Four factors generally determine how long boots will last: skating level, skater size and weight, type of boot and most importantly, maintenance and care of boots. If properly cared for, the life of a boot and blade can be dramatically prolonged to maintain the skate’s original comfort and performance. For handcrafted leather boots, it is essential that care be given after every use to best preserve the condition of the skate from time of purchase. Premature breakdown caused by material deterioration is the biggest cause of boot wear. Leather deterioration is a result of chemical and thermal forces produced by the feet entering and corroding the leather.
When boots are skated on for an extended period of time, they often become wet from perspiration on the inside lining and wet from snow and ice shavings on the outside leather and blades. Composed of 98% moisture and 2% salts and acids, perspiration is a central element in boot corrosion. The foot produces and carries more bacteria than any other part of the body. Bacteria consumes protein and since leather is 98% protein, it also eats boots. To prevent these different types of deterioration, perspiration should be wiped from the inside and outside of boots including blades after every use.
Save the Leather
It is often necessary to loosen laces on the boots and pull the tongue forward to allow the boots to dry at room temperature. When wet skates are stored in skate bags or lockers, they quickly become victims of mold, mildew and rotting leather. The routine use of leather protectants will help keep leather looking and feeling like new. Riedell recommends using Silicone Protectant to prevent moisture absorption by linings, Sno Seal to keep heels and soles from weakening, and Lexol® to restore and condition leather uppers. After protectants have dried, using Shoe Finish helps bring back the original color and shine of the boot.
The care of blades is no less important than that of boots, since the condition of edges is a key factor in skate performance. Blade guards should be worn as soon as skaters leave the ice. This avoids scraping and chipping blade chrome, which leaves the steel underneath vulnerable to corrosion-causing moisture. After every skating session skaters should remove blade guards, wipe blades dry and then use blade blankets. This protects skates during storage and absorbs any condensation that occurs as the blades return to room temperature. Finally, regular blade sharpening should be performed to deliver a skate’s best performance. Quality materials and proper boot construction are essential for high performance skates.
Communicating the importance of proper boot care to customers can greatly lengthen boot life.