What does the sole look like?
If the sole is a PVC sole, you should look at the bottom to make sure there aren't extra holes from someone who tried to take off one blade and put a different blade on it. If the sole is a leather sole check the heels for cracking/splitting. Ask if the skates have been sno-sealed or have had a factory seal to prevent moisture damage.
The soles of a brown leather boot shouldn't be black or have black spots as this is a sign of rot and moisture damage. Skaters who take care of their boots will wipe them off after skating and store them appropriately to prevent moisture damage.
What brand is the skate?
Ask about the brand. A good reliable brand of boots are SP Teri, Harlick, Jackson, Riedell, Risport, Avanta, GAM and Graf. Ask about the model of the brand. The model will tell you what skill level that particular skate will support. If the model of skate is supposed to have a blade attached, make sure the blade is the one that came with it or better. Don't get fooled into getting an upper level boot with a lower level blade.
Check out our Guide for Comparing Skate Brands to see the models of each brand of skate and what skills they will support. It's not a good idea to purchase used skates that were originally bought from department stores or the average sporting goods store.
The best case scenario is to be able to try on the used skates and have a coach or skate technician examine them before you purchase. Even if you know your size and/or have consulted the skate manufacturer's sizing chart you should understand that skates will stretch with use and sizing can be a problem with used skates.
Look at the linings of the boot. Are they in good shape? Do they have any rips or tears?
You must also remember that someone other than you has sweated in that those skates/boots. You can't smell a photo. Bad odors indicate mold or bacterial build up.
Buying used blades can be a little risky. Ask the previous owner the reason why they are selling the blade. Ask how long they skated in the blade and what skills they attempted while using the blade. Ask if they purchased this blade new or used and how many times it's been sharpened.
Look at the thickness of the dull strip on the sides of the blades along the edges. They were three or four millimeters when new. If they're now thin, then the blade has been sharpened many times. The concern will be that the rocker may be distorted after many sharpenings which is almost impossible to restore without specialized equipment.
Ask the skate sharpener at your rink to examine the blade. They can tell you if the blade is bent, incorrectly mounted or obviously damaged by abuse or bad sharpening.
A Division of Kinzie's Closet
Should you buy new or used figure skates or figure skate blades? There are some great deals to be had with used skates but there are several questions you should ask before making your purchase.
Keep in mind what you are going to do with your used skates. If you are a recreational skater, meaning you skate less than 5 or 6 times a year, then used figure skates might be a good option. However, if you are a skater who is taking lessons and wanting to advance in the field, you might want to go for the new skates as used skates may not provide the support you need. What you don't want to do is spend your hard earned money on a pair of used skates and then 2 months later have to purchase another pair of skates because the used skates didn't support you, didn't fit well or fell apart.
Age of Skate
The age of the skate is important. A pair of skates sitting in grandma's closet for 50 years isn't going to offer the same padding and ankle protection as a skate or figure skate boot made a year ago. Figure Skate boots have made a lot of changes in the past few years. For example, they are made lighter, more padded, heat moldable (to fit to your foot), and have other improvements to help figure skaters advance in the sport. More importantly, time will eventually age and even rot certain materials on the skate. What you don't want to do is spend money on a pair of old skates that maybe weren't used much, but disintegrated after a couple of months of wear due to material breakdown.
How long did the previous owner skate in them?
One of the most important questions is how long and often were the skates used by the previous owner? Was the previous skater a child or an adult?
Most children will outgrow their skates within 6 -9 months. If the previous owner was a young child then chances are good that the skate is still in fairly good condition if they purchased them new and they were a reputable brand of figure skate. However, even children can be rough on skates. Older children who are advanced in their skating skills can also wear out a skate before they outgrow it. If the previous owner was a child who was working on their axel and double jumps, then the skate may no longer have good support even if the outside looks pretty new.
If the previous skater was an adult who skated several hours a week for 6-9 months, then you should question why they are getting rid of the skates. It may be because they can no longer support the skills of that skater. Which means they may not support your skills either.
Did the previous owner buy the New or Used?
Always ask this question as someone trying to sell you used skates may not voluntarily offer they purchased it used. Buying used skates from someone who previously purchased them used is never a good idea. By the time you get them, they are probably very worn and will no longer offer the support you need even with recreational skating.
What does the boot leather look like?
Is the boot leather cracked, or creased on the outside? This is a sign of age and wear. Scratches and nicks are okay. That's typically a cosmetic issue. Even if the rest of the boot looks okay, excessive creases in the ankle area are a sign of breakdown.