Good skates, for the right feet
Written: Sep 11, 2006 (Updated Sep 12, 2006)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Stiff, good quality, durable boot. t-blades: great performance. Lower cost skates.
Cons:Only for a specific foot type, t-blades runners did not stay sharp, no aftermarket support
The Bottom Line: If you have the right type of foot, Salming F1 Pro Skates are good value for the money - provided of course, that you like t-blades.
My quest for comfortable hockey skates has been a long one. As a recreational hockey player (playing almost two years), my skates - CCM 652P Tacks - were simply not comfortable. My feet are unusually wide, and it was a wonder why I wasn't swimming with the flippers I had, instead of ice skating.
Inserting Superfeet Grey insoles into my CCM skates helped a great deal, but after some time, I felt that I still wasn't able to fit the skates properly to my feet. My stability on the ice was not what it should have been. Thus began my quest to find the right skate for my extra wide feet.
After reading the reviews here and doing some research, I decided to give the Salming F1 Pro Skates a try. I bought these skates via eBay, as the previous Salming distributor was clearing out his inventory. Salming, a recent startup from Europe, is a rather unknown brand in North America, and particularly in the US. They've been trying to penetrate the North American market and have recently switched distributors.
A discussion of the Salming F1 Pro Skates would involve two main components: the skate boot, and the blade holder system.
A. The Boot
Salming describes their F1 boots with the following features (from http://www.salmingusa.com):
- FlexSupport(TM) for better fit and mobility
- Clarino(TM) lining gives a soft feel and increased durability
- Anatomical padded inside for great comfort and support
- Anatomical inner sole for increased foot support
- Dull durable plastic toe cup offers increased impact and abrasion resistance
- Heel stabilizer for stability and comfort
- Pre-shaped anatomical tongue
- Composite outsole for light weight and torsional stiffness
- Sizes: 6-12, full and half sizes, D and E widths
- Colour: Grey / Black / Cyan
The boot is definitely a stiff one, and is designed to hold a large foot. On wearing the skate, my impression was that it is designed to hold a foot with a high instep, slightly wider heel, and wide forefoot. The skate has high arch supports as well.
Ankle support is substantial in the skate, with the tendon guard at the back of the skate going up high along the back of the ankle.
The boots are heat-moldable as well. I had this done before I went out on my first skate.
B. The Blade Holder System
Unlike the majority of other ice hockey skate brands, Salming F1 Pro Skates do not use their own proprietary holders. Instead, the skates have been fitted with the t-blade system (http://www.t-blade.com), which has been seen on a variety of skates and is considered a new and innovative ice skate technology.
t-blades come in three parts: the holder, the stabilizer, and the runner (the actual blade). The main feature of this holder system is that the runner (a 1 millimetre strip of steel) is manufactured using a higher quality steel. t-blade claims that this steel will not go dull as quickly as the conventional ice hockey runner - they are supposed to stay sharp five to six times longer. The runner cannot be sharpened, and so when it does become dull, replacement runners must be purchased (from anywhere between $15 to $30) and installed on the holder. This allows for a consistent blade sharpness every time you get a replacement.
The runners are available in a variety of configurations involving the length, hollow (how much "bite" you give the blade), and rocker (how much of the blade makes contact with the ice) to suit a skater's preferences. The configuration I got with my skate was coded as M-13-264, indicating a medium rocker, a 3/8" skating hollow, and a runner length of 264 millimetres.
With its higher quality steel, t-blade runners are supposed to confer a faster gliding speed to the skater, and with its minimal use of steel, the holders are supposed to be lighter as well.
While I could probably go on forever about the details of the t-blade holder system, I will keep it brief and invite you to visit the t-blade website for more detailed information.
C. Other notes
These skates were not perceptively any heavier nor lighter than my previous CCM 652P Tacks.
What I liked
The first time I put these skates on, I definitely felt comfortable. The F1 skates were wider, and I didn't feet the same pain in my forefoot that I had in my CCM 652P's. The F1's also were stiffer than my previous skates, and seemed to give me more support. Moreover, with the boot's hard shell, I didn't feel any painful impact to my feet by pucks or sticks.
It took me some time to adjust to the t-blade holder. The holder put my weight more on my heels compared to my old skates, and I initially found myself rubbing my heels on the ice in mid-stride. However, the grip that the t-blade holder conferred was amazing. Turns were sharper and faster - both achieved by the sharp blade and the increased weight balance towards the heel.
The claims about faster gliding speed definitely held true as well. These skates retain a noticeably faster gliding speed, and I felt a much "smoother" ride on the ice during gliding.
The holder was strong, and I could feel every vibration on the ice, giving me a response that I had never felt before in my old skates.
Finally, t-blades are loud. The blades dig into the ice and make loud scraping noises during turns that have to be heard to be believed. After some adjustments in skating style (towards more proper skating techniques), the loud noises emitted by the blades were reduced somewhat, but the sounds never totally disappeared.
What I didn't like
My honeymoon period with the skates ended almost as quickly as it started. While I suffered no pain in my forefoot, the high arch supports stuck into the arches of my feet, giving me rather significant pain in my arches. As a game went on, I found it difficult to push off on the skate. This occurred even when I inserted my Superfeet insoles, which have a plastic shell underneath.
Second, despite getting the skates baked to my foot shape, I had difficulty getting a snug fit along my instep and ankle, and as such I could never get my heel secure in the skate. My insteps were evidently not large enough for this boot to grip.
Regarding the holder: for all the benefits that I experienced from the t-blades, I was disappointed in their longevity. Despite the claims of a longer life of the t-blade compared to conventional blades, my t-blades went dull in after an accumulation of two hours of skating. The blades themselves suffered no trauma to them other than skating, and I can't figure out why they had become so dull. The only solution was to now spend another $15 to $30 in purchasing replacement blades, after having bought the skates about a month prior. With my old skates, I would have had them sharpened for about $6.
Finally, Salming Sports has not reached a point of stability in the US market. As mentioned above, they recently discontinued their agreement with their US distributor and signed up with a new one, and consequently, I didn't receive any aftermarket support with my F1s (that I purchased from the original US distributor) - not even a response to e-mail. Granted, I bought these skates for a low price, but, if you buy these skates, you're on your own.
The Salming F1 Pro Skates are definitely a good set of skates, in terms of the boot. If you have the right foot shape - high arch, high instep, wider heel, wider forefoot - these skates might be the ones for you. But, these weren't the skates for me. The F1 boot wasn't designed for my lower instep and lower arches.
I both loved or hated the t-blades: I loved the performance but hated the durability. The t-blade runners did not live up to their longevity claims to make them practical from a cost perspective.
It was a worthwhile experiment, given the $150 price tag (not a huge financial hit in terms of hockey skates). However, my search for a better skate for my feet continues.
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