This article is written for parents whose children are taking their first steps in the figure skating world and for everyone else who is looking for tips on which figure skates they should get.
Here, you’ll find detailed information about the most popular figure skating boots and blades, how to choose the right size when buying ice skates and what are the best skates for toddlers, adult beginners, and competitive/professional figure skaters.
You probably already know how important it is to choose the right pair of skates for your individual size and needs. I would even say it’s critical because it can affect skating experience in a negative way or even worse, lead to an injury.
What are the best figure skate brands out there?
Edea is currently the most popular brand of figure skating boots among the top-level competitive skaters. They are used by many champions and medalists such as Yuzuru Hanyu, Evgenia Medvedeva, Alina Zagitova, Boyang Jin, Kaetlyn Osmond, and many others.
Edea is an Italian brand of ultra-lightweight boots that are 20-50% lighter than other manufacturers. They are made of fiberglass and nylon instead of leather which makes them lighter than any other skates out there.
I personally tried to skate in Edea’s but they didn’t fit me right because I have a really wide foot and Edea’s I tried (it was a standard C width) felt pretty narrow in the toes area. But I have a ton of friends who skate on Edea’s and they are in love with them. They are very comfortable and light to the point that when skating you don’t even feel like you have skates on.
- Jackson Ultima
Jackson Ultima is another popular brand of figure skating boots and blades.
Jackson is a Canadian brand, lately, they came up with a few upgrades to their boots to make them lighter.
I can’t give you my personal experience of skating in Jackson boots as I never had them but I do have Ultima blades which are awesome. Ultima blades are a great cheaper alternative to John Wilson blades.
Some of the top-level figure skaters that wear Jackson Ultima are Nathan Chen, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Evgeni Plushenko, Adam Rippon, Dmitry Aliev, Jason Brown, Michal Brezina, Nam Nguyen, Maria Sotskova.
Graf is a brand of figure and hockey skates from Switzerland. Up until a few years ago they also made Graf’s in Canada but at the moment all Graf figure skating boots are being made in Switzerland and their quality is exceptional.
I’ve had Graf Edmonton Special boots for over 10 years and for me they work the best out of all. I like my skates to be a little bit heavier with more support and it’s exactly how Graf’s are made. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I have a wider foot and Graf’s fit is just perfect for me.
Graf skates are not very popular in the US and mostly used by the European skaters: Javier Fernandez, Carolina Costner, Maxim Trankov, Phil Harris, Nicholas Buckland.
Risport is another Italian brand of figure skating boots. Risport’s were more popular back in the day, I had a few pairs of Risport’s when I was younger before I switched to Graf.
These days not many competitive skaters use Risport’s – I feel like they more of a cheaper option for the beginners and intermediate level skaters.
Riedell is an American made figure skating boots. They are mostly used by the American skaters and not as popular as Edea, Jackson or Graf.
I have experience of skating in Riedell’s for a few months. I bought a pair of Riedell Fusion boots just to compare them to my Edmonton Special Graf. Well, the skates itself were really nicely made and I liked how comfortable they were on my feet. But in the end, I never felt comfortable skating in them, every time I put them one they felt like a brand new pair of skates. I definitely noticed the balance on Riedell’s was very different from Graf and it was a struggle for me to adjust and perform certain spins and jumps.
- Harlick, Avanta, SP-Teri
These three are American skating boot companies that mostly focus on custom orders. They are not as big and popular as the brands I mentioned earlier. Custom skates are significantly more expensive in comparison to regular models.
- John Wilson & MK Blades
These are 2 British brands of the most popular figure skating blades. They owned by the same company HD Sports which produces John Wilson and MK blades in Sheffield, England.
John Wilson and MK Blades are used by most famous ice skaters – they skate in iconic “Gold Seal”, “Pattern 99”, “Gold Star” and “Phantom” blades.
What size figure skates to get?
The worst thing you can do is to buy the same size skates as your normal shoes because the sizing doesn’t match. Typically, shoes are a little bit longer than skating boots because they need more flexibility.
That’s why the first thing you need to do is to measure the length of the foot. It’s something that they offer at any skating shop but it can also be easily done on your own at home.
To measure your feet for ice skates at home, you will need a measuring tape, a pen and a clean sheet of paper. It will have to be done on a hard surface while wearing socks which will be used for skating.
Step 1. Place the paper against the wall.
Step 2. Put your foot on the paper with the heel against the wall.
Step 3. On the paper, mark a straight line at the end of the big toe.
Step 4. Do the same thing with the other foot.
Step 5. With the measurer tape, measure the length from the end where your heel was to the mark you made. Now that you have measurements of both feet, you can find out what size figure skates to get (keep in mind that size charts will differ from brand to brand).
Important information if you are buying skates for children: a lot of parents make a mistake by getting skates which are way too big for their children (thinking that they’ll grow eventually). I don’t recommend buying skates that more than half-size bigger than actual size.
Yes, it will cost money to switch skates every year or year and a half as the foot of your child is growing but in the long run, at least you’ll avoid unnecessary feet problems and injuries. Skating in figure skates that are big in size is very uncomfortable because it causes the heel to move within the boot and also, could slow down a learning process.
An ideal fit of the figure skating boots is when you can squeeze half of an index finger behind the heel. If you can fit a full finger with extra space, it means that skates are too big. If you can’t get it in at all, then the boot is probably too small.
Feet problems among the figure skaters is a real problem and it’s not something to mess around with.
Which are the best figure skates for toddlers and children?
Like I mentioned earlier, when you are shopping for toddlers ice skates, the most important is to choose the correct size.
Another thing to look for is for skates that have toe picks if you are planning on taking figure skating lessons in the future.
For example, on Amazon, they sell good toddler ice skates Bauer Lil Champ but they are like hockey skates have no toe picks. These toe picks do make a difference in balance and it might be difficult to learn to skate on skates without toe picks and then make a switch. I suggest getting figure skates with toe picks from the very start if you are planning to continue figure skating later on.
Here are a few figure skates for toddlers and kids which I recommend:
- Riedell Model 14 Pearl Jr.
They sell this model on Riedell’s website (under recreational skates, their cost is $100). This is a good option to start out, they have sizes from 9 Youth (6 3/16 inches) to 3 Junior (8 1/2 inches). When buying Riedell ice skates, make sure to always double-check their sizing guide and charts. They also sell some recreational Riedell skates on Amazon as well.
- Jackson Ultima Softec Classic Junior
These toddler ice skates made by Jackson Ultima are sold on Amazon. They have a great look and very well-made for the price. Once again: to choose the correct size, make sure to double-check Jackson’s sizing chart for children.
For tots, you can also consider getting an adjustable plastic skates with straps – they are extremely easy to put on kind of like ski boots with straps.
Ice skates for adult beginners
What kind of figure skates is the best for an adult beginner who is wanting to ice skate more seriously than simply using rental skates?
Adult figure skates are meant to be stiffer than the ones for children and they should have more ankle support. The stiffer the skate, the stronger the support. For adult beginners, I would recommend getting figure skates with boots support level at least 15 and above. These skates will allow you to learn some basic skating moves and steps such as crossovers, swizzles, free turns, basic spins, and single jumps.
Most beginner-level skates are sold as a kit “boots + pre-mounted blades” altogether. Another option which is more advanced and expensive is to buy boots and blades separate and mount them at the skate shop.
- Jackson Mystique
Boot support level: 15
Price: under $150
Jackson Mystique is a good choice for beginner adult skaters. These skates come as a kit with pre-mounted Ultima Mark entry-level blades. Jackson Mystique is a lot better than rental skates and their cost is under $150.
- Jackson Artiste
Boot support level: 25
Price: under $200
Jackson Artiste is a more expensive version of Mystique boots with better ankle support. Blades are the same as on the Mystiques.
- Riedell Emerald
Boot support level: 30
Price: over $150
Riedell Emerald skates also come as a kit with mounted blades. This is a great pair of skates for adult beginners with a higher boot support level; these Riedell skates are similar in quality to Jackson’s but cheaper in price compared to Jackson Artiste model.
- Riedell Diamond
Boot support level: 40
Price: about $200
If you are okay to spend a little bit more and want to get a more professional pair of skates with more ankle support and a better blade, Riedell Diamond skates are a perfect choice.
- Risport Venus
Boot support level: 25
Price: under $150
Risport Venus is the cheapest beginner-level model of Risport’s out there at the moment. With the stiffness rating of 25 and affordable price under $150, Venus skates are lightweight and they come in a kit with the TAU blade.
- Risport Antares
Boot support level: 35
Price: over $200
Antares is a more expensive model of Risport’s. It’s a stiffer boot than Venus with a higher support level and a better blade – it comes with MK 21 blades.
Boots and blades for competitive skating
Information below is for skaters that have plans to seriously practice figure skating, take private lessons on a regular basis, do tests and skating competitions.
The first thing you should know is that competitive figure skaters purchase boots and blades separately. You will get the boots and blades based on your skill level and then, mount them together at the skate shop. Another important thing to know beforehand – competitive figure skates are very expensive, you can expect to spend about a thousand dollars or even more on a pair of high-level figure skates.
For example, a combination of the most popular boots among the high level figure skaters Edea Ice Fly with John Wilson Gold Seal blades costs about $1400.
How to choose figure skating boots?
Let’s talk a little bit more in detail about the boots. Earlier in the article, I already mentioned the most popular figure skating boot makers such as Edea, Jackson, Riedell, Graf.
All these brands have boots for a different level of competitive skaters:
1) for those that are just starting out;
2) the next level of boots is for single jumps and single axel;
3) for double jumps;
4) for triple and quad jumps.
The main difference between them is in stiffness of the boot and ankle support – skates for triple and quad jumps are the stiffest and they have the most ankle support which is needed to perform the hardest jumps. The price is also increasing from lower to higher level boots – boots for triples/quads are the most expensive ones.
An important thing I would like to note: the more expensive boots not necessarily mean they will be better individually for you. I don’t recommend buying the most expensive figure skating boots unless a skater is at that level. And simply purchasing the most expensive skates won’t make you a better skater.
For example, it is absolutely unnecessary and not very safe (because of the stiffness) for a skater that is just starting out or learning single/double jumps to be getting Edea Ice Fly skates – those are meant for skaters that perform triple and quadruple jumps. Instead, in this situation, if that skater would like to get Edea’s, I would recommend getting boots which are a better fit for their current level of skating – Edea Overture or Edea Chorus. Eventually, once a skater moves up a level and starts working on triple jumps, then it’s time to try out at the skate shop and maybe consider getting higher-end boots like Edea Concerto or Edea Ice Fly.
Here is a list of some of the best figure skating boots out there for the intermediate, junior and senior-level skaters.
Edea Ice Fly
Ice Fly is the most popular figure skating boot among the high-level skaters. They are used by many famous figure skaters from all over the world like Kaetlyn Osmond, Gracie Gold, Satoko Miyahara, Alina Zagitova, Alena Kostornaia, and many others.
I personally know a lot of friends/skaters who have Ice Fly’s and they are in love with them; they like how light and comfortable they are – “as comfortable as slippers”. But there are also some people like myself that don’t like how they fit because they are pretty narrow in the toe area and they don’t feel tight in the ankle because of the different tongue (it’s made that way to add more flexibility which not everyone likes).
But speaking of the majority, most skaters adjust to Ice Fly’s very quickly even when they switch from Jackson, Graf or Risport skates.
Something I noticed when I first tried Ice Fly after my Graf Edmonton boots – I felt like the hill on Edea’s was a little bit higher. The same thing noticed my wife when she switched to Edea from Jackson’s.
The “Piano” is the newest and the most expensive model of Edea’s. Personally, I am not a big fan of their design and look which is even worse than Ice Fly. Edea Piano has a similar fit but a little bit stiffer and has more support than Ice Fly.
Piano’s are used by the highest level figure skaters like Yuzuru Hanyu and Evgenia Medvedeva.
Concerto is another popular figure skating boot made by Edea. They are very similar to Ice Fly in all areas; the main difference is that they feel a little bit stiffer with more support because of the thicker leather on the tongue. That’s why they are mostly used by male skaters and pair skaters.
Jackson 5000 series boots
These are new and recently updated models of the Jackson boots. They have a look of the traditional leather boots but 20% lighter than them.
- Jackson Supreme 5852 – is the stiffest Jackson boot with the most support for triple/quad jumps. Used by Nathan Chen, Evgeni Plushenko, Adam Rippon, Jason Brown, Michal Brezina among many other popular skaters.
- Jackson Supreme 5452 – low-cut boots mainly used by ice dancers and synchro skaters.
- Jackson Elite 5252 – this model is very similar to Supreme 5852 but not as stiff. Elite 5252 is a perfect choice for skaters who work on their double/triple jumps.
- Jackson Supreme 5500 – the stiffest women’s model of Jackson boots with the support for triple/quad jumps. Worn by Mariah Bell, Maria Sotskova, Anna Pogorilaya.
- Jackson Supreme 5410 – a low-cut model for freestyle, ice dance and synchro skaters. Also very popular among the ice shows performers for its elegant look. A few of my friends from ice shows recently switched from Edea Ice Fly to Jackson Supreme 5410 Low-Cut boots and they said that Jackson’s are definitely not as comfortable as Edea’s but they feel just as light as them.
- Jackson Elite 5200 – a model similar to Supreme 5500 with less stiffness with the support for double/triple jumps.
Graf Edmonton Special
“Edmonton Special” is the best women’s and men’s model of Graf figure skating boots out there. Graf Edmonton Special is a traditional leather boot made in Switzerland; they are not lightweight like Edea’s or new Jackson models. I’ve been skating on Edmonton Special’s since I was 15, and despite trying other brands since then, I was always coming back to Graf’s.
How to choose figure skating blades?
Just like boots, figure skating blades come in a variety of styles and price ranges. I have to mention it once again – it won’t do any good if you simply purchase the most expensive ones. So, the question you may have is – which figure skating blades should you get?
Blades should be chosen based on skater’s skill level, skating technique, and style. There are a few important things you should look at when choosing figure skating blades.
1) Rocker radius.
It’s a measure of the back of the blade which determines how much of the blade touches the surface of the ice when skating. Rocker radius mostly has an effect on stroking and gliding backward. Most figure skating blades have either a 7 or 8-foot radius.
7′ rocker blades are rounder, they allow more agility and deeper edges; 7′ blades are a good choice for beginners, intermediate level and petite skaters.
Examples of blades with a 7′ rocker radius: MK blades “Professional”, “Gold Star”, “Phantom”, John Wilson “Coronation Ace”.
8′ rocker blades are less curved than 7′, they allow to get more speed, have more stability and control when doing edges. When skating backward’s, the balance on 8-foot radius blades is further back compared to the blades with 7′ rocker radius. 8′ blades are used by most higher-level figure skaters.
Examples of blades with an 8′ rocker radius: John Wilson “Gold Seal”, John Wilson “Pattern 99”, Jackson “Ultima Supreme”, Jackson “Ultima Elite”, Riedell “Eclipse Pinnacle”, Riedell “Eclipse Infinity”.
2) Spin rocker (also known as rocker shape or rocker profile).
It’s not the same as a rocker radius. A spin rocker is located in the front part of the blade behind the toe picks. It mostly has an effect on jumps and spins.
The larger the radius of the spin rocker, the flatter that part is. For example, John Wilson’s Pattern 99 and Coronation Ace have the flattest spin rocker – 29′ radius; “Gold Seal”, MK “Gold Star” and MK “Professional” rocker shape (12′ radius) is curvier and the balance (also known as “sweet spot”) on those blades is farther forward. The MK “Phantom”s blades spin rocker has 17′ radius which puts them in the middle.
3) Toe picks.
Most figure skating blades have either straight-cut toe picks or cross-cut toe picks.
Straight-Cut: allows a skater to dig deeply into the ice with toe picks which could result in higher jumps. Blades with the straight-cut toe picks are not recommended for the beginners as they have less grip than blades with a cross-cut toe picks. Examples of the straight-cut toe pick blades are John Wilson “Pattern 99” and its analogs “Ultima Elite” and Riedell “Eclipse Infinity”.
Cross-Cut: most of the figure skating blades on the market have cross-cut toe picks and they are used among skaters of all levels. This design of the toe picks gives a skater more grip and control. Examples of the cross-cut blades are John Wilson “Gold Seal”, “Coronation Ace”, MK “Phantom”, “Professional”, “Gold Star” and its analogs from Jackson Ultima and Riedell Eclipse.
In this picture, you can see a difference between a blade with Straight-Cut toe picks (Riedell Eclipse Infinity at the top) and a blade with Cross-Cut toe picks (Riedell Eclipse Pinnacle at the bottom).
Regular figure skating blades are made of stainless steel. The higher level blades such as Gold Seal or MK Gold Star are made of the lighter and stronger steel. But there is also even lighter figure skating blades out there which are made with carbon elements (like Revolution MK and John Wilson blades), titanium instead of steel (like Riedell Eclipse lightweight blades) or lightweight aluminum holder (like Jackson Ultima Matrix blades).
Ultra-lightweight blades are used by most single skaters at the highest level. They are the best for the triple and quadruple jumps as they help to skate faster, get greater height on take-off and quicker rotation in the air. These lightweight blades are 30%-50% lighter than regular stainless steel blades.
I personally don’t recommend getting these ultra-lightweight blades for the entry-level skaters. I think it’s important to start skating and learn single and double jumps with the heavier regular blades and later on switch to the lighter blades as a skater starts working on the triple jumps.
As you can see, choosing figure skates is not as easy as you might think. There are a lot of options to choose from out there and it is very important to make a right decision on which figure skating boots and blades you get based on skater’s level, skills, style of skating and fit (for example, not all skates will fit well if you have wide feet).
Especially if you are buying the first pair of figure skates, I recommend taking advice from a professional at the skate shop. At the shop, you will be able to try a bunch of different models of boots to see which one you like more and which one has the best fit.
If you still have any questions regarding purchasing figure skates or want to share your personal experience and feedback, feel free to ask/comment below this post. I’ll get back to you as soon as I get a chance!
Thanks for reading, I hope this information was helpful. See you at the rink, fellow skaters!