Many ice hockey skates are now made with a special type of thermo-formable foam that responds to heat and becomes soft enough to be reshaped for a customized fit. Most hockey pro shops have a skate oven that is used to heat up the skates for about 5-10 minutes at approximately 175°, but the temperature and baking time varies from one skate model to the next.
Do I Have to Bake My Skates?
For certain skate models, baking is required, for others it is highly recommended and for most it is not absolutely necessary but may be worth doing anyhow. Hockey skates are made to be stiff and supportive but can be uncomfortable when they haven't been broken in. Baking your skates often gives you a more comfortable fit than the fit you'll experience with a pair of skates that you wear right out of the box, and baking also helps eliminate some of the initial pressure points that exist with a new pair of skates. Break-in time varies from model to model, but typically takes between 6 and 10 hours of hard skating.
Can I Use My Kitchen Oven to Bake My Skates?
Baking your hockey skates in your home oven is not recommended because the skates can be damaged if they are improperly baked. It's always best to have the skates baked in a skate oven at a hockey pro shop. Also, the manufacturer's warranty is often void if the skates are baked in your home oven.
If you don't have access to a hockey pro shop with a skate oven then a hair blow dryer works fairly well and provides a safe alternative. Just point it into the boot on low heat for 10-12 minutes and the materials should become warm enough to do the trick. Be very careful when you're lacing up your skates because when the materials are warm the eyelets can become strained and may even pop out if you pull too hard. Pull the laces outward as you tighten rather than upward. After you've tightened the skates, stay seated for about 40 minutes so the materials have a chance to cool down. It's also best to wait about 24 hours after baking before you skate to allow the materials to harden and set.
Does Every Skate Model Respond Differently to Baking?
High end models, such as the Bauer Vapor APX Skates and CCM U+ Crazy Light Skates should always be baked for the best fit because the quarter package of elite models such as these is very rigid and somewhat unforgiving in the absence of baking. Mid level skates should be baked as well, but it's not absolutely necessary as the boots are typically a bit softer. Introductory level skates have a softer shell and usually do not have the same type of thermo-formable foam padding which is used in mid and high level skates, so they do not need to be baked because they are easier to break in the old fashioned way.