Hello, Bill: I use to be a speed skater. But I quit when my program was discontinued. Now I want to get back to it. But I need new skates. The ones I have hurt my feet. They have a gel filling that is suppose to mold to my feet, but it didn't work. Can you suggest a skate that uses leather or cotton instead of gel? Thank you. - Heidi in Wisconsin
Hi, Heidi: If you are a speed skater, you need a snug boot that will lock in your feet, nice and tight. A gel-lined boot or soft boot is fine for recreational skaters. But speed skaters must be able to fully extend their legs to the side and get on deep outside edges — and to do that, they need stiff, snug boots.
In a soft or loose boot, you have too much give and that saps your power and limits your control. Loose boots also allow excess movement, which is the cause of most blisters.
Fortunately, high quality speed boots are relatively easy to find — at least online. A number of companies — including X-Tech (disclosure: I am the speed team manager for this company), Bont, Luigino and CadoMotus — make high-quality boots. There are also several high-quality boot makers, including Simmons and Pinnacle.
You can buy off-the-shelf boots online and heat-mold them at home; or pay a little more for custom boots, which will be made over casts of your feet.
One thing I like about the X-Tech custom boots is that you can select the thickness of the inner padding. The thicker padding is typically more comfortable. But most top skaters choose the thinner padding because they want to feel the boot.
I’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating: My daughter, Nicole, is never happy with a new pair of boots unless she has to fight her way into them. She says if they are not extremely tight when she gets them, they will be worthless after a month of use.