Where can I buy good iceskates in Chicago?
November 28, 2007 7:17 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend a place in the Chicago area to purchase ice skates? And do you know if I should go for figure or hockey if I'm planning to use them for exercise purposes?

I plan on skating 5-6 nights a week as my aerobic workout, and would like to purchase my own pair of skates. Right now, I rent the skates -- but that's expensive, gross, and they're not very sharp.

Are there any benefits to getting hockey vs. figure? I'm a girl with size 7 very wide feet, if that matters.

Thanks in advance for your help.
posted by moooshy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sorry, I can't really address where to buy skates or what type you need, but I'm sure someone else here will be able to.

But it occurs to me to ask, if the whole purpose of this is the physical exercise, why not just get a pair of inline skates? It's pretty much the same physical activity, right? And I would think a lot more adaptable to different places and seasons.
posted by Naberius at 7:34 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: Very wide feet? Exercise? As a twentysomething who's been skating since the age of 3 (trained in figure skating 'til I was about 7, then skipped out on that in favor of more recreational skating) I'd say go with hockey skates:

1. You won't have the limited range of motion and heaviness that figure skating blades/uppers have, thus you're less likely to twist an ankle or knee out of whack. Lighter + being able to turn on a dime + blades that make it easier to shave ice on slower counterparts = awesome for exercise.

2. They're so much better for wide feet, being manufactured mostly with men in mind.

3. They're easier to lace—while the uppers are stiffer, making it harder to pull laces tight, the range of tolerance for sloppy lacing is much greater precisely because of how stiff the uppers are. You just need some thick hockey socks to wear with 'em.
posted by limeonaire at 7:35 PM on November 28, 2007

I'm not entirely sure of their logic, but my parents were very adamant that I (their daughter) should learn to skate on hockey skates. I'm not sure what they had against figure skates, although my Mom did switch around the time when I was learning to skate. If anything, I think hockey skates are warmer and support the ankles more.
posted by carolr at 7:37 PM on November 28, 2007

Oh, yes, carolr brings up a good point: As someone who's always had weak ankles (when I first learned to skate, I had to be coached not to always push off with my dominant foot/stronger ankle), I can say the hockey skates definitely help in that department.
posted by limeonaire at 7:39 PM on November 28, 2007

Response by poster: @Naberius: I would inline skate, but it's freezing cold -- and Chicago has free outdoor rinks, with skates. So I figure, it's there, it's the season, it's well lit and with staff -- it seems like the thing to do, for winter.
posted by moooshy at 7:40 PM on November 28, 2007

And yeah, I feel like hockey skates are kind of the "manual transmission" of skates—if you can skate well in hockey skates, which are definitely slipperier when you're first starting out, you can skate well in any skate.
posted by limeonaire at 7:41 PM on November 28, 2007

I'm not sure on the type of skates you should get (hockey vs. figure) but if you go for hockey you don't need thick socks. I play three nights a week and I just wear regular athletic socks.

As for where to buy them, I bought a pair last winter at a Chicago area chain of hockey specific stores named Gunzo's. They, like any store front operation have higher prices than what you'd find online but every skate manufacturer fits differently (CCM caters to wider feet while Bauer typically fits narrower feet, for example) so unless you know what you're looking for it would be worth it to go into a store and try them on. Another advantage to purchasing skates in the store is that they will sharpen them create the hollow for free and you can get the skates heat molded to your foot for free (Gunzo's charges $50 otherwise). This cuts down on the break in period significantly and your feet will thank you.

Good luck and enjoy your skating.
posted by crashlanding at 7:48 PM on November 28, 2007

Figure are specialized for doing jumps and fancy spins. You're not going to be doing that, you're going to be skating around and around (I take it), so you will only be hindered by the special features of figure skates. Hockey skates take bit of getting used to but are more maneuverable in general back-and-forth type skating; easier to skate backwards. With figure skates, you can (like me!) develop bad skating habits from pushing off with the toe pick, and if you're a little clumsy sometimes you will trip a bit over the toe pick. Better to get hockey skates unless you feel strongly that you want to do fancy jumps etc.

Seconding that you should get them from a store that will sharpen them for you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:10 PM on November 28, 2007

Get hockey skates. If you really want to skate long distances, get speed skates. Figure skates have picks that tend to get in the way when you want to do things like stopping sideways and skating backwards, and only help if you want to do things involving jumping.

In particular, I'd recommend getting a pair of hockey-style skates that have uppers that look like rollerblades (i.e. synthetic uppers with foam-type padding). They are much comfier than leather ones, warmer, and have zero break-in period.
posted by ssg at 8:41 PM on November 28, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you all so much. This is all very helpful.
posted by moooshy at 8:43 PM on November 28, 2007

there is an indoor rink on madison (or was it monroe?) near halsted. just a few blocks north of the intersection. the 20 bus stops there on its way to united center. look up the beer bistro, they are pretty much right across the street.
posted by krautland at 9:04 PM on November 28, 2007

Toe picks have a place, like when you are skating backwards and have to stop, without turning around. I don't think I could survive skating without my toe stop/pick on my inlines.
posted by hortense at 9:50 PM on November 28, 2007

If you have the cash to get two pairs, you could try buying used skates from Play It Again Sports, a used sporting goods chain. Try both styles out and see which works best, and sell back the other pair.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:19 AM on November 29, 2007

Hockey skates are harded to skate in, in my experience. I can barely stand in them, and figure skates I can go round and round for hours.
posted by sulaine at 7:56 AM on November 29, 2007

My friend who used to be a figure skating instructor recommends Rainbo Sports, which is up in Glenview.
posted by tew at 8:57 AM on November 29, 2007

Do you have a problem with the type of skates that you've been renting? Have you been able to both rent figure and hockey skates? Really if you've exclusively been using one type and you don't have any complaints, you should stick with what works.
posted by anaelith at 9:42 AM on November 29, 2007

I learned to skate on figure skates, so it was an adjustment when I got hockey skates (especially if you are used to having toe picks), but for fitness, hockey skates are where it's at, they're designed for maneuverability and fast skating, so getting yourself into a regular rhythm is easy. Just make sure you find a rink to skate at that's big and does direction changes regularly, otherwise you'll develop some weirdly asymmetrical musculature (speaking from experience).
posted by biscotti at 10:25 AM on November 29, 2007

I am a figure skating instructor in Chicago.

For figure skates, I highly recommend Rainbo; my experience with them is that they have the least agenda about what to sell you, combined with the greatest knowledge. They can help you with your wide foot problem; they'll know which brands accommodate wide feet best. You might try some of the new Jackson SofTec versions; these are great recreational skates, although they'll wear out fast if you're really going to skate as much as you say.

For Hockey skates, go to Gunzo's.

There are Pro shops at several area rinks, but I don't recommend them, as they tend to push whatever the skate-of-the-week is.

I believe all skaters should learn in figure skates, because basic skating techniques are simply easier to learn with the longer, flatter blade; toe picks on beginner skates generally are not that treacherous. You say you've been renting skates--why not just buy whatever type you've been renting; if hockey, then buy hockey skates, if figure, then buy figure skates. Really, unless you're planning to either join a league (for hockey) or learn to jump and spin (for figure) it's not really going to matter-- just go with what you know.

If you have any specific questions, or would like to know about the various skating programs in the Chicago area, send a MeMail.
posted by nax at 2:11 PM on November 29, 2007

Eek, just read the rest of the thread. Please do not buy skates from Play it Again Sports unless you really know what you are doing. Those people are idiots and they have garbage skates 9 times out of 10.

Also, don't get them sharpened at the Wilmette Bike Shop. Idiots squared.
posted by nax at 2:14 PM on November 29, 2007

100% hockey skates. Roces make an Ice hockey / inline skate combo where you can switch around the bottom as the seasons change (Having a similar inline boot I can assure it is quite good ... but as a hockey player I can assure you that it would not be situable for playing hockey ... only for fun on the ice). Later you may progress to speed skating ... really good fun that!
posted by jannw at 2:18 PM on November 29, 2007

Also ... Bauer's are the hockey brand to buy ... I swear by my Bauer supreme 6000's ... skating heaven
posted by jannw at 2:20 PM on November 29, 2007

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