(I apologize that a little of this duplicates what I put in other posts.)
At the suggestion of the boot technician I am studying from, I went to the Liberty Skate Competition in Aston, PA, to see people selling boots, yesterday.
Because it is the first regional competition of the season (I think), most boot makers sent major reps - often the master boot makers themselves, always people considered qualifed to fit their brand's boots.Lacing boots the Russian Way
The Edea boot rep, David Ripp, President of Skates US, Inc., Edea's sole U.S. disributer, showed me that I don't know how to tie my shoes!
His boots, and most of the other boots brought by company reps to the Liberty Competition were laced the Russian way, like this:
The bottom length of lace goes outside the boot, not inside. After coming inwards from the outside through the holes, the lace goes through the holes inwards, from outside to inside and towards the center line of the boot, initially underneath, so the nearby part of the lace above the hole is sandwiched between the sides of the boot and the tongue. That locks it in place.
Then each half of the lace crosses diagonally upwards and across to the outside of the next set of holes, and again goes through the holes, outside to inside and towards the center line of the boot. And again. And so on.
The advantage of locking like this is that you do not have to use your fingers to lock down the lace against the holes, as you pull each level. You can let go of the lace at each hole level, without it slipping. To tighten each level, you pull the laces outwards (sideways) before locking it by pulling it forwards and across.
In retrospect, this is obviously so much better than what I have done, which is the exact opposite, inside to outside.
He uses very wide nylon laces
, which hold the tension better than my cotton laces. He uses a brand that he says has a composition similar to parachute cord. Very wide is good - it spreads out the pressure on the fingers. If you use narrow nylon laces, you can put a lot of pressure on and maybe cut your fingers if you lace tight. It obviously also matters a lot that you keep the laces untwisted - twists effectively narrow the lace contact with your fingers.
With thin nylon laces, some people actually cut the skin on their fingers if they pull laces tight. I think it was the Harlick or GAM rep who told me that nylon laces are also harder on lace holes than cotton and cotton/nylon blend laces - but wide laces should fix that too. Honestly, I don't think it is common to damage holes too much - the GAM
rep, former owner and boot maker, showed off cut-open GAM and Jackson boots, and showed me that there is a plastic? reinforcement layer under the lace holes that prevents them from being damaged too easily. BTW, GAM boots have a lot different construction from Jackson - he says every company makes boots quite differently.
I think wide laces are also a good alternative to using lace pullers, if your fingers are too delicate to pull laces tight.
David Ripp didn't have any laces longer than 120 inches, or I would have bought the size I need - 144". Edea boots
are by far the lightest figure skating boots available. Carbon Fiber cloth / resin construction, like very lightweight canoes, kayaks, high end surfboards and skis, and ultra-light aircraft. (High tech composite material technologies mostly come from the ultra-light marine construction, then migrate to ultralight aerospace applications.) He didn't choose to say what resin is used. The soles are fiberglass/honeycomb, to be lighter and absorb impact. David says these soles also hold screws better than leather, but he uses a different style screw, with a flatter bottom.
David Ripp was constantly busy while I was there, perhaps because no one else in the U.S. sells Edea, AFAIK. Although Edea boots come in only one width (C width at front, B width at back), he says he can fit almost anyone by heating the boot. Edea doesn't make real custom boots, but he claims heat shaping makes Edea boots Instant Custom Boots.
I tried a couple of pairs of Edea boots. He says I am one of the few people who can't be fit well to Edea. I thought that the carbon fibers were lengthened or shortened by heating with a heat gun, but from what he said in Aston, what happens is more along the lines that the woven fabric bends - so to do the equivalent of punching out a spot, he has to heat and fold fabric away from somewhere else. The advantage of only selling one width is that he can take all the sizes with him to events of this kind, even men's sizes. But in my case, one size was too short for their to be enough fabric in the toe box to punch out my big and little toe, and the next size up was way too big. I guess that means Edea boots aren't that much more adaptable than heat mold-able leather boots. Plus, only a few people in the world know how to reshape them, whereas a fair number of boot technicians know how to stretch leather. Edea boots do have a thin layer of leather on the outside.
Edea boots are now about as expensive as most company's custom boots, though they were somewhat on sale at the competition.
Edea black boots are more dark gray than black. The GAM rep said it is harder to dye leather black than white, so maybe that is the reason. None of the other boot reps than Edea were constantly busy, so I could talk to them a fair bit.
I have been wrong when I said all boots but Edea are primarily leather. Harlick's
ultra-light boots only contain a thin layer of leather on the outside too. Though the Harlick rep preferred traditional leather boots, which are more durable and easier to shape. Several boot makers have changed available synthetic linings over the past few years - although Cambrille is now mostly out. There are some other synthetic elements in their boots too, though Don Klingbeil likes to boast that the only synthetic element in Klingbeil boots, unless you ask otherwise, are the foam padding he puts at the ankle bones. Heat moldable boots contain a lot of synthetic elements on the inside.
But only Edea uses ultra-lightweight high tech marine/aerospace materials like carbon fiber to make figure skates, so I still think figure skate technology is still only slightly beyond the dark ages.
Hockey boot makers understand modern composite construction much better.
Phil Kuhn, who owns Harlick
, said he prefers their traditional leather boots over the ultra-lights. He says they are much more durable and are easier to shape.
GAM only sells leather boots (excluding what stiffens and reinforces the leather), for the same reason. Though I still think the boot makers love leather because they have spent a large part of a lifetime becoming master leather Craftsman. They won't experiment with hockey-like lightweight construction unless they have to.
The Harlick rep says some high level freestyle skaters say they prefer heavy boots and blades. It's hard and tiring to do fast footwork in them, but the extra momentum helps those particular skaters do difficult jumps, because the weight of the boots and blades carries a lot of angular momentum that helps them spin faster when the feet are pulled close to the body, which helps high level jumps. Interesting. But I would prefer lighter boots.
I didn't get full fits - I just wanted to know which company reps felt their boots could fit me. Some had to do a partial fit to figure that out, and Harlick did a fairly complete preliminary fit. All of the custom boot makers except the Reidell rep said their custom boots can fit anyone perfectly! (But Mike Cunningham, of Skater's Paradise, repping Jackson and augmenting the other GAM rep, is also a retailer, and sells multiple brands, thinks each boot company fits people with various types of feet more perfectly than some others.) Reidell
's rep told me that Jackson boots work well for my shape of feet. He thinks he could stretch Reidell boots to work in his own shop, but not elsewhere. I know from experience that boots that are stretched a lot
don't stay stretched, and keep needing to be re-stretched, so I would hesitate to go with Reidells. Gam's rep agrees that Jackson boots work well for people with wide toes and thin heels, if you must stick with stock boots.Klingbeil
send the master boot maker, Don Klingbeil. They sent Victoria Zander. Maybe I'm being silly, but I would want to be fitted by the master if by anyone. Victoria says Klingbeil does not punch out the heel bones on boots before they ship them. But that people like me with bigger than average ankle bones should get double wide padding at the ankles - the person who fit my old boots didn't do that, a part of my problems with them, says Victoria.
Graf, Risport, SP Teri and WIFA didn't send a rep.
Some boot reps also showed off blades, but no one from the blade companies per se came.
I just talked about the Reidell Eclipse blades in http://skatingforums.com/index.php/topic,1165.msg18495.html#msg18495Paramount
and Ultima Matrix 2
blades are both are very light, stainless steel runners glued to aluminum chasis. Ultima Matrix 2 are a very slightly heavier, because they reinforce the glue with bolts.
I saw an Ultima Matrix "Light" blade, which has a lot of the metal cut away from the support, somewhat like the "Revolution" blades that MK/Wilson is touting but which no one brought. Heel height and ball bend
My old Klingbeil boots have, I think, heels that are too high to be comfortable. My coach showed me that when people bend their knees past a certain point, their rear ends stick out, which is bad form for ice dancers. She says high heels let you go down a little farther without sticking out, but as near as I can tell, that isn't true for me. I love to walk barefoot when I can, with no elevated heel.
Another role for high heels is that some people may jump or spin better with them.
Likewise, my old boots have a strong bend at the ball of the foot, so the toes curve upwards from the bend. I don't feel this is comfortable.
The Harlick rep said he had just given a high level (freestyle?) skater boots with a flat and level insole for the skater to stand on. So eliminating the elevated heel and the bend would have some precedent. Custom Boots
General agreement is that I would be best off in custom boots. I have somewhat wider toes than average, somewhat narrower heels and higher arch than average, but more importantly, according to the Harlick rep, wider and taller instep than most people.
One thing is extremely clear. The master bootmakers and people who they train, fit people to their boots very
differently, from one brand to the next. They modify tracings and measurements to create the custom last (actually, they mostly modify standard design lasts) This means that boot fitters must use fitting techniques appropriate to each brand of boot, if the boot has to be ordered.
For example, Harlick
mostly sizes the boot when you stand with all your weight on both boots at the same time - which I don't think is ideal because if one leg is longer than the other - true of most people - it will cause your feet to be tilted to one side. Of course, the foot tracing expands when you put your weight on one foot, so Harlick expands the traced and measured foot, especially around the toes. They do that even if you send a mold of your feet - no one in the figure skate industry can use a foot mold to make a custom last, unlike some in the rest of the custom footwear industry.
rep fits people sitting down, but again with both feet on the floor at once.
It is possible the certain boot fitter, whom I should not name, who misfit me for my old custom Klingbeil boots, tried to use the another boot company's fit techniques to fit Klingbeil boots. I have met many people who say they were strongly misfit by him for Klingbeil custom boots. At least 5 of those became the customers of one of the areas leading sports podiatrists, and 2 of them coached me at one time or another. (On the other hand, some of his custom Graf boot customers were reasonably happy, and he sharpened blades well.)
Perhaps that is why none of the local (Maryland, near DC) skate retailers are eager to deal with Klingbeil - they all say we should go the 240 miles or so each way to the Klingbeil factory in Jamaica, NY, if we want Klingbeils.
I pointed this issue out to the Klingbeil rep. If they want to sell more Klingbeil boots, they need to train someone here who they trust. (Someone recently pointed out that it may be cheapest way to Jamaica may be to take Amtrak to New York, then a local train to a stop 2 blocks from Klingbeil.)
Klingbeil custom boots are more expensive than they used to be - about $685 for typical men's boots, about $675 for typical lady's boots. They now charge extra for many of the deviations from the norm that used to be in the normal price, like notches and dance cut backs, and special materials. They are now probably slightly more expensive than Reidells, but not as expensive as Harlicks or S.P. Teris. Add in the cost of driving to Jamaica, NY, and they are fairly expensive.
Some custom Ice Dance boots are available with "rolled tops", meaning that the top of the boot is rolled in such a way that you can point the toes without having the boot dig hard into the Achilles tendon.