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I recently replaced a pair of very old, used figure skates with some inexpensive Bauer hockey skates because I heard those were better and I had the opportunity to go out on a skating "ribbon" while visiting friends.

I can normally skate on a rink in a slightly wobbly way but without falling unless a child falls in front of me or something. In the new skates, I got out on the ice and instantly felt much less in control. I only fell a few times on the more difficult "ribbon" but the afternoon ended for me with a hard wipeout onto my knees and wrist--I'm not even sure how it happened.

Skating lessons may not be practical for me where I live now and I'm trying to sort out what is different about the new skates. They don't cinch tight over the toes so I think I have less awareness of how the blade is oriented in line with my foot. Without the toe pick, I think the blade starts further back on my foot so that my wipeout may have been caused by my bringing my foot down too perpendicularly and tripping myself. Also, I think these skates may be much, much better sharpened than my old clunkers, since we got them at a real hockey shop.

My knees are still smarting and purple a week later and I don't want to start chickening out so I'd appreciate any advice on what to be aware of or look for next time I'm out.

  • I really do know how bad your knees must be from the same experience. Get knee pads. A good sporting goods store or a skating boarding store will have some. If you don't want anyone to know you are wearing them they can be worn under sweat pants. Consider wrist guards too. Broken bones are waaay less cool as an adult than as a kid. – Val Feb 6 '15 at 14:57
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It's not surprising at all, and actually completely normal, that you had trouble with your transition from one skate to another. Here's why:

Figure skates and hockey skates are completely different styles of skates. Figure skate boots can have a higher heel which would put your foot at more of an incline than a hockey skate. Figure skate blades tend to be a little flatter than hockey skate blades. And of course there's that toe pick. Kids who start out on figure skates, then transition to hockey skates, can find it a little difficult at first, especially if they relied on the toe pick for balance, stopping, and acceleration. And vice versa, kids who start out on hockey skates, then transition to figure skates, can find themselves tripping over the toe pick.

You also mentioned your new skates were sharper. This could effect your ability to stop if you are used to having dull skates.

All it will take is time on the ice to get used to your new skates. Even going from an old figure skate to a new figure skate, or an old hockey skate to a new hockey skate, even if they are the same brand and model of boot takes a little time. Leather is stiffer on the new skate, the new boot hasn't conformed to the shape of your foot, and blades are at their original manufactured height as opposed to thinner due to being sharpened hundreds of times.

So just get out on the ice at a local rink regularly and you'll be used to your new skates in no time.

Also, if you want to speed the break in process a little for your new skates, you can try "baking" your skates (How do I bake my Bauer skates?). This may help soften the leather a little and help the skate conform to the shape of your foot.

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I've played hockey my entire life, but can't speak with much experience about figure skating. Although, I do know the two are quite a bit different. Figure skates are designed for swift and seamless movement, while hockey skates are more rigid and designed to take more of a "beating". These fundamental differences result in changes to all aspects of the skate, from the material used for the liner, to the shape of the blade. It makes sense that you'd have trouble switching from one to the other, but with more experience, I'm sure you'll find you can skate in either.

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