Without proper preparation, any sport can lose its appeal, become frustrating and no longer be fun. Lack of preparation can also result in injury. Here are some tips to help make and keep ice skating fun and injury free:
Where to Get Skates
Buy skates from a professional who knows how to fit skates, not only to feet, but to skill level. Most indoor rinks are sites for skating clubs and hockey teams, as well as the general public. Indoor rinks usually include stores that sell skates designed for hockey and figure skating. Also look for retail stores that cater to skating clubs and hockey teams. The professional staff at both places are usually trained to fit skates to amateurs and professionals.
When renting skates, try on several pair before choosing the pair that fits. Don’t let the staff tell you what size to wear. Purchase skates if you plan to skate regularly.
What to Look for in a Skate
Remember to look for a skate that fits and endures well. A skate should be strong enough to safely and confidently hold the ankles upright. Improperly fitting skates are a source of foot and ankle injuries. Spend time trying on skates in all price ranges. Wear thin socks. Thick socks allow too much foot movement in the skate. The foot should not slip around, nor should the toes be pinched. The heel should fit comfortably and not be tight. Having found the perfect pair, make sure to buy a pair of blade guards that fit snuggly on the blades. Blade guards must be put on the blades when wearing the skates off the ice.
Breaking in New Skates
Wear new skates around the house with the blade protectors on. The object is to get your feet to sweat so the leather will warm up and mold to your foot. Breaking in skates takes time and patience. Chance of injury is reduced with skates that fit well.
If skates fit well, blisters are less likely to form. But, if friction-related skin irritation does occur, ask a pharmacist for moleskin. Moleskin is a sheet of flannel that is sticky on one side. Cut a doughnut pattern larger than the area of irritation. Place it directly over the irritated area. Moleskin will protect the skin while it heals. Replace it as necessary.
What to Wear
Whether you are skating in an indoor rink or outside on the ice, make sure your clothing is lightweight, allows free movement and is comfortably warm. Cotton, worn next to the skin, allows the skin to breathe. Perspiration occurs even in cold weather. Cotton allows for evaporation and keeps the body from overheating.
Layer outerwear so it can be removed when you become too warm. Wear clothing that allows freedom of movement and provides warmth on your lower body.
Jeans are not the best item of clothing to wear as they get cold and stiff, and restrict movement when they get damp or wet. Lycra running pants or sweat pants work well. Fleece is also a good choice for vests, jackets and pants. The object is to keep legs and leg muscles warm but also allow heat to disperse.
Light gloves or mittens should be worn to keep your hands warm and to keep them from getting wet and cold.
Potential for Injury
Pants tucked into the top of skates can cut off circulation when skates are laced too tight to accommodate the added bulk.
Scarves can fall off and get caught under skate blades causing the skater or others to fall.
Laces tied around the ankle can come undone and get caught under blades, causing a fall.
Laces tied too tight can cut off circulation to the foot and can cause “skate bite” (an inflammation of the sheath that covers the extensor tendons of the foot, which results in pain and swelling).
Muscles should be stretched after they have been warmed up. Warm muscles are less likely to be injured when stretching.
Beginning skaters should warm up before stretching with an activity that creates a feeling of warmth, such as walking briskly.
For seasoned skaters, a few times around the rink should provide an adequate warm-up.
When you are warm, stretch the muscles out, paying particular attention to the quadriceps, hamstrings and groin muscles. Stretching should be done before and directly after skating.