not covering the ankles. All bandy skates are designed such that they will not cause injury to an opponent. The blade is generally an inch longer than the hockey skates, allowing for higher speeds at the large bandy rink. [9] The Russian bandy skates have an even longer blade and a very low cut shoe.

Racing skates

Modern "Comfort" speed skates Zandstra noor.jpg
Modern "Comfort" speed skates
Racing clap skates Clapskate1.png
Racing clap skates
Short track speed skates Skate shorttrack.jpg
Short track speed skates

Racing skates, also known as speed skates, have long blades and are used for speed skating. A clap skate (or clapper skate) is a type of skate where the shoe is connected to the blade using a hinge. Short track racing skates have a longer overall height to the blade to allow for deep edge turns without the boot contacting the ice. For better turning ability, racing skates may have a radius, from 8 metres (26 ft) for short track to 22 metres (72 ft) for long track. [10] Racing skates have a completely flat bottom. [11] There is no hollow, only a squared off bottom with two edges. This improves glide time, by not cutting into the ice.

Touring skates

Fixed heel binding and "duckbill boot" Lfs fast.jpg
Fixed heel binding and "duckbill boot"
Touring skate with Multiskate binding for hiking boots Multiskates.jpg
Touring skate with Multiskate binding for hiking boots
Touring skate for ski boots and free-heel binding on ice Tour skate ice1.jpg
Touring skate for ski boots and free-heel binding on ice

Touring skates (or Nordic skates) are long blades that can be attached, via bindings, to hiking or cross-country ski boots and are used for long distance tour skating on natural ice. The blades are approximately 50 cm (20 in) long with a radius of curvature (or rocker) of about 25 m (82 ft). The blades are from 1 to 1.5 mm (0.04 to 0.06 in) wide, with a flat cross-section. The length and long radius of the blades makes touring skates more stable on uneven natural ice than skates with shorter, more rockered blades. Since tour skating often involves walking (kluning) between lakes or around sections not suitable for skating, the removable blades are an asset. Thus, these skates are often called kluunschaats in the Netherlands. [12]

With most modern models of skates, the blades are bonded to the bottom of an aluminum foot-plate. A binding for a specific type of boot is mounted on the top of the foot-plate. Traditionally, the bindings held down both toe and heel of the boot (fixed-heel). Some bindings require special boots like telemark ski boots with a "duck-bill" shaped toe, others, like the Multiskate, have padded adjustable straps that will attach to most hiking boots.

Since the early 1990s, models have been designed for mounting free-heel cross-country ski bindings to the skates, and thus attach matching ski boots to the skates. [13] The free-heel models give the equivalent effect as the klap skate form of speed skates. There are several makers of these skates in Sweden, Netherlands, and Finland.

Skaters in a marathon race on Weissensee (Carinthia), using nordic skates Toertocht.jpg
Skaters in a marathon race on Weissensee (Carinthia), using nordic skates

Although mainly used for non-competitive touring, nordic skates are sometimes used in marathon speed skating races on natural ice, such as Vikingarännet (The Viking Run), a long distance tour skating event in Sweden

Historical wooden touring skates

Before 1870, most touring skates had a wooden foot-plate which was attached to the boot with leather straps. [14] Examples were the Gillbergs skate from Sweden, [15] and the Stheemann "wooden Norwegian" from the Netherlands. [16] Even earlier, in the years 1870 to 1900, there were very similar models made in North America, like the Donaghue from the U.S. [17] In 1875, the Friese doorloper , a design in which the blade extended several inches behind the heel, was introduced in the Netherlands. It was popular with both tour skaters (both casual and competitive) and sprint skaters ( kortebaanschaatsen ), and remained popular until some years after the Second World War.

Recreational skates

Inexpensive skates for recreational skaters usually resemble either figure skates or hockey skates, but recreational ice skates resembling inline skates with a molded plastic boot are also available. These recreational skates are commonly rented from ice rinks by beginners who do not own their own skates. In the non-American English-speaking world, they are sometimes called 'death wellies' by skaters who own their own equipment because of their appearance and their reputation for giving the wearer blisters. People who own their own skates may further reduce the risk of blisters by adding a friction management patch to areas inside the skate that could rub or chafe.

Double runner

Also known as twin blade skates, cheese cutters, bob skates, or bobby skates, these skates are worn by young children who are learning. The double blades increase stability and help the child to balance.

See also

Related Research Articles

Figure skating Ice sport performed on figure skates

Figure skating is a sport in which individuals, pairs, or groups perform on figure skates on ice. It was the first winter sport to be included in the Olympic Games, when contested at the 1908 Olympics in London. The Olympic disciplines are men's singles, ladies' singles, pair skating, and ice dance; the four individual disciplines are also combined into a team event, first included in the Winter Olympics in 2014. The non-Olympic disciplines include synchronized skating, Theater on Ice, and four skating. From intermediate through senior-level competition, skaters generally perform two programs, which, depending on the discipline, may include spins, jumps, moves in the field, lifts, throw jumps, death spirals, and other elements or moves.

Ice skating Self-propulsion of a person over ice, wearing bladed skates

Ice skating is the self-propulsion and gliding of a person across an ice surface, using metal-bladed ice skates. People skate for various reasons, including recreation (fun), exercise, competitive sports, and commuting. Ice skating may be performed on naturally frozen bodies of water, such as ponds, lakes, canals, and rivers; and on man-made ice surfaces such as ice rinks, ice hockey rinks, and arenas, both indoors and outdoors.

Shoe Durable type of footwear worn in most cultures

A shoe is an item of footwear intended to protect and comfort the human foot. Shoes are also used as an item of decoration and fashion. The design of shoes has varied enormously through time and from culture to culture, with appearance originally being tied to function. Though the human foot is adapted to varied terrain and climate conditions, it is still vulnerable to environmental hazards such as sharp rocks and temperature extremes, which shoes protect against. Some shoes are worn as safety equipment, such as steel-soled boots which are required on construction sites.

Speed skating Competitive form of ice skating in which competitors race each other

Speed skating is a competitive form of ice skating in which the competitors race each other in travelling a certain distance on skates. Types of speed skating are long track speed skating, short track speed skating, and marathon speed skating. In the Olympic Games, long-track speed skating is usually referred to as just "speed skating", while short-track speed skating is known as "short track". The International Skating Union (ISU), the governing body of both ice sports, refers to long track as "speed skating" and short track as "short track skating".

Winter sports

Winter sports or winter activities are competitive sports or non-competitive recreational activities which are played on snow or ice. Most are variations of skiing, ice skating and sledding. Traditionally, such games were only played in cold areas during winter, but artificial snow and artificial ice allow more flexibility. Playing areas and fields consist of either snow or ice.

Inline skates Type of roller skate

Inline skates are a type of roller skate used for inline skating. Unlike quad skates, which have two front and two rear wheels, inline skates typically have two to five wheels arranged in a single line. Some, especially those for recreation, have a rubber "stop" or "brake" block attached to the rear of one or occasionally both of the skates so that the skater can slow down or stop by leaning back on the foot with the brake skate.

Ski binding

A ski binding is a device that connects a ski boot to the ski. Generally, it holds the boot firmly to allow the skier to maneuver the ski. However, if certain force limits are exceeded, it releases the boot to minimize skier injury, such as in the case of a fall or impact. There are different types of bindings for different types of skiing.

Figure skate

Figure skates are a type of ice skate used by figure skaters. The skates consist of a boot and a blade that is attached with screws to the sole of the boot. Inexpensive sets for recreational skaters are available, but most figure skaters purchase boots and blades separately and have the blades mounted by a professional skate technician.

Inline skating Sport discipline

Inline skating is a multi-disciplinary sport and can refer to a number of activities practiced using inline skates. Inline skates typically have two to five polyurethane wheels, arranged in a single line by a metal or plastic frame on the underside of a boot. The in-line design allows for greater speed and maneuverability than traditional roller skates. Following this basic design principle, inline skates can be modified to varying degrees to accommodate niche disciplines.

Ice rink Frozen body of water and/or hardened chemicals where people can ice skate or play winter sports

An ice rink is a frozen body of water and/or hardened chemicals where people can ice skate or play winter sports.

Floor hockey is a family of indoor hockey games.

Motorcycle boot

Motorcycle boots are associated with motorcycle riders and range from above ankle to below knee boots. They have an outside of a typical boot but a low heel to control the motorcycle. To improve motorcycle safety, motorcycle boots are generally made from a thick, heavy leather and may include energy absorbing and load spreading padding, metal, plastic and/or composite materials to protect the motorcycle rider's feet, ankles and legs in an accident. For use in wet weather, some boots have a waterproof membrane lining such as Gore-Tex or SympaTex.

Tour skating

Tour skating is recreational long distance ice skating on natural ice. It is particularly popular in the Netherlands and the Nordic countries. It is becoming more popular in areas of North America such as New England, Southcentral Alaska, and Nova Scotia.

Artistic roller skating Type of sport similar to figure skating

Artistic roller skating is a sport similar to figure skating but where competitors wear roller skates instead of ice skates. Within artistic roller skating, there are several disciplines:

Straight razor Knife used to remove body hair

A straight razor is a razor with a blade that can fold into its handle. They are also called open razors and cut-throat razors. The predecessors of the modern straight razors include bronze razors, with cutting edges and fixed handles, produced by craftsmen from Ancient Egypt during the New Kingdom. Solid gold and copper razors were also found in Ancient Egyptian tombs dating back to the 4th millennium BC.

Bauer Hockey is a manufacturer of ice hockey equipment, fitness and recreational skates and apparel. Bauer produces helmets, gloves, sticks, skates, shin guards, pants, shoulder pads, elbow pads, hockey jocks and compression underwear, as well as goalie equipment. Bauer developed and manufactured primarily hockey skates until 1990, when it acquired the hockey assets of Cooper Canada Ltd.. in 2014, Bauer expanded into baseball/softball by purchasing Easton Diamond from Riddell/BRG Sports. Bauer operates as a unit of Peak Achievement Athletics Inc. of Exeter, New Hampshire.

Ice hockey goaltending equipment

In ice hockey, the goaltender wears specialized goaltending equipment to protect himself from the impact of the puck and to assist himself in making saves.

Ringette Team sport played on ice, on a gymnasium floor or on wheeled skates.

Ringette is a Canadian non-contact winter team sport played on ice hockey skates created for and played predominantly by women and girls. Created in Northern Ontario, Canada by Samuel Perry Jacks in 1963, ringette is now one of the fastest team sports on ice, belonging to a small group of ice skating team sports which now includes bandy, ice hockey, and rinkball. In Canada there is opportunity for female university students to play ringette at the university level. The off-ice variant is known as gym ringette.

Ice hockey equipment

In ice hockey, players use specialized equipment both to facilitate the play of the game and for protection as this is a sport where injuries are common, therefore, all players are encouraged to protect their bodies from bruises and severe fractures.

<i>Friese doorloper</i>

The Friese doorloper is a type of ice skate from the Netherlands. Friese means "Frisian", and doorloper "to walk" or "run through", reflecting the design. It consists of a shaped length of wood secured to a metal blade of the same length to form a single unit which can be bound to a boot or shoe. It was on based on earlier designs of wooden skate, and differs from them in that the blade extends several inches behind the heel instead of ending under it. This reduces the risk of the wearer falling over backwards, particularly when stopping. It was first commercialised in 1875 by the skatemaking companies A. K. Hoekstra of Wergea and D. G. Minkema of Oosterlittens, both of Friesland, as a touring skate. By the early years of the 20th Century it had completely replaced the old designs. It was popular among competition tour skaters, and was worn by several winners of the unpredictably-held Elfstedentocht. It was also used for speed skating. After 1945, it was gradually replaced by skating boots, in which the metal blade is directly attached to the sole, and the last specialist manufacturer of Friese doorlopers closed in 1965. However, as of 2021 models which use plastics instead of wood are commercially available.


  1. "Old Norse Bone Skates". Archived from the original on 2006-05-12.
  2. Bone Ice Skates Invented by Ancient Finns, Study Says Archived 2014-02-21 at the Wayback Machine ,
  3. Henderson, Mark (2007-12-24). "Dashing Finns were first to get their skates on 5,000 years ago". The Times . London. Archived from the original on 2008-01-11. Retrieved 2007-12-24.
  4. "Skating traced back 4,000 years". BBC News . 2007-12-24. Archived from the original on 2007-12-27. Retrieved 2007-12-24.
  5. Keith C. Heidorn, The Weather Doctor's Weather Almanac: Playing Through Winter On Snow and Ice: Part 2: Ice Skating and Sledding Archived 2010-08-30 at the Wayback Machine (2010).
  6. "Ice Skating - Scholastic". Archived from the original on 2014-03-04.
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2019-08-13. Retrieved 2019-08-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. "Bandy Skate profile vs Hockey Ice skate" (video), 27 December 2016 Archived 21 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine , retrieved 20 October 2017
  10. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2010-02-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. Denny, Mark (2011-08-25). Gliding for Gold: The Physics of Winter Sports. JHU Press. ISBN   9781421402154. Archived from the original on 2017-11-14.
  12. "Een goed passende schaats" [A well fitting skate]. Natuurijswijzer (Natural Ice Guide) (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 6 December 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  13. Lloyd, Barbara (8 January 1990). "ON YOUR OWN; Skiing While Skating". New York Times. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  14. "Skridskor som vi åkt på under Klubbens 100 år". Stockholms Skridskoseglarklubb 1901-2001. Graphium Norstedts Media. 2000. pp. 97–101. ISBN   91-971722-6-X.
  15. "The virtual ice Skates museum | Swedish speed skates". Archived from the original on 2016-03-11.
  16. "The virtual ice Skates museum | Friesland speed skates 2". Fig 3. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04.
  17. "The virtual ice Skates museum | American speed skates". Fig 1. Archived from the original on 2011-10-06.