This weekend I had the pleasure of trying out the Reebok 11K Black Ice Hockey Skates. The 11K's were the first pair of Reebok skates that I've ever used, mostly because my feet are so oddly shaped that I'm hesitant to wear anything other than my Graf 727 Cyberflex skates. I have fairly wide, flat feet, and my medial malleolus (the bone that protrudes from your inner ankle) not only sticks out more than normal, it also sits much further forward and often completely misses the padding in the ankle of the boot, resting near the edge of the boot eyelets. So, I often have a hard time finding a boot that works as well for my feet as the Graf 727's.
Anyhow, I had heard only good things about the quality and performance of the Reebok 11K skates, so I was pretty "pumped" (see what I did there? awful joke...) when I was given a pair to try out. When I picked them up out of the box they were lighter than I expected, and the graphics were flashy but not overdone. I had the skates baked and sharpened (1", for those who care) on Friday, and they molded very well. Oh, quick note here, make sure you release all of the air out of the pumps before you bake the skates. On Saturday, I sat on my couch and laced them up to see if the padding was still as comfortable as the day before when I baked them. They fit like a glove, or... yeah. The padding was a little bit more rigid than before I baked the skates, but it felt great and the shape achieved by molding was maintained.
On Sunday afternoon I had a game, which isn't usually my favorite time to pull out a pair of brand new skates, but it's been a bit of a challenge finding time to skate lately. The first thing I noticed when I stepped through the gate onto the ice was the forward pitch. Like I said, I've been using Graf 727's with TUUK Custom+ holders for the last 5 years, so I'm used to a pretty neutral stance. In the 11K's, I was definitely on my toes, but it wasn't quite as extreme as the forward pitch I experienced with the Cobra holders that were originally on the Grafs. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being a neutral pitch and 10 being the most aggressive forward stance, I'd say the 11K's were around 7.5 or 8. As the game went on, I was able to adjust to it and didn't really notice it anymore by the time the 3rd period rolled around.
I remember talking to some buddies about their own experience with Reebok pump skates a while back, and they mentioned that the pump seemed to lose most of its air after a period or so. I should clarify by saying that their experience was with the 9K from 2009. Anyhow, I pumped up the boots in the locker room and they seemed to stay pumped all game for me. No issues there. The pump is a really nice feature, and for someone like me who has flintstone feet, it adds another degree of comfort in the ankles.
The lace-lock or "Skatelock", as they call it, does its job well, but I could live without it because you have to unclasp it when you're done skating anyway, and it can be a little cumbersome at first. Nothing complicated, but it takes a couple extra seconds to operate and I might just as well do without it. I can see how most players would appreciate it, though. I was impressed by the way the boots wrapped my feet and provided a very secure yet comfortable fit. The Skatelock played its part in that, so I can't knock it.
Support and response (and weight, of course) are always the most important performance characteristics of a hockey skate. In terms of support, I found no fault in the 11K's. I was really pleased with the amount of confidence I felt in the skates as I took turns at top speed. Every turn, stop and push-off was met with the right blend of rigidity and flexibility in the key areas. The response of the boots was good, too, and there didn't seem to be much energy lost when I pushed off to accelerate or stopped to change directions.
By the end of my game, my arches and thighs were a little sore. I don't fault the skates for this at all. I have flat, wide feet, and I was using a D width boot. The arches in the 11K's are relatively high compared to other skates I've recently tried on, but I'm sure they're right on par for most skaters. Also, the forward pitch of the boots put me more on my toes than I'm used to. This probably changed my posture a little bit and shifted the workload to a different part of my thigh muscles as I skated. I'm sure after a couple more skates my legs will readjust to the aggressive stance and the strain will subside.
All in all, I was really impressed by the look, fit and performance of the Reebok 11K Skates. When it comes to fit, the nice thing about these skates is that you have more stock fit options than I think I've ever seen with another skate on the market. The 11K skate is offered in D, D/AA, E, and EE. As most of you know, D is a standard fit, E is wide and EE is extra wide. D/AA is a good fit for players who want a standard D width boot, but prefer a narrower heel fit. With all of those options available, pretty much every foot type can be accommodated. I probably would have been better off with an E width boot, but the D width offered a manageable fit for me.
I would absolutely recommend the Reebok 11K Skates. They're light, supportive, comfortable, attractive and very well priced, especially when you consider the amount being charged for the top models being produced by some of the other manufacturers.