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World renowned speed coach Bill Begg shares his vast knowledge of skating every week in his "Ask Bill Begg!" column on the Inline Planet.

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Jan. 12, 2011

How Should My Skates Fit?

QHi, Bill: I recently bought a pair of heat-moldable inline speed skates. Should they fit differently than hockey or figure skates? Should I be able to fit an index finger behind my heel with the toes pushed forward in the boot? Or is the index finger rule just about allowing room for a child's foot to grow? I also wonder if heat-molding will allow me  to make a skate longer by one size? - Thanks, Don in San Diego

Hi, Don from San Diego: Speed skates should fit snugly. Otherwise your feet will flop around, making it difficult to balance on your outside edges and get a good push.

Top speed skaters like their boots to be so tight that they have to force their feet into them. That way they have the support they need and confidence that their boots won’t get too sloppy by the end of the season.

The “finger behind the heel” test is used when buying skates for growing children. But it can be problematic. If there is too much room in the skate, the foot will slide around, which will cause blisters.

There is a way to allow some room for growth in a child’s skate — or for that matter, to shorten an adult’s skate that is too large. You do this by stuffing wet tissue paper into the toe of the boot. When the paper dries, it hardens and creates a barrier that keeps the foot from sliding forward. Later, you can remove the paper to accommodate a bigger foot.

Heat-molding is a great thing, but it is not intended to change the size of a skate. Its purpose is to shape the inside of the boot to match the skater’s foot, especially the bony areas, like ankles.

If you want to lengthen a skate, you can sometimes find bootmakers who can stretch them out, depending on what the boot is made of.

If you are looking for size-adjustable speed skates, several companies — including XTech, Luigino and Powerslide — make them, but only in childrens sizes. Same thing goes for adjustable-size fitness skates.

Good luck with your new skates!

Cheers, Bill

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