So, I've been ice skating for a couple of weeks now, and so I did something monumentous.
I blew three hundred dollars on a pair of boots from hell.
The whole story is is that beginners like me (I've passed Beginner 1! Yay!) generally don't buy their own skates unless they're really litte (Little kids always seem to have their own skates) or really rich (for obvious reasons). Us mere mortals normally make do with rental skates until parents can bear to fork up enough to buy figure skates or ice hockey boots, which are, well, bloody expensive.
Rental skates are disgusting. They're made out of super hard plastic, so they're more like crash helments than boots - you really can't do anything in them except skitter around and pray that you don't fall. The padding is always lumpy, you can never get the tightness right because they fasten not with proper laces but with a few clamp-like buckles, and they're always, always, always blunt. Gross.
I also have funny feet, and really bony, sensitive feet with lots of pressure points, so I hate rental shoes, and I'm always the one skooting off the ice and demanding a new pair halfway through my lesson.
So I decided to get my own.
It took over an hour and about five pairs of skates before I bought my beautiful Risport Etoiles, a pair of skating stockings, two boot covers and blade guards (my soakers are coming through the mail). They're pretty and white and they look sleek with high tan heels and English blades. The boot is leather, Italian design, and made in Romania. Sounds posh, right?
Doesn't save them from being uncomfortable, though.
Risport boots are apparently loved for being stiff (good for support and boot longevity) but quick to 'break in' (making the new boot mould to your feet.) By 'quick' we're talking at least a month of steady pain. The crazy part is my boots are considered quite soft - which is ridiculous, because if I didn't know any better I would have told you they were made out of concrete - they only have a stiffness rating of '20', because they're entry level skates and not designed for spins or crazy stuff like that. Professional figure skates go up to a stiffness rating of 85, which is crazy. Imagine trying to break in that. Urgh. Ice dancers, at least, only look for a stiffness rating of 40, which is much more reasonable.
If you think that three hundred dollars (346, to be exact) is a bit much (that's USD$340 or GBP220) is a bit much, put it this way. A kid who comes up to my knee (and yes, there are kids like that on the ice, and they're a hell of a lot better than me because they lack this part of the brain that processes things like pain, cold or fear) can get away with spending less than $100 on a pair of skates, because they're little. These are 'basic' skates, and I was told quite bluntly that I'm too big for them.
So I bought 'entry-level' skates, designed for people who are just going into competitions - jumping the gun a bit, but hey, whatevs. These boots range from $100-$400, and they're the last kind of boots that can be bought with the blade. To give you an idea on how much the professionals spend, a boot can be upwards of $600 and a professional-quality blade starts at about $900.
Ice skating is an expensive sport.
And so, I've been wetting my stockings with hot water and shoving my shoes on and tottering around the house in my blade guards, at least half a foot taller than I normally am and twice as unstable, I've wrestled my way through a lesson and skated through two hours of practice.
It's lovely having your own boots, really. They don't smell like other people's feet, and they're sleek looking despite feeling quite bulky (compared to normal shoes), and despite all the pain I'm complaining about, they're actually quite a bit more comfortable than rental skates, and more flexible. I can do all this flexibility stuff (like swizzles) that I couldn't do in rentals. I cover mine with black boot covers so as to separate myself from the two year olds in hot pink, and I feel kind of...grown up. You get more respect on the rink if you've got your own boots - people scoot out of the way for you a bit more - a *bit* more. There's still that girl in that godawful blue warmup costume who glares at you with these horrible watery blue eyes that remind me of K every time she sees me wobble around and she's skating around like a pro (or at least, she thinks she skates like a pro. She did fall. Hypocrite.)
But breaking in boots is painful. They tell me that in a month's time they'll be really really comfortable. I sincerely hope they're right.
As for now, it'll be back to wet stockngs and boot-lace induced blisters (I have blisters on each index finger from tightening my laces, but I refuse to buy a lace tightener because apparently they're only for wimps) tomorrow.
Poem coming up soon :)