Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Boots and Blades: A Test Run

My freestyle boots (Jackson Competitors) are five years old and still have lots of life in them. But the blades are also the original blades, and they're getting a little flat. At my last lesson, I could not get an edge, and turns required hauling my upper body around. I'd been delaying starting on my ice dance boots due to Dance Coach's testing schedule, but since I don't test again until April, I now have time to break them in. So today, I finally brought out my fabulous new ice dance boots with their new blades and took them for a skate down at the rink.

Before I started with the ice dance boots, I skated in low freestyle rec boots that have served me very well.

Jackson Competitors
I like my Jackson Competitors. They're a reliable recreational skate for low freestyle. When I got mine, they were sold without a blade. I have the Mirage rather than the Aspire. After 4 years of sharpenings, they're pretty flat. But, when I put the boots on, it's like putting on a familiar friend. I have the whole inside the boot thing pretty much down to a science. Silipos tube on the right heel, stretch cloth tube on the left. Perfect tying technique. Pronation fix that took me a year to work out, but it's perfect now.  But I though getting dance boots might help me get a better point and help improve my extension so I bought:

Jackson Finesse
I set out with the same in boot fixes as I had in the freestyle boots. Oh, wow, it was total failure. These aren't just boots with a lower shaft and a deep curve at the back, these boots are completely different construction.  Since there are 3 hooks instead of four, I lace them all the way to the top rather than leaving one hook open. The shaft of the boot seems thicker on the sides that the freestyle boot. You can actually see it bulging under the hem of my trousers.  The Finesse also have an instep that it's going to take time to get used to. The Silipos tube on my right heel was a total failure. These boots are tighter in the heel than my  Competitors. I had to stop and readjust the lacing at least twice and remove the tube in the first 15 minutes on ice. The soles of my feet ached for the first 45 minutes, then the pain finally disappeared. I've had this occasionally happen in my Competitors as well. I don't know why it occurs. 

The blades are new Mirage blades, freshly sharpened. Unlike my old blades, these have a decent rocker.

So I went out to a local rink and spent an hour stroking, doing swing rolls, chasse's, crossovers and three turns. My friend the Big Guy came out to watch. The shortness of the shaft means I really have to get my blade placement on the ice right. Initially, I felt like I was skating without any support, although this was just a mental illusion due to the short shaft. These are new boots and it's like skating in bricks. After the first half hour, I began to feel at ease with the boot.  Towards the end I felt fairly stable, and much more comfortable. 

I don't know if my extension and toe point is actually better in these boots.  I was more concerned with just getting the feel of them rather than doing any extensions requiring a high leg position. I didn't feel that comfortable yet.  The Big Guy said I looked less stable than in my Competitors. Duh! These boots will require some adjustment in my technique.

Downside to the Finesse is the padded collar. I thought I would like this, but it actually rubs painfully on the back of my ankle when I extend the leg and point the toe. I now will just slide the Silipos tube around my ankle to protect it.

The new blades were great. After having to haul around for turns it was nice to be able to just turn with minimal effort. I tended to over turn, I was so used to my old blades and their intransigence.

My judgement's still out on the Finesse. These are new boots, and feel like concrete blocks. Although in Jackson's rating system, they're 'less stiff' than Competitors, they aren't 'less stiff' than 5 year old Competitors. Also, the lower shaft seems to make them more appropriate for experienced skaters. I dread to think what would have happened if I had started in these. 

I'll have to report back after I've been skating in these for a couple of months, and after Dance Coach has made comments.

As for the Competitors?  They're getting new blades. I'm thinking Wilson Majestic.


  1. The heel on the finesse will likely get a bit looser. My new premiers I stopped wearing my silipos for 3 months, but I'm back to wearing them now. Unlike the competitors though, my ankles don't bleed if I forget them.

    Do you think it will be tough to have two different blades between the boots. I know figures used to require it, but it was because the blades do very different things. Is your freestyle vs dqnce skating different enough to accomodate two blades? Why are you keeping two boots anyway?

  2. @Jessim
    Well, it will be interesting to see how the fit on the Finesses work out as I break them in. Your point about the padding is well put. I'll keep the silipos in the bag.
    I imagine it will be challenging with two different boots and blades. I'm doing it mostly for the thrill of the engineering. Will different rockers make a difference? How much? Can I handle two widely different blades? Will I switch to the Wilson or stay with the Mirage? Can I estimate if the blade makes that much difference for a recreational skater? I could set up full factorial experiments with the two variations being rocker and boot design. I could have wireless force measurement devices, and video and my own channel on you Tube. Then, my.own.TV,show on Discovery! ..... Nah, I'm too lazy for that. I just like fiddling around with boots.

  3. I've got new Ultima dance blades and because of the pronounced curve, I felt on the first two days out like I could barely skate. I had been pretty decent up through the bronze dances and sort of on the pre-silver but now can't even do progressives, skate backwards or do any turns. I feel like I've lost everything I could do. I keep zipping right up onto the toepick, which is terrifying. Anyone have experience with this or advice? (Blades are on Klingbeil boots, which are not new but are in good shape.)

  4. I hope you'll forgive that I'm super late to this party, but I found your blog through Google and I wanted to ask - have you had any issue with mounting freestyle blades on dance boots? I'm a returning skater who's trying to switch over to dance, and I desperately needed to get out of my Graf Galaxies, so I picked up a pair of Jackson Elite Supreme Dances because my pro shop had a really great deal on them and they were SUPER comfortable. I have Gold Seals on my Galaxies and would like to keep using them, but I don't know how advisable this is, or whether I should just bite the bullet, get a good dance blade, and re-learn everything. Any advice you might have would be greatly appreciated!

    1. I'm just a skater like you, so my technical knowledge is limited to stuff I've picked up from my boot adventures (I'm on my 4th pair). When I had dance boots, I put freestyle blades on them. The issue is not whether you can put freestyle blades on dance boots, but whether you can put those *particular* blades on those *particular* boots. The one thing I've learned is blade measurements aren't consistent company to company. 9 1/4 Jackson Mirage may not have the same fit as 9 1/4 blades from another company (my 9 1/4 Mirages are shorter than my 9 1/4 Coronation Comets). Only your skate tech can answer the usability of your old blades on new boots in your case.
      BTW, a lot of skaters do dance in freestyle blades.