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What is the Difference Between Figure Skates and Hockey Skates?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 23, 2024
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Hockey skates and figure skates are interchangeable for only very basic, beginning moves such as learning to balance, stop and stroke on skates. Beyond that, these skates are designed very differently and are used for different purposes. Toe picks, blades and shape vary greatly between figure and hockey skates.

Figure skates are longer in shape than hockey skates of the same size. The skates are designed differently for different balances of weight. In figure skating, some moves need more weight placed on the heel while other moves need the weight balanced on the toe. Hockey skates are designed to fit the skater as comfortably as possible and are made for maximum speed.

The blades on figure skates differ greatly from the blades on hockey skates. These blades stick out more from the skate, which can be dangerous during checking in hockey and could cause injuries. The blade on a hockey skate is not only shorter, but narrower and more lightweight. Whereas most figure skate blades are mounted right onto the boot and replacement blades may often be added, hockey skate blades are usually soldered on and the blades are usually not replaceable.

It's important to note that the blades also vary within the different groups of figure and hockey skates. For example, the blades on goalie skates are designed for moving around in the goal area and are not made for speed strokes over a larger area like other hockey skates. Skates made for ice dancing feature safer, shorter blades. The curvature of the blade varies between the different kinds of figure skates and free style skates are completely different from dance skates.

Toe picks, or the notches at the tip of skate blades near the toe, are another crucial part of skate design. These are only found on figure skates, where they are used for jumps and spins. These complex toe picks skates makes them more difficult to master than basic hockey skates. It is possible to do some jumps in hockey skates, but the maximum lift and effect isn't usually possible without specialty blades. Free style figure skates have larger toe picks than regular skates because of the jumps performed in free style skating.

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Discussion Comments
By anon219773 — On Oct 04, 2011

Figure skates are designed for graceful controlled movement with a higher center of gravity (good posture, upright torso) and anticipated changes of direction. Hockey skates are designed for quick violent unpredictable changes in direction with a lower center of gravity. So figure skate blades have less rocker to "lock" you into your glide / edge. They have an extended tail end to allow you to stand up tall with a flat back and not fall over backward. And they have a toe pick to allow you to jump and land. All of the above make them far from ideal for hockey where agility and quick, violent unanticipated changes of direction are key. In a hockey environment, he's sure to fall on his face due to the toe picks. Hockey skates have no toe picks and no tail end. They are shaped just like the rocker on a rocking chair, so you can move very quickly in any direction. Aside from that, the other kids might make fun of him.

By write79 — On Feb 13, 2011

I've done both -- played hockey and been in figure skating. One time I tried using hockey skates on the ice for figure skating, and it's definitely not the same as having a good pair of figure skates. I didn't think it would make much of a difference, but I was wrong.

You should stick with skates that were made for the activity you are doing.

By geronimo8 — On Feb 11, 2011

My son has recently taken up playing hockey on a pond near our home. He has been asking for a pair of actual hockey skates, because he's been using an old pair of figure ice skates we had laying around the house.

We didn't know if this hockey thing would be a fleeting interest, or if he would stick with it, so we were hesitant to go out and buy a pair of hockey skates.

However, now that I know that figure skates can actually cause injuries when used for hockey, I think I'll go out and get the hockey skates. Even if his interest in hockey is short-lived, I want him to be as safe as possible while he is playing. Hockey can be dangerous enough without adding unnecessary risks.

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