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Author Topic: The effect of blade length on skating  (Read 311 times)

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Offline theiceprincess

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The effect of blade length on skating
« on: April 01, 2017, 06:34:30 AM »
What is the effect of blade length on the skater? (i.e. blade length meaning the side of the blade that touches the ice when skating)

I guess what I'd like to know is what could happen if a skater had a blade too long for his/her boot, and what might happen if the blade was too short?

Offline AgnesNitt

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Re: The effect of blade length
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2017, 07:06:22 AM »
As I understand it the rocker needs to be under the front of the foot, just under the ball, although it can be moved slightly forward of the ball or just behind. If the blade is too short, then that shortness is measured back from the ball of the foot. I suppose you'd have a tendency to roll off the heel. But a quarter inch too long / too short may not make a difference depending on your skill or level.

I don't think the toe pick end of the skate makes too much difference if the blades are close to the same size..although if you compare a kids blade to a grown man's blade it will.

I always just order a 9 1/4 because that fits my foot, and put it where my tech tells me under the ball of the foot. I've moved the blade sidewise a couple of times before I ended up with the layout I've got now.

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Offline LunarSkater

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Re: The effect of blade length
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2017, 12:36:22 PM »
I'm actually in blades that are a size up from what my boot should have; I didn't want to get rid of them when I bought new boots because they still had a decent amount of life left. I don't really notice it because I've been with these blades for over two years and have a good mount. I suppose the off length could account for my difficulties finding the sweet spot on my spins, but technique is the much bigger issue in that case.

I know I'm going down a size to fit my boot when I replace these blades and I think that might be a bit more of an adjustment. They really are the only blades I've had (aside from six months in a beginner boot-blade combo). So although I'm in the 'wrong' size, it's all I've ever really known and it hasn't seemed to affect my skating.

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Re: The effect of blade length on skating
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2017, 06:02:18 PM »
First, I am not an expert. To some extent what I say comes from others, and to some extent it is the result of making mistakes. :(

Figure skating blades are actually measured from the back of the back mounting plate to the front of the front mounting plate, not by the full length.

Blade length and placement are complicated. In brief:

1. If the back of the tail is too far back, you keep accidentally stepping on it with the other skate, and trip. In addition, it is impossible to have the "neat feet" (which means close together) that figure skating judges tend to expect.
2. If the back of the tail is too far forwards, the corner at the back drags, and slows you down. In addition, you may tend to fall backwards. In addition, the amount you can roll from back to front without scraping the back or touching the toe pick, strongly affects how much speed and power you can generate. More length = more speed.
3. Jump landings could be awkward if the back of the tail is much too far off, in either direction.
4. The effect of the back of the tail can be affected by the forwards/backwards shim of the blade mount, because that affects how easy it is to reach the ends. E.g., if the blade mount includes extra stuff between the rear mounting plate and the heel, that will pull the tail more off the ice, but drive the toe pick closer to the ice. And vice-versa.
5. AgnesNitt has it right, IMO, on what she calls the rocker, and I call the sweet spot, which is where the longitudinal curvature (also called "rocker") changes, and represents a place where it is easy to turn and spin. It also represents a place along the blade that you can feel, which helps with subtle control issues. Though, I don't much like having the sweet spot in the least behind the ball - I feel like I over-balance it, and tend to roll all the way to the toe pick without meaning to. Right on, or a mm or two ahead is what I like - but this may be individual preference to some extent.
6. If the toe pick is too far back, and/or the back tooth is too long for your skill and experience, you tend to jam it into the ice, and maybe even trip, when you don't want to. At first, the toe pick will be nothing but a nuisance most of the time. As you become better, at least if you jump, you will want blade designs that bring the toe pick a little further back and a little closer to the ice, though preferences vary a lot.
7. If the toe pick is too far forwards, and/or the back tooth is too short, it is hard to roll to it, which you need to do for jump takeoffs and landings.
8. Some people, by the way, also use the toe pick during some turns and spins, especially at the start of scratch spins. So, you may want it to be easier or harder to reach the toe pick for those things too; as with other things, a farther back toe pick, and/or a longer back tooth, are easier to reach.
9. The effect of the toe pick can, like the tail, be affected by the forward/backward shim of the blade mount.
10. There is also side to side position. A little offset from center may help you balance, though it can also be handled by modifying insole shape.
11. There is a rotational alignment - you want it to be easy to skate forwards, so if you offset the back to one side more than the front, or vice-versa, you won't tend to skate in the right direction.
12. And there is a vertical alignment - when your leg is vertical, you probably want the blade to be vertical too, else you will have trouble getting good edges, and tend to skid. Side-to-side shimming can fix this.
13. The blade should be mounted in such a way that mounting does not twist or warp the blade in any way. The blade should be straight, not warped or twisted.

I'm sure an expert can add other things to that list.

Do you have a specific reason for asking?

Offline theiceprincess

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Re: The effect of blade length on skating
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2017, 09:58:31 PM »
Do you have a specific reason for asking?

I just wanted to follow up on a post I made earlier about matching blades to my boot sole length. My boot fits between two blade sizes and I went with the smaller of the two blade sizes (it left a little less than 1/4" gap at the heel). Just got me thinking if a quarter of an inch more blade (had I got the longer of the two suggested lengths) would have much of an effect on my skating that's all!

Offline Ethereal Ice

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Re: The effect of blade length on skating
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2017, 01:17:51 AM »
I just wanted to follow up on a post I made earlier about matching blades to my boot sole length. My boot fits between two blade sizes and I went with the smaller of the two blade sizes (it left a little less than 1/4" gap at the heel). Just got me thinking if a quarter of an inch more blade (had I got the longer of the two suggested lengths) would have much of an effect on my skating that's all!

I am assuming these are not dance blades,  and under that assumption,  keep in mind that with the back of the blade you can take quite a bit off and still be stable. I have friends that jump in dance blades,  they say with no problems.  When I switched to dance blades I would say I was missing a good inch in the back that I had with my previous blades. TBH, I never noticed a difference regarding the length, but I do not jump.

The front of the blade and toepick placement may be more tricky, but I don't think half a size down or up would be noticed too much.  I noticed with my new blades the toepick is set higher up,  I think that height placement and severity of it would be more noticeable issues than it being a bit shorter than it was previously for you.  I don't think you should have any issues, and I would have done the same given the same scenario, sized down.

Offline theiceprincess

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Re: The effect of blade length on skating
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2017, 01:32:01 AM »
I am assuming these are not dance blades,  and under that assumption,  keep in mind that with the back of the blade you can take quite a bit off and still be stable. I have friends that jump in dance blades,  they say with no problems.  When I switched to dance blades I would say I was missing a good inch in the back that I had with my previous blades. TBH, I never noticed a difference regarding the length, but I do not jump.

The front of the blade and toepick placement may be more tricky, but I don't think half a size down or up would be noticed too much.  I noticed with my new blades the toepick is set higher up,  I think that height placement and severity of it would be more noticeable issues than it being a bit shorter than it was previously for you.  I don't think you should have any issues, and I would have done the same given the same scenario, sized down.

Thanks so much! And yes you were correct in that these are freestyle blades. Makes me feel much more reassured! :)

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Re: The effect of blade length on skating
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2017, 07:04:07 PM »
1/4" isn't all that much. But if you get the bigger size, and you decide it is too long - i.e., with the sweet spot and toe pick set right, you accidentally trip over the backs of your blades, because you accidentally place one blade on top of the tail of the other, or because when you land, you need to flex your ankle ever so slightly more to land on the tail rather than somewhere on the blade, if you care - you could have the pro shop grind off 1/4" from the back of the tail. In principle that isn't quite right, because the tail won't be quite as far off the ice as it would be on a shorter blade - but the difference is small. If that makes you drag, you could always slightly round off the corner of the ground off tail. But be careful - most sharpeners think Hockey (because that is what most pro shops sharpen most of the time), and a "rounded off" back means a LOT rounded off to them - to the extent that there is no real tail, and the blade would be ruined. Better to make incremental small changes than big changes at once, for safety.

But, you might say, if you get a slightly long blade, the distance between the sweet spot and the toe pick will be larger too. But as far as I can tell, and I might be wrong, that isn't true - the front of any given model is identical regardless of the length of the blade (at least for MK and Wilson blades), which means that any given model blade performs a lot differently depending on your foot size, something I'm not sure all coaches understand. (I.E., I think it might make sense for the entire blade to be scaled according to length, but I think it isn't. I think that all that is scaled is how far forward the sweet spot and toe pick are, and how far back the tail reaches.)

You might even decide you want a longer tail - because you will go faster.


Offline Christy

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Re: The effect of blade length on skating
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2017, 07:24:34 PM »
I've always been told that you should go for the longest blade possible, and try to have the blade fixed as close as possible to the extremities of the sole / heel, because it gave you more stability but not sure if that's actually the case.

Offline FigureSpins

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Re: The effect of blade length on skating
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2017, 08:34:18 PM »
End-to-end is useful for growth (so you can move the blade) or for run outs/stability on jump landings.  When I changed blades a few years ago (longer blade, same make/model) on an existing pair of boots, I didn't notice the extra 1/4" but YMMV.  Neither is considered too long or short, so Goldilocks need not worry about it unless she's doing doubles and triples.  (I'm not referring to anyone reading this thread; I've been using the fictional Goldilocks to describe picky people for the last two weeks.)

SKATE SETS that are too long (which by necessity have too-long blades) put the skater at risk for tripping over the toepicks.  They also make turns, spins and jump takeoffs more difficult because the toepicks are too far forward and the rocker is under the toes, not under the ball of the foot.

SKATE SETS that are too short are frustrating: the rocker is further back, but it's not unmanageable like the too-long boot issue.  It's more that your toes slam into the front of your boot when you toe-in for jumps, so your toes get sore.  Plus, your feet get cold because your blood can't circulate as easily.

BOOTS that are too narrow make your feet ache like h-e-double-hockey-sticks.  They can cause bunions and toenail issues as well as numbness and circulation issues.

Mis-aligned blades make everything more difficult, especially skills that require balance (jump landings, turns, spins) and can cause pain/tendonitis in ankles and knees.
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Offline Christy

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Re: The effect of blade length on skating
« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2017, 09:43:06 PM »
Thanks for clarifying  :)
So it's the position of the rocker / sweet spot and toe pick that really matters, and if the blade isn't attached right at the back of the heel that isn't a problem?
That would mean I could take a blade off a pair of shorter boots and use them on the next size up  :D

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Re: The effect of blade length on skating
« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2017, 07:33:03 AM »
If the blades fit the larger boots, either end-to-end or with a 1/4" gap, it's fine to move them but there's more that goes into that decision.

In growing skaters, they might jump two boot sizes, especially if they change boot brands or models.
If the boots were too big to begin with, the next boots might actually be smaller or the same.
In many cases, by the time an adolescent or adult needs new boots, they might be skating at a level that merits a higher-level blade model.


If you're thinking about having the heel blade plate hang over the back end of the boot heel, don't even consider it an option.  Common sense and experience says that mountings have to be secure and the screws set in place solidly.  Frugality will result in an injury or set back when the screws come loose.  If you've bought a pair of too-big skates on speculation that you'll be able to reuse the blades, just resell them to someone who can use them properly.
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Re: The effect of blade length on skating
« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2017, 12:09:20 PM »
The back matters too. I did once move a used pair that was 1/2" shorter than I was used to, and did have a problem - the back corner of the blades dragged and slowed me down, more than doubling the drag, and the effect was extremely noticeable. I gave up on those blades, even though I could get them free.

However, I didn't try shimming. If I had shimmed to bring the tail up a little (further from the ice) to reduce tail drag, that would have brought the toe pick down a little, making it a little harder to avoid the toe pick. So if you are willing to shim - I assume you are doing this yourself and don't value your time so much that it troubles you to spend a few minutes doing so, since you are having this extended discussion - it might depend on whether you think there is enough space between your toe pick and the ice that you won't start dragging the toe pick instead. (If it is a beginner level blade, there is probably a lot of space between the ice and the toe pick. This might be a good thing... :) )

On fairly used blades, the rest of the skate has probably lost some of its metal by sharpening and wear, which brings the toe pick closer to the ice even without that shim. If it is too much, you could ask the pro shop to trim the back tooth of the toe picks a little - or do it yourself if you are very, very careful - but on a fairly worn blade, it wouldn't be worth it, unless you just want to play with this for fun. I think playing around with equipment is fun, but if you don't, or have to pay a pro shop, it might not be worth it, especially if it is a noticeable problem.

OTOH, if it won't cost you extra to move the old blades, and you don't mind the extra time, maybe it would be worth trying to move them, to save the cost of new blades. It's all your choice.

Incidentally, you said the front of the boot just touches one of your toes, right?. I think that isn't great. If your foot slips forward just a little, or if you grow (Are your feet still growing?) or maybe even gain weight (let alone get pregnant - many ladies need new boots if they do), your toes could jam hard against the front of the boot, especially while jumping, which could be both painful and bad for your foot. Figure skating isn't ballet - most people think toes should have space. Also, you probably don't want to add stuff onto your insole, because that would push your foot up into less space. But that has nothing to do with blade length. If it does become a problem, you could sand or trim the bottom of the insole, or cut a new thinner one, or try to stretch the toe box forward - but that is a topic for another day.


Offline Christy

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Re: The effect of blade length on skating
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2017, 03:14:34 PM »
If you're thinking about having the heel blade plate hang over the back end of the boot heel, don't even consider it an option.  Common sense and experience says that mountings have to be secure and the screws set in place solidly.  Frugality will result in an injury or set back when the screws come loose.  If you've bought a pair of too-big skates on speculation that you'll be able to reuse the blades, just resell them to someone who can use them properly.

Definitely not thinking about that. I have a pair of boots which are slightly too big so I got a pair that are possibly slightly too small and I cannot get used to. The blades on the slightly too small pair are barely used and only 1/4" shorter. When the time comes to replace the slightly too big boots because they have broken down I will probably go for the same size but was hoping I could use the blades from the slightly too small pair instead of having to buy both. (hope that makes sense)

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Re: The effect of blade length on skating
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2017, 03:20:40 PM »
Definitely not thinking about that. I have a pair of boots which are slightly too big so I got a pair that are possibly slightly too small and I cannot get used to. The blades on the slightly too small pair are barely used and only 1/4" shorter. When the time comes to replace the slightly too big boots because they have broken down I will probably go for the same size but was hoping I could use the blades from the slightly too small pair instead of having to buy both. (hope that makes sense)

Hopefully they will be "Just Right"  ;)