Fast and safe on the ice
Munich. Whether you prefer gliding peacefully across a frozen lake on a sunny winter's day or whizzing round the ice rink at top speed to disco music in the evening, every sport and leisure fan has their favourite setting for enjoying the ice. But what's the best skate for your needs? What do beginners particularly need to be aware of? And how do you look after your skates? The experts at TÜV SÜD have some important tips to make ice-skating safe and enjoyable.
Skates come in a range of different types and qualities. The classic white or black figure skates made of leather are for ambitious figure skaters who eventually aim to perform a pirouette or two. Beginners often mistakenly regard the serrations on the front of the blades as an aid to braking, but in fact they are primarily designed to help professionals perform jumps. Braking manoeuvres using the blade teeth or general skating errors can finish up with the skater face down on the ice. Another classic skate is the ice hockey skate. As well as weight and being a good fit, stability is a key factor for ice hockey skates. That's why many models are strengthened with leather and reinforced nylon. High-tech materials such as carbon fibres or Clarino are becoming increasingly popular. For skaters whose requirements are less demanding, softboot leisure skates are ideal. They have no serrations on the blades and look very much like ice hockey skates, but are more comfortable and not so rigid. An outer shoe made completely of plastic is combined with an inner shoe made of foam. Leisure skates are the perfect "inline skate for the ice".
Tips for buyers
The following recommendations from the sports experts at TÜV SÜD Product Service, a member of the TÜV SÜD Group, apply to all three types:
For beginners there are some very reasonably priced models that are perfectly adequate for enjoying the ice, provided the user is not intending to use them for sports purposes. Anyone looking for figure skates, ice hockey skates or speed skates for sports use and competitions should always go to a professional sports dealer.
- The shoes must fit well. This is important for comfort on the ice and control of sports equipment. The skate must be secure and provide good support, but should not cause pressure. The toes should have some freedom to move and not be squashed at the front. For children, size-adjustable models are available that "grow" with the child.
- Pay particular attention to good ankle support as this is particularly important for controlling the shoe and the blades. If the shoe bends inwards or outwards or feels spongy in the ankle area when you try it on, then try a more rigid model.
- The shoes should be fitted with a footbed, not just a flat insole. If they are not, take a tip from the sports experts at TÜV SÜD and have footbeds fitted before you leave the shop.
- Should you wear thick woollen socks when you try them on because that's what you'll be wearing later when you're skating? It's better not to! They can bunch up and cause pressure points. It is better to wear tight cotton socks, ski socks or walking socks. And make sure the skates are thermally insulated with functional material.
- On new skates, the blades are sometimes not sharp enough. Blunt blades do not glide well so it is essential to have them sharpened by an expert before venturing onto the ice!
- The table top test for a blade: It should roll off evenly like a rocker-style chopping knife. Flat areas on the blade can cause it to run in a straight line as if on a rail or behave jerkily when handling curves.
- The skates should come with blade protectors for safe transport. If they do not, you must ask for these! Good blade protectors are also suitable for walking a few steps on a non-slip floor. But be careful not to fall! If you walk around without blade protectors off the ice, you risk damaging the blades.
- For people with orthopaedic foot problems who do ice sports, special shoes are available or the skates can be fitted with insoles. It is best to bring these with you when you try the skates on!
- To make sure the shoe you have chosen is tried-and-tested for everyday use on the ice, look for the GS certification mark of TÜV SÜD or the blue TÜV SÜD octagon! For ice sports shoes, the TÜV SÜD experts check whether the shoe and blade are firmly fixed together, whether the blades are hard enough and properly cut and whether the operating instructions are complete and comprehensible.
Don't go on the ice without protection
Whether beginner or expert, no one should go on the ice without protective equipment, because skaters sometimes reach considerable speeds that make a fall potentially dangerous. A typical ice skating accident is falling over backwards. If this happens, the sharp blades can cause painful cutting injuries. The experts at TÜV SÜD recommend sturdy winter gloves, elbow and knee protectors and a helmet. As with the skates themselves, you should look out for the TÜV SÜD Product Service GS certification mark and octagon on protective equipment. Anyone who uses inline skates in the summer can use the same protective equipment at the ice rink. Cycling or ski helmets are also perfectly adequate. An important safety point to remember is: fasten the laces or buckles securely.
For people who want to prevent falls or improve their technical skill on the ice, local ice skating clubs or ice rinks offer courses. Unlike artificial ice, natural ice often has thin patches that are hard to spot and which can be very treacherous. Skaters should only venture onto lakes, ponds or rivers when the ice is deeply frozen and able to bear their weight. Pay attention to local warning notices and never go onto the ice alone. If others are present, you can get help if something goes wrong.
Care of shoes and blades
Proper care from the outset will ensure that the shoes continue to give pleasure next weekend and throughout the season. Figure skates are mostly made of leather, so they require the same leather care as you would expect for normal shoes. Ice hockey or leisure skates simply need to be dried off with a cotton cloth after use. In all cases, it is important to dry the blades so that they do not rust. For the blades, it is important to use the protectors only for transporting. Take them off again when you store the skates at home. If the skates are not due to be used for a long time, lightly grease the blades. If the metal parts are rusty or blunt from intensive training, they need to be sharpened. It is best to go to a specialist dealer or a good club for this! The shoes should always be stored in a dry place, but for long-term storage, one that is not too warm, otherwise the material may rip or even break. However, during the season, it is quite acceptable to place them near heating apparatus overnight if they are particularly wet from the ice. Over the summer, store the shoes in a cool, dry place.
At the start of the new season, skaters should check whether all parts are in working order. Wobbly skates or skates with torn laces spoil skating enjoyment and are also dangerous. When all's said and done, the most important thing is to have fun on the ice!
Editor: Dr. Thomas Oberst