Are Ice Skates Unisex? (Beginner’s Guide)

Ice skates have a bit more going on than the average piece of footwear. In shops and online, you can find ice skates that are marketed as either for men or women. You might be wondering if there are any differences between these ice skates or are they unisex?

Ice skates are often sold for men or women. This is mostly for marketing, as traditionally men wore black skates and women wore white skates. Skates advertised to men or women might be colored differently or have tiny changes in the boot but that’s where the differences end.

It can be a little bit confusing for beginners to wrap their heads around this. Some of the confusion can also come from how ice skates are sized, which is a bit different from normal shoes, but we’ll explain all the details below.

Are Ice Skate Sizes Unisex?

Did you know that originally every ice skater wore black ice skates? The first woman to popularize white ice skates for women was Sonja Henie, a Norwegian skater who dazzled the world with her performances.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

While most of the differences between ice skates for men and women are only on the surface, the sizes are not unisex. Typically men have bigger feet than women, therefore women have to get different size skates than their male counterparts.

This is where it gets confusing for some beginners because the skates don’t always come with a separate gender classification. So generally speaking, ice skates are not sized in a unisex manner.

Differences In Skates

Ice skates that are marketed to men will go off men’s shoe sizes. For example, it might be very difficult for a woman to find hockey skates in her size, as the vast majority of ice hockey skates are catered to men.

Whereas there are tons of figure skaters that are marketed to women, and as a result, they will be easier for a woman to size. Depending upon the manufacturer the same skates may not have options available in men’s sizes.

It bears repeating that a woman can wear ice skates marketed to men and vice versa, most of the time the only difference is that the ice skates for men are black. A woman or man could skate just as successfully on these skates, it’s just that they would have to size them differently.

Changing Times

However, this trend is decreasing, more and more manufacturers are creating unisex skates that are the same, but are much easier to size correctly for both women and men.

While dress shoes differ in style depending upon whether they are for men or women, ice skates are designed foremost for function and not style.

Some brands will also use a wider foot mold that they base their men’s skate sizes on. This is called a “last” so these may fit differently for a woman. That said, a lot of brands use the same last for their men’s and women’s skates. General stores are likely to stock unisex skates, specialist stores will be able to tell you which brands will fit you regardless.

Are Ice Skate Sizes The Same As Shoe Sizes?

Ice skate sizes are not the same as your normal shoe size. Skates are designed to fit tighter than normal shoes, so the sizes run a little bit smaller. There are also different classifications based on how wide your foot is. But, you might not need to be too concerned about this if you’re a hobbyist skater.

Ice Skate Arithmetic

If you’ve ever looked at some of the sizing “guides” for ice skates and your heads nearly span in circles, you’re not alone. Generally speaking, this is because professional skaters need the best possible fit for their skates, any wobble can chip away at their performance significantly. This demand from professional skaters has led to an arcane sizing system.

Some brands have their own sizing system, but they are all relatively similar. For example, if your foot was 8 inches in length, you would have a size 4 skate (regardless of if you’re a man or a woman).

If you had a foot that was 11 ½ inches you would go up to a size 12 skate. Ice skate sizes often go up in size by 0.5 points. With size 13 being the largest and size 4 being the smallest, it’s possible to get smaller and larger size ice skates but they’re not as easy to find, you might have to contact a store or manufacturer.

Width Classification

However, some skates also have a width sizing system (this is often needed on figure skates). For women, the width system has 5 separate classifications, these are – AAAA, AAA, AA, A, B, and C. This system runs from narrow to broad, so AAAA would be for narrow feet and C would be for broad feet.

Men have 3 separate width classifications for figure skates, these are – AAAA, AAA, and AA. This follows the same pattern as the women’s, AAAA is for narrower feet, and AA is for broader feet.

For example, a man with very long but narrow feet would need a size 12 AAA and a woman with short but broad feet might need a size 5 B. Don’t worry too much about this yet, this is just for reference.

Kid Sizes

Sizes for kids are a bit more simple, skates for kids run from size 6 to 3.5. The sizing system for kids is a bit different, 3.5 is the largest size and 6 is the smallest. There’s not a need for a width system for kids, as their feet are growing so fast, that most manufacturers just make their boots a little wider.

Adult Hockey Skates

Hockey skates are similar to those listed above but often come with classifications that are confusing to beginners, but once understood make choosing the correct range of skates a bit easier.

Hockey skates can be classified as “senior”, “intermediate”, “Junior”, and “youth”. These classifications apply as follows, senior is for adults, or teenagers who have US men’s size 8 or greater.

As a note for female skaters looking to get ice hockey skates, sometimes they are fitted in female sizes, but in case they’re not you would go 3 sizes down from your normal shoe size to find your hockey skate size.

Kids’ Hockey Skates

Intermediate is for kids who have a US shoe size of 5 to 7. This is usually, children who are around the age of 10 – 13.

Junior is for kids with a US shoe size 2 to 4.5, usually around 8 – 10 years old.

Youth is for toddlers and young children who are aged 9 and younger and sizes 1.5 or smaller.

How To Choose The Right Size Of Ice Skates

There are a few methods to choosing the right skate size, but generally speaking, the easiest way is to go 1.5 down from your normal shoe size. A size 8.5 would be a size 7 .0 skate. This is true for both men and women. However, while this is a good rule of thumb, if you’re buying your first skates you should probably use the second or third method.

Measuring Method

The second method is to measure your foot. You can do this by tracing your foot on a piece of paper and then measuring the length of your foot from heel to toe, and then the width of your foot from the left side to the right. You can measure these in inches.

This will give you all the numbers you need to tell you what the right size and width skate for you is. Just write these numbers down and then either tell them to the store clerk or keep them handy if you want to order your skates online.

The Third Method

The third and easiest method is to just go to a store and let them help you figure it out. They’ll be more than happy to do this for you because ice skate sizes are notoriously confusing for beginners. Some brands have fairly standardized sizes but you’ll more often than not be better off knowing your best skate fit.

Final Thoughts

Ice skate sizing can be more than a little confusing for beginners, but if you follow this guide and figure out your skate sizing you’re good to go. Stores and brands are more than happy to help, and while it seems odd how specific skate sizing is, it’s very important to both performance and safety that your skates fit as well as possible.