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flip12

What exactly is 'performance fit?'

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I've been wondering a lot lately about what is meant by getting a skate that is a 'performance fit.' My reading, probably deeply mistaken, was that it meant suffering a little with a boot you can barely cram your foot into at first because eventually it will be perfect as the boot breaks in, allowing the feet and their boots to settle into the optimum balance between performance and comfort.

I've been trying different sizes, from my previous size which felt pretty roomy, to a full size down. I'm just not seeing my notion of performance fit being realized by this smaller-is-better experiment, and after failing to find a clear discussion of it via search I thought, why not ask the brass on here. So what exactly is 'performance fit?'

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To me, a performance skate fit is finding a skate where your toes brush the cap, your heels are locked, you have to proper depth and there's as little negative space as possible without their being serious pressure or pain. You shouldn't have to deal with extreme pain or feel like your feet are being squeezed in a vice. It can be a little tight in some areas before baking and break in, but it shouldn't be crushing your foot. Or your toes could be firm against the cap when you try on the skates, but baking and breaking the skates in can give you that feathering feeling. Your toes shouldn't be curled to fit in the skate or be crushed from side to side; flat, but right against the cap is OK in my opinion, but having to curl your toes to just to get your foot in is going too tight.

So don't feel like you have to cram your foot into a skate that's uncomfortable. You want something that's comfortable, but that doesn't have unnecessary slop or movement (if your heel is lifting it's either too long or just not the right fit). Unnecessary negative space is going to cause energy loss and decrease your performance, however; a skate that's uncomfortable and causes you pain is also going to decrease performance. 

Also keep in mind that you have to find not only the right length, but the right width. If you're in skates that are too narrow this will put pressure on your feet and could make them feel too short. Many years ago, I made the mistake of buying skates that were a full size too long, but also a width too narrow. I sold those skates after a few uses, cut my loses and bought something that fit my feet better both length and width wise. 

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The terms "performance fit" and "comfort fit" may best be defined by the ski boot industry, since they use those terms specifically in their marketing.  Typically "performance fit" ski boots are stiffer, a closer/tighter fit to your foot (still w/o pain), and allow for more micro-adjustments, so that you can tighten/loosen very specific areas depending on your preferential needs).  Typically these are racing boots, both downhill and slalom.  Typically "comfort fit" ski boots flex more, have more internal padding, and don't allow for as many micro adjustments.  These typically are touring boots, where you'll be walking around in them more, or you're not looking to break any speed records while skiing leisurely in powder, skiing for long periods of time, etc.  Both fits should still be of proper fit (w/o pain, etc.), but just provide different responses/results.

In hockey terms, I guess the best comparison would be wearing an ultra stiff boot vs a tech mesh boot, both which properly fit?

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I had a tech mesh boot, a Bauer s160, which fitted well. But I got occasioal lace bite. I now have Bauer Custom S2 Pros whch are much stiffer, with a much closer fit round the toes, and elsewhere. I now skate better as I feel more in control, they are more precise. A friend once said that his top end boots went where he pointed them, and that sums it up. If I mess up, it’s my fault, not the skates. I was playing hockey for two hours this evening, and it felt like the boots had wrapped my feet perfectly, not tight, but no empty space. I didn’t need to tighten the laces between scrimmages. And the huge tongue wrapped my foot ensuring no lace bite. However it took three months to break them in, with some discomfort around my toes. I have flipper shaped feet. In practice they probably make little difference to my playing, which depends more on game play, and hand eye coordination, but I certainly would not go back to lower spec. boots. 

A coach I know who has played at the semi pro level bought some Bauer s190 skates and told me he regretted not getting the Bauer 1s skates instead. 

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In the old days, performance fit meant the tightest skate that you could cram your foot into. There are legends of Coffey wearing a skate 2 sizes too small.

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1 hour ago, chippa13 said:

In the old days, performance fit meant the tightest skate that you could cram your foot into. There are legends of Coffey wearing a skate 2 sizes too small.

I've said it before - I don't really buy that story.

As we know, skates are sized 1.5 sizes down from a shoe size.  I think Coffey wore a skate 1/2 size from that, so 2 sizes down from shoe size.  And perhaps that story was told to someone who didn't know how skates were sized, and it grew legs from there...

Can you really imagine yourself wearing a pair of skates two sizes down from what you currently have?

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I do remember as my 8th grade season of Bantams started, I told my father my skates felt really tight. He took me down to the shop and I had apparently grown out of the size 6 skates that I had been wearing. My new pair was a size 9.

I could see the Coffey story being true back before the mid-90's shift to the super stiff boot but definitely not something that could happen in the modern-age skate.

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1 hour ago, JR Boucicaut said:

I've said it before - I don't really buy that story.

As we know, skates are sized 1.5 sizes down from a shoe size.  I think Coffey wore a skate 1/2 size from that, so 2 sizes down from shoe size.  And perhaps that story was told to someone who didn't know how skates were sized, and it grew legs from there...

Can you really imagine yourself wearing a pair of skates two sizes down from what you currently have?

From a Sports Illustrated article from 1995:

Coffey, who wears size 10-1/2 sneakers, used to put on skates the way Cinderella's stepsisters tried on glass slippers. Now instead of cramming his feet into his old size 6-3/4 skates, he is in 8-1/4's. ``Wayne [Gretzky] was the same way in Edmonton,'' says Coffey, who often went sockless back then. ``He was an eight who went down to 7-1/4. We tried to make the skates be part of the foot. The trainer used to say, `No pain, no gain.' '' Although he is as finicky as ever about his skates, his dogs don't hurt now. 

Hypothetically, let's say Coffey wore his sneakers for comfort, and was really a 9.5-10 shoe.  Dropping down to essentially a 7.0 skate (softer boot), is pretty extreme, but not insane....  I personally have worn skates 2.5 sizes smaller than my shoe size, and know others in similar situations.  So I agree...a lot of times, the story is told as if he was 2 sizes down from his proper skate size, which I think the truth is more like he was a little more than 2 sizes down from his shoe size.  My two cents...

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My skates are 7 and shoes are a true 9. I can fit into a 6.5 but I rather have my toes brushing the toecap and not pressed up against it. All preference. For me if my toes don't brush it feel "too big". 

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Thanks for the great replies so far. Part of what's been puzzling for me, I think, was I started out with a gross oversimplification of the issue of fit. Like I said in my original post, I went with the approach of 'performance fit' ≈ smallest skate you can squeeze into, which might hurt a lot at first and only a little later on (or you just get used to it?), but you'll skate better for being in a snugger boot.

What I've found is much more complicated. I've tried from size 11 Graf down to 9.5 and 10 Graf (with some other older boots mixed in: Mission Amp Flyweights, Mega Air 90s, 652 Pump Tacks, as well as MLX in both 10 and 11). So far, the biggest issue seems to be a lot of the smaller skates weren't wide enough in the forefoot, essentially causing my feet and lower legs to seize on load, just when I needed them to immediately fire, and/or were too short in the heel pocket, so instead of the ankle pads sitting on top of my heel (calcaneus?) they were compressing the most on the round profile of my heel and would seem to wobble willy nilly rather than roll with my foot's movement in the ankle joint. Essentially, I could still skate pretty well if I taped the tendon guard in the smaller boots, masking the horrendous decouple of the boot and my heel, but I didn't need to do that in the bigger boots. Especially the size 11 703s seemed perfectly suited for my feet. I had no pain, and felt both 100% stable and 100% free in my range of motion. When I drop down to size 10 703s, I have to force my foot in a bit, but once it's in, it's not really painful, it's just the issue of the volume being too low.

All of these skates I've picked up for cheap over the last few years, so it's been shooting in the dim, rather than going to a shop for a proper fitting. But trying them out has greatly contributed to my appreciation for the importance of fit in key locations where I was completely unaware of their crucial role prior to this process.

I've still got a couple more size 10s to try: MLX rebaked with thinner insoles, and Graf 701s, because they're better lasted for my feet at that size than the 703s and with much smaller ankle pads leading me to wonder if the random rolling might not be as big of an issue in them.

Edited by flip12

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4 hours ago, JR Boucicaut said:

I've said it before - I don't really buy that story.

As we know, skates are sized 1.5 sizes down from a shoe size.  I think Coffey wore a skate 1/2 size from that, so 2 sizes down from shoe size.  And perhaps that story was told to someone who didn't know how skates were sized, and it grew legs from there...

Can you really imagine yourself wearing a pair of skates two sizes down from what you currently have?

So many urban legends grew from misread/misunderstood stories. Skates were more pliable back then, but not THAT pliable. I lived through leather skates, after all! 

In the end- the crazier the story, the more fun it is to tell!

Edited by bunnyman666

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Size 8.5/9 street shoe, size 5.5 skate. I was in a 6 which wasn't bad. Ideally I probably belong in a 5.75 but what's the point of being in a junior size when you have to pay senior prices for customs sizing.

My fit is what I would consider a perfomance fit. There is almost zero negative space. I like the snug fit but it's not for everyone. For example, if I were coaching I'd probably go up in size to a 6. 

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Really though, my orthotics take up a bit more than half a shoe size, so I wear a 10. Subtract the orthotic, I need a 9, but like a half size of room. Skate size is 7.5 (8 in a Graf). I could run around saying I am like Paul Coffey, right?!? 

Cycle shoes need to also be sized more like a sock than a street shoe, for comfort to a small degree, but lots of negative space is definitely a no no and can really be detrimental. Once I figured this out, cycling shoes should be sized not too much unlike a skate. 

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Maybe I’m being a picky nerd, but what I keep seeing people describe as “performance fit” is correctly fitting skates, and “comfort fit” is too big. 

God knows most people have to make certain compromises with retail skates, but the idea of minimizing negative space as much as possible is just working to get the boot that fits your foot to the best degree possible. 

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On 4/26/2019 at 4:25 PM, shoot_the_goalie said:

From a Sports Illustrated article from 1995:

Coffey, who wears size 10-1/2 sneakers, used to put on skates the way Cinderella's stepsisters tried on glass slippers. Now instead of cramming his feet into his old size 6-3/4 skates, he is in 8-1/4's. ``Wayne [Gretzky] was the same way in Edmonton,'' says Coffey, who often went sockless back then. ``He was an eight who went down to 7-1/4. We tried to make the skates be part of the foot. The trainer used to say, `No pain, no gain.' '' Although he is as finicky as ever about his skates, his dogs don't hurt now. 

Hypothetically, let's say Coffey wore his sneakers for comfort, and was really a 9.5-10 shoe.  Dropping down to essentially a 7.0 skate (softer boot), is pretty extreme, but not insane....  I personally have worn skates 2.5 sizes smaller than my shoe size, and know others in similar situations.  So I agree...a lot of times, the story is told as if he was 2 sizes down from his proper skate size, which I think the truth is more like he was a little more than 2 sizes down from his shoe size.  My two cents...

Paul now wears an old Bauer 1000 type skate size 8.5. Hes all about comfort now. Still at an inch. Occasionally 7/8ths.  He tried True but hid one foot is painful putting on skates. His kids wear True.  

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I wonder where the balance of fit and performance is.  Squeezing your foot into a skate that is as tight as possible to me seems like it will limit the ability of all the muscles of the foot to apply the subtle pressure throughout to effectively control your edges.  Referring to the conversations about skating without laces to develop those muscles and the intermuscular coordination among them, to essentially clamp down on the foot seems counterproductive.  This seems especially to be the case with the toes.  Just my random thoughts.

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2 hours ago, BenBreeg said:

I wonder where the balance of fit and performance is.  Squeezing your foot into a skate that is as tight as possible to me seems like it will limit the ability of all the muscles of the foot to apply the subtle pressure throughout to effectively control your edges.  Referring to the conversations about skating without laces to develop those muscles and the intermuscular coordination among them, to essentially clamp down on the foot seems counterproductive.  This seems especially to be the case with the toes.  Just my random thoughts.

I find it to be the opposite. The tighter the fit, the better control I had. Agility and first step was greatly improved.

Edited by stick9
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The idea was essentially that your foot and skate were a single thing by having the skate as snug as possible.

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3 hours ago, stick9 said:

I find it to be the opposite. The tighter the fit, the better control I had. Agility and first step was greatly improved.

Me too. A snug wrap with no empty space is ideal.

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