Ice skating is a popular sport these days. But it is by no means a new past time. The oldest ice skates ever found are said to be over 5,000 years old and they were made from the leg bones of either a horse or ox. They were secured to the feet with leather straps and a metal spike was used to propel the skater forward. Of course, these ice skates were used mainly for ease of transport across ice and less for entertainment although we can never be completely sure!
Scandinavia and Finland are the obviously places for the first ice skates to be made given their vast amounts of ice. Some of the examples of the skates that have been uncovered in these regions and consisted of a thin strip of copper attached to the underside of a leather shoe. So, what else can you do to an ice skate? Apart from slight adaptations for comfort and durability, the ice skate has barely changed much over the last 5,000 years.
The Long Reach skate was the most widely used ice skate for many years and this was developed in new Brunswick, Canada by James A Whelpley in 1859. This was developed for long distance skating on the lakes and the family owned business of manufacturing ice skates in this area for another seven years before they moved to New Hampshire.
Today’s modern ice skate has changed little although there are now slightly different designs depending on what the user wants them for. Although the bottom of an ice skate is often seen as a blade it no longer resembles a knife blade. It actually has a crescent shaped hollow along the surface so that you actually skate on two parallel edges. The depth of this hollow will vary between a quarter and one inch, depending on the type of skate and the purpose it is used for.
For a professional figure skater, this hollow will be deliberately carved to suit the skater’s style and weight. Speed skates and touring skates have a completely flat bottom with no hollow to aid speed without cutting into the ice.
Figure skates are the most popular recreational ice skates. Moulded from stiff leather for ankle support and with toe picks for easier manoeuvring, these are the type you will normally be hiring if you attend an ice rink for fun.
Hockey skates are much more lethal looking ice skates. Moulded from plastic, leather and ballistic nylon they have better manoeuverability and thinner, faster blades than a recreational ice skate. The ice hockey goalies skate are cut lower and the blade is set slightly different with a protective shell which provides more protection.
Bandy ice skates are quite different. Used for playing rink bandy, they come with a much lower cut boot which barely covers the ankles and a longer blade. Racing skates, or speed skates have extra long blades and the shoe is connected to the blade via a hinge. They also have higher blades to allow for better turning and to prevent the boot coming into contact with the ice.
So, whether its recreational skating, figure skating, speed skating, rink bandy or ice hockey that you want to get involved in, finding the correct type of ice skate will make the game a whole lot easier and a whole lot more comfortable.