It’s no mystery that ice skating needs cold temperatures to function. Whether that’s natural cold or maintained artificially to create a man-made ice rink. With all these cold temperatures around, you might be wondering if your ice skates are warm enough, or how you can keep your feet warm.
Ice skates are designed to keep your feet reasonably insulated from the cold, but it’s not uncommon for new skaters or young children to get cold feet when ice skating. You can ensure your feet are protected from the cold by warming up your entire body properly and checking your skates fit well.
Cold feet can happen for a multitude of reasons. It can be due to equipment, experience, or even simple misunderstandings about ice skating. We’re going to go through all the reasons below to help you understand what the problem can be if your ice skates aren’t keeping your feet warm enough.
Is Ice Skating Cold?
Ice skating is cold, it’s an activity that is only possible because of low temperatures. Ice rinks are chilled to around 16 degrees Fahrenheit, these temperatures ensure that the ice remains frozen and is safe to skate on.
The closer you are to the ice the colder you’ll feel, and cold outdoor temperatures can make it even colder on the rink (as it would be counterproductive to have a heat source around ice).
How cold you feel is dependent upon a bunch of factors, some of it is related to your physiology, and some of it can be due to your equipment. Once you understand these factors you’ll know what you can do to maximize your comfort.
It’s very important for your safety that you are not so cold that it’s distracting you from your technique. This is especially true for a beginner, as you’ll need all your concentration to learn proper balance and basic movements, and being too cold can seriously hamper your efforts.
Physiology – Brown Fat
Your body can store multiple different kinds of fat, two of the most known are visceral fat (belly fat), and subcutaneous fat (fat under the skin and around the muscles). These fat stores are integral for your body’s health, but there’s a third and less well-known kind, called brown fat.
There are some fairly interesting recent scientific findings regarding brown fat, for example, it can help control weight or aid weight loss. However, for ice skating purposes brown fat’s primary function is to use your body’s fat stores to generate heat.
How much brown fat you have on your body is determined by your genetics and environment. If your ancestors come from colder places you will probably have more brown fat than someone whose ancestors hail from warmer or tropical places, If you live or grew up in a colder area you will also have more brown fat.
You must dress appropriately when ice skating, and this is especially true for beginners. It may seem like wearing too many layers is going to slow you down, but as a beginner, your primary concern as a beginner is avoiding injury. Staying warm enough is essential for both injury prevention and performance.
If you’re a beginner or new to ice skating you might overlook just how cold rinks can be, a lot of beginners have seen veteran ice skaters who only wear t-shirts and pants. There’s a world of difference between advanced skaters and beginners, and if you’re a beginner, copying what advanced skaters wear could open you up to a host of problems.
Cold And Beginners
As a beginner ice skater, your technique is going to limit how quickly you can move. An advanced skater has the balance and technique down to pat, he’s trying to maximize their performance, which means they’re moving at a higher intensity, thus generating more heat.
As a beginner, all of your attention is going to be on technique and balance, and while this is a good exercise in itself, the lack of faster-paced exertion means your body simply isn’t generating enough heat.
It’s very common for parents to wrap their kids up warm, but after a few months on the rink they’re chucking their jackets and coats away. They’ve mastered the technique enough that they can move at a pace where their body is generating significant amounts of heat, but until you’re at this stage you must have enough layers on to feel warm.
On The Boundary
It’s also important to think about the time you spend not on the rink but near it. When you’re waiting to get on the rink and not moving at all it can get very cold, this is maybe one of the most important reasons to wrap up properly.
If you’re starting skating as a beginner and you’re too cold this can greatly slow down the rate at which you’ll learn. It’s also equally as important not to stop moving when you get off the rink. Keep your blood flowing, you don’t want your body to get too cold too fast when you’ve finished.
Are Ice Skates Cold Or Warm?
Ice skates are designed for insulation, how warm or cold they are depends on what they’re made out of and how well you maintain them. Ice skates don’t have an independent source of heat, they’re built to maximize the heat your body produces through exertion.
The Warmest Ice Skates
As mentioned different brands use different materials, some brands use Thinsulate, which is very light but also has very potent insulation properties. Some of the biggest differences are in the type of boot, but generally speaking, hockey skates are likely to be warmer than figure skates.
Hockey skates are built to protect players against impact from both hockey putts and other players. They’re also often designed with comfort in mind, whereas figure skates are designed to support the feet for jumps, they may not be as padded or insulated.
Another factor in making sure your skates keep you warm enough is proper maintenance. This isn’t a long and involved process at all, you just need to make sure that your skates are in a place where they can dry properly once you’re finished using them. This ensures that they’ll insulate properly.
The other part is breaking your skates in properly, you might already know that skates are a little uncomfortable fresh from the factory. Skates are robust and are built to be stiffer than most footwear, you need to give your skates enough time to break in so they fit you properly. Propper fitting is also a big part of how ice skates capture and retain heat.
How To Keep Your Feet Warm When Ice Skating
There are a big bunch of things that you can do to ensure that you and your feet stay warm and comfortable when ice skating. Ensuring that your skates fit well and that you’re not too cold before you start skating is of paramount importance.
New skaters should especially take care, your body has to adapt to both a new and unfamiliar activity as well as get used to the cold conditions on a rink. Anything you can do to help your body now will pay off later.
Good clothing choices are essential to make sure your core body temperature stays high because if your overall body temperature is low when you start skating, then your feet have got no chance. This goes double for any new skaters.
Good clothing choices for ice skating include pants and leg warmers, jackets, coats, and jumpers, you’ll want to avoid anything that has loose-fitting parts, it’s also a bad idea to wear scarfs on indoor rinks because if they come off they can be a fall hazard for you and everyone else.
Clothes that restrict mobility in your legs (like jeans) are also a bad idea, you’ll want to be able to move as freely as possible. Tight-fitting pants can also reduce circulation to your lower legs, which can also make your feet colder.
Check Your Skates Aren’t Tight
Skates that are too tight are a common reason for uncomfortable, numb, and cold feet. There are three common reasons why your skates are too tight. The first reason is the most obvious, your skates are a size too small for you, and the only solution is to get the correct size.
If your skates are the correct size then the two most likely reasons are, that you lace your skates too tightly, or these specific skates are a little on the narrow side for your foot.
Tight laces constrict circulation to your foot, without adequate circulation your feet cannot warm up. If your foot feels like it’s being crunched slightly, try tying your laces a little bit more loosely. This should alleviate the crunchy feeling and allow blood flow to properly reach your foot, ensuring it stays warm.
If your skates run a little on the narrow side, you could take them to a specialist ice skating store. Specialists can widen the front section a little bit, to ensure the skate doesn’t become too loose they’ll tighten the heel section. This promotes much healthier blood flow to your foot, also ensuring it stays warm.
Check Your Skates Aren’t Loose
While it’s important your skates are tight, in terms of warmth, it’s also important that they aren’t too loose. Ice skates are built to fit snugly, this is why there are a lot of options for sizes, loose fits disturb the effectiveness of padding or insulation materials.
Most boots have some kind of insulation material, it’s also usually sweat-absorbent to stop the inside of the boot from becoming wet. The materials need to fit snugly to work properly. If there’s any wobble, the heat will escape from your skates and your feet will end up feeling like ice cubes.
We’ve mentioned core temperature a few times, and warming up is integral to maintaining a decent core temperature. Your core temperature is like the barometer for the rest of your body, if it’s too low then your feet are going to get too cold as well.
You warm up by maintaining movement, you can do some light stretches, anything that gets your heart rate up a bit. It’s important that you maintain this activity and don’t spend long periods inactive before getting on the rink. Sudden changes in body temperature can severely impact your performance and safety.
The Best Socks
Finding comfortable socks is very important, but not just any old socks will do. Socks that are too thick can prevent sweat-absorbent materials in the skates from working, the sweat will evaporate off your foot and not go into the absorbent linings. You could end up with the double trouble of cold and wet feet.
It’s a good idea to invest in socks that are specifically designed for ice skating, this will help keep your feet warm and safe. Ice skating socks are thinner than you think, thick socks can make your skates feel a little too tight. Many skaters opt to skate with no socks on at all, but that’s for more advanced levels.
Doing a general warm-up for your body is all most people will ever need to do. Foot mobility drills are great If you’ve had a foot injury in the past, or you want to pay special attention to your feet, you don’t have to engage in a long complicated routine, a few seconds will do.
Foot mobility drills are simple, just sit on a bench and make circles with your toes, you can also try pointing your toes up as far as they can go, and lowering your toes towards the ground. Your feet should be off the ground while your sat down and do these drills.
Cold Exposure Training
Remember when we discussed brown fat? There are ways of actually increasing the levels of the brown fat in your body, as a quick refresher brown fat uses up your other fat stores to generate heat for your body.
The way to do this is via a process called acute cold exposure training, you can do this by standing in a very cold shower for 10 – 30 seconds. This is not for the faint of heart and is just a trick that some professionals use to make their bodies adapt quicker.
You can also do this with just your feet, submerging your feet in a cold tub of water can help the small blood vessels and circulation structures develop more rapidly. This is another way of keeping your feet warm, by leveraging your body’s physiology.
Much nicer than cold showers. If your feet are consistently cold and uncomfortable after ice skating,having a foot massage and rubbing your own feet can help. This is because ice skating is demanding on the ligaments, joints, and muscles in the foot, causing a lot of tension that restricts blood flow.
Massaging your foot will dramatically reduce the tension, enabling it to relax and enhance blood flow. This clears up waste products leftover in the foot due to exertion, the massage can also help your foot adapt to the rigors of ice skating.
If you’ve had your skates for a while, and you know they fit you properly, or you’ve taken all the precautions to ensure the fit is snug but your feet are still cold, you might want to think about replacing the stock insoles in your skates.
Insoles can sometimes be overlooked by manufacturers, they support your foot just fine but they might not offer any padding or insulation. Lack of insole padding can cause heat to escape through your skates, there are lots of options available on the market, and it won’t be expensive at all to replace the insoles.
A lot of skaters swear by waxed laces, they’re great because they keep your laces from coming undone. This means they don’t have to spend any time checking or retying their laces, but some people can get problems from these laces as opposed to unwaxed laces.
Wax laces stop the boot part of the skate from expanding while you’re moving, this can constrict your foot and slightly cut off your circulation. If your skates feel fine when you put them on but over time your feet feel constricted, cold, and slightly numb you might want to get some unwaxed laces instead.
While keeping your feet warm is very important to staying comfortable and enjoying your skating experience, sometimes you can encounter problems. Modern skates are getting better and better at insulating and keeping feet warm, but in the meantime, there are lots of things anyone can do to ensure their feet don’t get too cold.