Thursday, January 2, 2014

Buying New Boots: The Fitting

You may have read about my Duckfeet and my need to replace my 5 year old Jackson Competitors. The problem is: With what? You know, I thought that as an adult once I had a boot I liked I could keep buying that boot, but noooooo, my feet keep changing! Kid's feet get longer; adult feet get wider! After your 60's it's a complete fitting every time!

I'm fortunate that I have the best, possibly the most famous skate tech in the nation about 90 minutes away. When I say 'famous', I don't mean someone who's name you've heard. I mean famous as in a skate tech who is hired by USFSA to go to Nationals, Worlds, and the Olympics to support US figure skaters. Someone who has supported multiple National, World, and Olympic champions with boot fixes and sharpenings, and fitted them for new boots.  For hundreds of square miles around where I live, if a skater asks 'Who does your blades?', just saying his first name is enough.

And I'm lucky that despite the fact I am a lowest of the low skater, I've earned the benefits of being a 'regular'. I buy my boots from him, and he does my sharpenings. He's always able to squeeze me in if I have a 'figure skating emergency'.

Today was our first consultation about my new boots. I'm trying to get stock boots.

Reidells are right out. He says they won't fit my duck feet (actually he says "that's not a good last for you").
Jacksons I have been happy with, but not a good choice for my duck feet, and I can only get split width in Premiers. which are too stiff.
I then mention SP-Teri and Harlicks new X-Line boot which seem perfect for duck feet (they come split width in stock).

When I mention Harlick X-lines his eyes light up like the eyes of a coon hound that's caught the scent. He pulls out the Harlick measuring stick, a measuring tape, the special Harlick-block-of-wood-with-a-pin-in-it, a pencil, and a special Harlick form. We're off!

My tech outlines my feet on a piece of paper  while I'm sitting (no weight on my feet), standing (with weight on the feet), measures the circumference of the ball of my feet, and measures my feet several different ways with a foot measuring stick.  Then he consults the special Harlicks sizing chart (thers a size close to my measurements) and calls someone he knows at Harlicks.

After the consultation, he marks the drawing of my feet by sticking the Harlick-block-of-wood-with-a-pin-in-it in a couple of places. (I think must be arcane dark magic with which no Harlick fitter can work without. No idea what he's marking, maybe the foot midline? )

After a wait, there's a second phone consultation with Harlicks. They'll send out a boot for me to try on. If that doesn't work, I guess we'll see about custom SP-Teris.

What did I learn?
Size: Harlick 6
Good news: I have no pronation! All my footercize worked!
Strange news: You've heard of high arches and low arches. I have long arches.

As to what actual boot model? I'm looking at the Harlick Classic (with ankle notch).  It's the lightest stiffness, and is actually suitable for roller or figures. Since I don't jump, and don't skate every day, I should get a year or so out of it.  get quite a bit of wear out of it.

There. The whole experience is out of my system. I know what you're thinking:

No, really, I'm finished. Honest, it's out of my system.


  1. Although I occasionally entertain the idea of getting new boots, I quickly dismiss such crazy thoughts, and dread the day it will inevitably have to occur. Fortunately my six year old Riedells are not yet showing any sign of breaking down (that 6 years included 2 years of once a week skating, and over 18 months off the ice).
    The problem is that here in Australia they only seem to sell Jacksons and there's certainly nobody I would trust to do a proper fitting regardless. Which means either buying Jacksons because that's all that's available, or trusting the internet skating boot gods. Although I'm happy with my Riedells (despite my wide feet), they've changed their range since I bought mine, so I'm not sure if buying the same size as I have now will actually work, assuming I can even determine the equivalent model. Having been over-booted in the past, I'm also very wary of getting anything too stiff.
    And let's not start on the cost of importing goods to Australia.
    May my feet never change size and my boots never break down.

    1. I understand roller is really popular in Australia. Harlicks, Jackson and Reidell also sell to roller skaters. There may be a fitter for the roller community.
      If you want to try DIY, the Harlicks website has detailed information on how to measure your feet, plus a sizing chart so you can get an idea of the size measurements. It's a 2 person job to measure your feet.

    2. Husband has custom Harlicks, so we've been through the home fitting process (we also added photos in addtion to the measurements). My level/frequency of skating doesn't justify customs, but if they'll do stock boots online, that might well be the way to go.

  2. Also just got size 6 Harlicks from a skate fitter after my Jackson Competitors broke down (duct tape and all.) Three days in and the breaking-in pain is gone; I'm still getting used to my new, more advanced blades but I am feeling good about this decision!

  3. Thanks for sharing! I'm trying to get my first pair of new boots myself, and it's a struggle. My current skates are hand-me-down Grafs that I got from my kids' coach (she has mostly the same size feet as me). But they are a little too big/long in the toe, so my feet slide forward sometimes, and that's starting to interfere with my skating progress. So my boot shopping process is complicated by my not being quite sure how the boots are supposed to feel...

    My skate tech recommended Edea or Risport - both seem to fit pretty well, I think - any words of wisdom on how a boot should feel on your foot before the blade is mounted?

    1. I think I'm not the best person to answer that. I have only my experience. A coach would have the experience of more years and more contact with students

  4. Replies
    1. I have no idea. They have no additional stiffness, and they're designed for figures. So I pulled a number out of a hat. I mean, they could last me 5 years at the rate I'm going!

  5. Love me some Harlicks! My first pair from them was a custom boot for roller dance (softer than the Classics) and it lasted me a good 4 years of heavy skating. My second pair was a custom for roller figures (stiffer than the Classics), and I am still using them for loops six years later. I had to get a new figure boot after the other ones got a bit too soft, and I am on my second pair of dance boots from them (a bit stiffer than my first pair). I have loved skating in all of them! Can't really say how long they will last on ice (we don't have the moisture problems to deal with), but if you aren't doing anything too stressful they should last you a good while.

    1. Thanks for posting! I wondered how long it would take for you to post once I said 'roller'! :-)
      And good point about the moisture issue with ice skating. I put Pingi in my skates to keep them dry.

  6. After reading the comments about Harlicks/Riedell and roller skates I decided to investigate further. I looked online here in Oz and promptly fell off my chair. I had no idea roller skates were SO pricey. When I recovered I realised that the wheels & mounting gear is the reason (well durr!).

    When I next need boots I will try a roller shop.

    1. Yeah the boots are about the same price as ice. But ice skates are just boot + blade. With roller you have the boot, the plate, the wheels and the bearings. Then some people get really specific with the type of toe stops they like (different rubber content for springiness when jumping), and the cushions on the plates (the rubber bits that let the skate take on a curve) need to be replaced semi-frequently (a bit less often than a blade sharpening I think). Some people get really fancy and have several sets of wheels for different floor conditions too. And most people at the higher levels have several different pairs of skates that are customized for different disciplines of the sport. So, um, yes, pricey. But, on the other hand, I think we don't have to buy or replace equipment as often as ice. Most people buy new wheels and bearings once or twice a year, toe stops are replaced depending on the level of the skater/intensity of the training, and cushions should be replaced at least once a year, but most people don't bother with that as often as they should.

  7. How did the boots end up working for you. (I looked for an update. Sorry if I just missed it!)

    1. Keep reading through the months and you'll find out I had to have one boot rebuilt and after that they were great.