Hockey Skates vs. Figure Skates – What is the Difference?

The world of ice skating is vast and diverse, and for many, the nuanced differences between the types of skates might seem insignificant. However, these differences define the art and sport itself.

If you’ve ever wondered what separates hockey skates from figure skates, you’ve come to the right place. Today we’ll talk about the distinctions between the two, shedding light on their unique designs, purposes, and histories.

Design and Structure

Hockey and figure skates, at a cursory glance, might appear quite similar. Yet, the design and structure differences are vast, each optimized for its specific purpose.

Aspect Hockey Skates Figure Skates
Boot Construction – Combination of leather and synthetics – Lower cut (below the ankle) – Emphasis on speed, agility, and protection – Thick leather – High-cut (above the ankle) – Emphasis on precision and artistry
Blade Design – Short, curved blades – Curvature for quick turns and sprints – Thick and robust blades – Longer, flatter blades – Toe picks for jumps and specific moves – Stability for jumps and spins

Intended Use and Performance

The differences in design are not arbitrary; they stem from the contrasting demands of hockey and figure skating as sports and arts.

Speed vs. Artistry

The core essence of the two types of skating governs the skates’ design.

Hockey Skates

Hockey is a fast-paced game, with players darting across the ice at incredible speeds. The skates are thus optimized for speed, agility, and protection. The streamlined design, combined with the curved blade, allows for rapid acceleration and quick turns.

Figure Skates

Figure skating is about elegance, artistry, and technical prowess. The skates are tailored to provide stability during challenging routines, spins, and jumps. The toe pick, unique to figure skates, allows skaters to launch themselves into the air and maintain balance during spins.

Durability and Protection

Protection is paramount in any sport, but the nature of the risks varies between hockey and figure skating. Given hockey’s aggressive nature, the skates are built to withstand impact, from pucks, sticks, and other skates.

They come with thick padding and reinforced materials, especially around the ankle and toe areas. While figure skaters do not face the risk of pucks or sticks, they do need protection during falls, especially after jumps.

Their skates, while prioritizing flexibility and movement, also incorporate cushioning to minimize injury upon impact.

Personalization and Fitting

repair skates

Just as with any athletic equipment, the fit and personalization of the skate can significantly affect performance. Both hockey and figure skates offer opportunities for customization.

Custom Fitting Process

The importance of a perfectly fitting skate cannot be overstated. An ill-fitting skate can hinder performance and lead to injuries.

Hockey Skates: Hockey players often opt for custom-fitted skates. These are molded to the player’s foot, ensuring maximum comfort and optimal performance.

The fit is snug, with minimal movement inside the boot, ensuring rapid energy transfer from foot to blade.

Figure Skates: A figure skater’s relationship with their skates is intimate. Given the demands of their routines, a perfectly fitting boot is essential. Many figure skaters have their boots custom-made, with some even having unique adjustments to the blade’s positioning to suit their style.

Maintenance and Care

The lifespan of a skate can be extended with proper care, and each type of skate has its maintenance regimen.

Maintenance Aspect Hockey Skates Figure Skates
Blade Sharpening Regular sharpening is essential for optimal performance. Frequent sharpening is required, but it’s a delicate process due to the blade design.
Drying Ensure skates are dried properly after each use to prevent moisture damage. Proper drying, both inside and out, is vital to avoid moisture damage.
Periodic Checks Check for wear and tear, especially on the protective padding. Use protective guards when walking off-ice to prevent blade dulling.

Price and Market Trends

Ice Skates Overpriced

The skating world, like any other, is governed by economic realities. The choice between hockey and figure skates can sometimes boil down to price points and market trends.

Price Determinants

Several factors come into play when determining the cost of skates, from brand reputation to the materials used.

Hockey Skates: These range from affordable to high-end. Basic models, suitable for casual or beginner players, are relatively inexpensive.

However, professional-grade skates, made with cutting-edge materials and technologies, can fetch a premium. Brand, materials, protective features, and even the blade’s quality can influence the price.

Skate Model Price
Bauer X-LP Youth Ice Hockey Skates $59.99
Bauer X-LS Senior Ice Hockey Skates $79.99
Bauer Vapor X3 Senior Ice Hockey Skates $299.99
Bauer Vapor X3.5 Intermediate Ice Hockey Skates $127.99
CCM Tacks AS-570 Senior Ice Hockey Skates $279.99
Bauer Supreme M3 Senior Ice Hockey Skates $279.99
Bauer X-LS Junior Ice Hockey Skates $54.99
Bauer Vapor 3X Junior Ice Hockey Skates $149.99
CCM Tacks AS-550 Senior Ice Hockey Skates $89.99
CCM Tacks AS-580 Senior Ice Hockey Skates $379.99

Figure Skates: The price spectrum for figure skates is similarly vast. Beginners can find reasonably priced options, but as one delves into competitive figure skating, the cost can rise significantly.

Customization, high-quality leather, and specialized blade designs add to the price.

Brand/Model Price Range
DBX Youth Traditional Ice Skate ’20 $49.99 (Originally $59.99)
DBX Women’s Traditional Ice Skate ’20 $69.99 (Originally $79.99)
Riedell Skates – Soar Adult Ice Skates Up to $25 to above $200
Various Ice Skates on Skates Guru Below $150 to over $150

Popular Brands and Trends

Brand loyalty and emerging trends can also dictate choices in the skating community. Brands like Bauer, CCM, and Warrior dominate the hockey skate market. These brands are continually innovating, introducing lighter and more durable materials, better protective features, and even smart technologies that analyze players’ performance.

In the figure skating world, brands such as RiedellJackson, and Edea have carved a niche. Trends here often revolve around aesthetic appeal, boot comfort, and blade innovations, catering to the evolving demands of figure skaters.

The Cultural Impact

Ice Skate in Skates from the 1930

Skating is not just a sport or hobby; it’s a cultural phenomenon. Both hockey and figure skating have deeply influenced art, entertainment, and societal norms.

In Media and Entertainment

Skating has glided its way into our movies, music, and more, influencing pop culture in subtle and overt ways. Hockey, particularly in countries like Canada and the US, has a significant cultural imprint.

Films like Miracle and The Mighty Ducks have immortalized hockey skates in popular culture. Even music genres, especially rock and hip-hop, occasionally reference the sport and its emblematic skates.

Figure skating, with its elegance and drama, has always been a media darling. Movies like Blades of Glory and I, Tonya offer glimpses into the world of figure skating. Television broadcasts of figure skating competitions, especially during the Olympics, draw millions of viewers worldwide.

Societal Perceptions and Stereotypes

Society often attaches certain perceptions and stereotypes to sports, and skating is no exception. Hockey, with its aggressive nature, often gets associated with masculinity and toughness.

The stereotypical hockey player, with their sturdy hockey skates, is seen as gritty and hard-hitting. On the other hand, figure skating, given its emphasis on grace and artistry, often finds itself at the crossroads of gender stereotypes.

The sport, especially men’s figure skating, has been a focal point of discussions on masculinity and art. The elegant design of figure skates often plays into these perceptions.

Health and Fitness Benefits

Skating is not just about competition or fun; it’s a fantastic way to stay fit. Both hockey and figure skating offer unique health benefits.

Cardiovascular and Strength Benefits

Skating is a full-body workout, engaging multiple muscle groups and the cardiovascular system. Hockey is an intense sport. Wearing skates and playing the game provides an excellent cardiovascular workout.

It also builds leg strength, and core stability, and improves overall stamina. Figure skating is both aerobic and anaerobic. The long routines provide a cardiovascular workout, while the jumps and spins require explosive strength.

Regular training can lead to improved flexibility, balance, and muscle tone.

Mental Health and Well-being

Beyond physical benefits, skating also contributes to mental wellness. Playing hockey involves teamwork, strategy, and quick decision-making. It not only enhances cognitive functions but also helps in stress reduction.

The camaraderie among players contributes to emotional well-being. Figure skating requires immense concentration and offers a unique form of artistic expression. It can be meditative and helps in building self-esteem.

The combination of music, movement, and the sheer joy of gliding can be therapeutic.


Can I use hockey skates for figure skating or vice versa?

While both are designed for ice, they serve very different purposes. Using hockey skates for figure skating would make it difficult to perform specific moves, especially those requiring toe picks.

Similarly, the agility and speed desired in hockey would be hard to achieve with figure skates due to their design and longer blades. It’s always best to use the skates designed for the specific activity.

How often should I sharpen my skates?

The frequency depends on usage. Competitive skaters might sharpen them after every session, while recreational skaters might do it every couple of weeks or even months.

Are there unisex skates, or are they gender-specific?

While many brands offer models labeled as men’s or women’s, the primary difference is often in size and fit. Some women might find a better fit with “men’s” models and vice versa. It’s essential to focus on comfort and fit rather than gender labels.

Can I use either skate for recreational ice skating during winter?

Yes, for casual skating, both will work. However, if you’re looking for agility and speed, hockey skates might be preferable. For more stability and control, especially if you’re trying basic spins or jumps, figure skates would be better.

How do I know when it’s time to replace my skates?

You’ll notice wear and tear, decreased support, discomfort while skating, or visible damage to the blade or boot. Regular inspection can help determine when it’s time for a replacement.

Is there a significant weight difference between hockey and figure skates?

Generally, hockey skates might feel a bit heavier due to the added protective features and padding. However, advancements in technology and materials have reduced this weight difference.

The type of materials, brand, and specific model can also influence the skate’s weight.


The differentiation in design between hockey and figure skates is not a mere accident of sports history; it’s a calculated response to the demands of two very distinct disciplines. One demands agility, speed, and the capacity to withstand the rigors of an aggressive sport.

The other is a balance of elegance, precision, and a constant dialogue with art and athleticism. The choice is yours. Either way, you’ll have a great time.