While sizing and fit of most of the hockey equipment one wears is pretty black and white, there are still a few things that come down to personal preference. One of those things is how tight I should tie my hockey skates. The tightness of my hockey skates will be determined by a few things: skate fit, ankle strength, and comfort level. So how tight should you tie your skates?
You should tighten your laces so that your feet fill as much of the boots negative space as possible. Your heel should be firmly locked into your boot with only enough room to wiggle your toes. You can adjust how tight the top part of the skates is based on your ankle strength and how much flexibility your game requires.
Pull outward not upward
When talking about the tightness of hockey skates it is important to know that in general you should always feel secure in your boots. If you can feel wobbliness or your foot sliding, changes have to be made either in the size of your skates or the tightness of your laces.
An important tip when tying skates is to remember to pull the laces outward, not upward. Pulling them out to the side will help keep tension on the laces, allowing them to stay tight while you continue up the boot.
Skate Fit is Very Important
If there is one piece of equipment I beg you get properly sized, it is your skates! As a kid many parents get used to the routine of getting their children skates a half size to a full size bigger and letting them “grow into them.”
I understand skates are expensive and that kids grow quickly so I can not blame parents for this mentality. However, once you, your child, or whoever is either done growing or playing at a competitive level, I strongly recommend true to size fitting or even custom fitting skates.
Many teens and adults get used to that “half size big” feeling and never go back to properly fitting skates.
When your skates are too big, they are naturally going to feel loose, meaning you have no choice at that point but to try and tie your skates as tight as possible, and sometimes even then they won’t feel tight enough.
The wrong fit can make you a slower skates and less nimble on the ice. A proper fitting skate will make it easier to transfer energy through your foot and change edges on a dime.
Develop Ankle Strength:
Whether you have just started skating or have been skating your entire life, we all start at that same familiar point. We have all been that skater, ankles bent inwards just trying to survive, holding onto the boards for dear life.
What new skaters do not realize is that most of that problem does not come from not knowing how to skate, but from not having the ankle strength (or mobility- will talk about this later,) to balance themselves on an 1/8th of an inch of steel.
I would advise new skaters to tie their skates as tightly as possible (without cutting blood circulation) allowing them to use the skates’ stability to help them strengthen their ankles over time.
I do NOT recommend wrapping laces around the back of the boot. While this may make the skate feel tighter, you are damaging the structural integrity of the boot and limiting your body’s ability to strengthen those stabilizing muscles.
Comfort is Key
In the end, you do not want to be thinking about your skates while you are playing. Hockey is a game that happens so quickly that there is no time to be distracted by your skate feeling too loose or too tight.
Find a tightness level that allows you to set it and forget it. You should feel like your skates are an extension of your foot. It should never feel like a battle.
If you need a how to on lacing up your skates, check this great video out from Howies:
What are the Pros Doing?
At higher levels, players require their bodies and equipment to push the boundaries that are normally set for your average or beginner players.
To get to this level, many of these players have amazing edge control, superb ankle strength, and tons of ankle mobility.
These traits allow players to “drop an eyelet.” Players being able to not lace their top eyelet allows for more forward flexion in the ankle due to their mobility plus less resistance, while using their ankle strength to compensate for the less support on the ankle. This flexion allows players to dig deeper into strides and cut deeper on their edges.
If your laces are not staying tight, buy a fresh new pair of waxed laces which will hold their position throughout the duration of your time on the ice.
Another great tool to throw in your bag is a lace puller, this will help you get a tight fit on your laces without cutting your hands. It makes tightening your laces a breeze and is worth the few dollars you can pick it up for on Amazon.
Upgrade your skates
If your skates are worn, damaged or hampering your game, its probably time to buy a new pair of skates. Read my guide: When is it Time to Replace your Hockey Skates.
In the end you have to experiment. There is no definitive “right” way to tie your skates. However in general, most beginner skates don’t tigthen then laces enough -- causing ankle wobble.
Try things out, find what’s comfortable and what suits your game, and get on the ice!