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Hockey Skates vs Figure Skates: What’s the Difference

Hockey skates vs figure skates. What’s the difference, and why choose one over the other?

The biggest distinction between the two sets of skates is fairly obvious–hockey skates are used for playing ice hockey, and figure skates for figure skating. Beyond the obvious, though, each skate has its own nuances and fun features for you to discover!

Hockey skates are built with a laser focus on speed, maneuverability, and explosiveness. Figure skates are constructed with grace, precision, and artistry in mind.

Read on to learn about the main differences between hockey skates and figure skates, and decide which may be the best for you and your skating goals!

hockey skates vs figure skates

Hockey Skates vs Figure Skates: What Makes Them Different?

Would you consider a hiking boot and a ballet slipper the same thing? Both are footwear, but vastly different. The same goes for hockey skates vs figure skates!

Skate Blades

Hockey skates feature flatter blades–sometimes referred to as runners–that are designed for explosive strides and continued agility. They help you accelerate quickly and maintain high speeds as you travel down the ice.

Figure skates, on the other hand, have longer blades to improve stability. This long, curved blade improves control and precision during intricate jumps and footwork.

The most distinguishable difference between the two skates is the toe pick on the very front of the figure skate’s blade. The toe pick has a saw-like shape and is positioned on the very front of the blade to help figure skaters dig into the ice while executing tricks and jumps. It is an unmistakable and unique feature of figure skates!

Boot Construction

Hockey skates have rigid boots to help wearers transfer power from their stride into speed on the ice. The boot also has a lightweight yet hard outer shell to protect the foot.

Figure skate boots go higher up than a hockey skate, rising above the ankle onto the front of the calf. This higher boot allows for more ankle support during precise movements and improves stability when landing jumps.

Skate Lacing

Since figure skates have higher boots, their laces are longer than those on hockey skates.

In contrast, hockey players tend to put more strain on their laces due to the demand of the sport, so you’ll notice that the laces on hockey skates are, generally, much thicker than figure skate laces.

Hockey skate laces also can come waxed or unwaxed. Many hockey players prefer waxed laces to provide more grip when tying up their skates. Figure skate laces, on the other hand, come unwaxed.

Safety and Protection

Both hockey and figure skates have key safety features to help protect the wearer from typical injuries that could be sustained while engaging in their respective sports.

Hockey skates are reinforced with paddling on the interior with a hard exterior shell to minimize foot and ankle injuries from stray pucks, sticks, and other skates.

Figure skates lace higher up the calf to provide more support and stability when doing tricks and intricate movements, which in turn prevents ankle sprains and strains.

Hockey Skate Advantages and Disadvantages

Now that you’ve got a good handle on the main differences between hockey skate and figure skate builds, time to go over the pros and cons of each!

Hockey Skate Pros

In general, hockey skates are built for speed and power. The advantages of choosing a hockey skate include the following:

  • Enhanced maneuverability and explosiveness when moving and accelerating on the ice.
  • A durable and protective skate design to reduce injury.
  • An optimized skating experience for speed, power, and agility.

Hockey Skate Cons

The disadvantages of choosing to skate in hockey skates are:

  • Less ankle support for intricate footwork.
  • The skates are unsuitable for jumps or tricks.
hockey skates vs figure skates

Figure Skate Advantages and Disadvantages

Let’s jump into the pros and cons of figure skates!

Figure Skate Pros

Figure skates provide better ankle support and are superior for intricate footwork. The pros of choosing a figure skate for your ice rink needs are:

  • High boot support for ankle protection during jumps and tricks.
  • Optimized ankle stability for precise on-ice footwork.
  • A skate designed for fluid and artistic movement.

Figure Skate Cons

The disadvantages of skating with figure skates include the following:

  • Less speed, explosiveness, and maneuverability than hockey skates.
  • Minimal ability to withstand physical impact from other objects or people.
  • Some new figure skate users stumble on the toe pick.

Skating Surfaces

Before committing to buying a pair of figure skates or hockey skates, one last thing to consider is where you’ll be using them! Different skating surfaces are sometimes better suited to one kind of skate over another.

Here are some skate recommendations depending on where you may be hitting the ice:

  • If you’re skating on well-maintained ice: You can use hockey or figure skates. Both kinds of skates can be worn without issue on well-groomed ice rinks.
  • If you are skating on poorly maintained ice: Again, both could work. However, some recreational skaters find issues with the toe pick of the figure skate on rough surfaces. If you are an inexperienced skater, to avoid tripping, you may want to use a hockey skate or practice with a figure skate on a well-maintained surface beforehand.
  • If you will be skating on natural ice (e.g., ponds, lakes, etc.): Many recreational skaters find the toepick to be a tripping hazard on the crevasses, ridges, and holes that can be found on natural ice. To avoid tripping, you may want to use a hockey skate or practice with a figure skate on a well-maintained surface beforehand.
  • If you will be skating on synthetic ice: Hockey skates and figure skates are equally great for synthetic ice! If skating year-round on a rink that can be set up anywhere appeals to you, definitely use our discount code “lifeinminnesota” for a 15% discount on PolyGlide’s synthetic ice to set up your at-home synthetic rink!

Hockey Skates vs Figure Skates: Which Skate Is For You?

You know the differences. You’re familiar with the pros and cons. Now it’s time to choose the right recreational skate for you! If you’re new to skating, consider your long-term goals first.

Are you looking to go into a particular sport? Or are you hoping just to skate around your local rink with friends once or twice a year? If you’re looking to do the latter, either skate could work! But if you’re going into a sport, choose the skate most appropriate for that activity.

If you’re a more experienced skater–or a new skater still deciding on which route to choose–consider a few different factors when deciding which skate is best for you:

  • Skating style: Hockey skates are suitable for quick and agile movements, whereas figure skates are designed for precise footwork. If you’re interested in speed, hockey skates are the way to go. But if precision and tricks are your goals, try out some figure skates!
  • Ankle support: Figure skates provide more ankle support than hockey skates. If you need that added support to feel more secure on the ice, definitely choose figure skates!
  • Foot protection: Hockey skates provide more foot protection than figure skates, so if pucks, sticks, or flying objects are involved in your recreational skating, hockey skates should be your go-to!
  • Comfort: If you have the opportunity, spend time testing out both kinds of skates! Skate around in each and decide which feels more comfortable and natural to you.

Ultimately, the choice of hockey skates vs figure skates comes down to your personal preference and goals. If you’re unsure, try renting a pair at your local rink and try which set works best for you!

And if you ever find yourself between skates – don’t miss a step with online hockey training course.

hockey skates vs figure skates

Step On The Ice In A Great Skate, No Matter Which You Choose!

Hockey skates and figure skates both cater to different needs. If speed and maneuverability are your things, the hockey skate is for you. But if precision and elegance are your priority, don’t look any further than the figure skate.

Whichever skate you choose, you can’t go wrong when you hit that fresh ice for the first time!

If you enjoyed this article about the differences between hockey skates and figure skates, you definitely won’t want to miss our list of the best hockey skates for 2023.