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Step Five: Learn About the Boot

The boot holds your foot. Most boots have two parts: a shell that surrounds your foot and a cuff that surrounds your ankle. Usually, both parts are made of plastic that is flexible yet supportive. The final fitting to the specific contours of your foot is provided by a cloth liner inside the boot. There are skates currently on the market that have eliminated or cut away some of the plastic, making the skate itself more form-fitting. Most boots are ventilated; this is a plus because air circulates better in the boot.

The job of the boot is to support the foot and ankle.

This support is what makes it possible for most people to skate easily. Inside the boot are a separate lining and foot bed, both of which should be removable and washable. As noted above, these are critical to proper fit and comfort. In fact, when determining fit, the liner should be removed and placed on the foot. If it fits comfortably, it should then be put into the skate and the fitting process repeated to ensure that the boot itself is shaped properly. Liners are made of various materials, but more expensive skates use moisture- absorbing, breathable materials for added comfort. They may even have "memory foam" that molds to your foot.

Boots must be attached securely to the foot. There are three different ways to do this; laces, buckles, or a combination of both. Buckle closure systems should have three adjustable buckles. The buckles are permanently attached to the skate; if their position grips your foot in uncomfortable places you should try a different model. Laces are generally only used on specialty skates, such as hockey, racing, and some aggressive. Laces give a custom fit but are not as quick and easy to use and may not provide adequate support for the beginner. Lace-buckle combinations use the buckle around the ankle, and laces over the foot.

Try on skates carefully. Every manufacturer makes its boots to its own specifications. Sizes will vary even within brands. Take into consideration the type of socks you like to use. Skates are not like shoes; they will not stretch, although some liners will conform to your foot in time. 

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