When you bought your first pair of figure skates, you probably spent days researching the difference between boots, laces, soles, types of skate guards, and blades. But what about toe picks? Figure skating toe picks are somewhat similar to your kitchen knives. Both the butter knife and the steak knife have their own purpose; you wouldn’t use a steak knife to spread peanut butter on your morning toast, but that doesn’t make it an ineffective blade, it just means that you are using the wrong blade for the wrong purpose.
The same can be true for the blades on your skate’s toe pick. Did you know that each toe pick has been designed for an individual purpose or type of skater? Just like your boots, laces, and soles, your toe picks need to match your individual skating style and form and should be viewed as a tool to help you perform your best. You wouldn’t hit the ice while dull blades; so you shouldn’t enter the rink without knowing exactly how your toe picks can work the best for you. A toe pick is a tool; it can help you jump higher, stop shorter, or turn sharper depending on your need.
Understanding The Toe Pick
The first step in determining which toe pick style is right for you is to understand the parts of a standard toe pick and how they relate to your blade’s overall performance.
Rake, Pick, Teeth: The most well-known part of the toe pick, the teeth are the sawtooth edges that have been cut into the front of your blade.
Drag, Master, Drop Pick: The Drag is the lowermost spike on your toe pick. Traditionally spaced just slightly farther apart than the rest of the teeth, the Drag is what skaters use to initiate vertical jumps.
King Pick, Primary: A King Pick is the topmost spike on your toe pick. This large, protruding pick helps to enhance a skater’s contact with the ice while performing toe assisted maneuvers.
Non-Skateable Zone: The Non-Skateable Zone is the section of the blade directly behind the toe pick. This section of the blade is used while completed spins and utilizes a rocker profile, meaning that it maintains a gently sloped form. A standard Non-Skateable Zone, or NSZ, can range anywhere from 1” – 1 ½”.
Lift Angle, Heel Lift, Toe Lift: Your Lift Angle is the space between the ice and your blade’s tail, the furthermost part of the blade that extends past the heel. The height of your Lift Angle will determine the time it takes for your pick to come into contact with the ice. For example, if you have a larger Lift Angle then it will take longer for your Toe Pick to come into contact with the ice, whereas a smaller Lift Angle means that your Drag will hit the ice all the more quickly. The lift is decided as the degree of the Rocker on your blade.
Rocker: The Rocker is the center section of your blade that is shaped in a gentle curve.
Spin Rocker: The Spin Rocker is the “sweet spot” of your blade located right behind the balls of your feet. It is here that skater will perform spins.
The Different Types of Toe Rakes
There are several different types of toe rakes available. These variations come in various sizes, patterns, and relative angles to the ice. Primarily, there are three distinct variations of toe rakes; Straight Cut, Cross Cut, and K-Pick. Typically, most skaters will choose a variation within the Straight Cut and Cross Cut family.
Straight Cut: This toe pick will allow skaters to dig deeply into the ice, allowing for a firm grip while promoting lift. These toe picks dig deeper than that of the Cross Cut styled picks.
- Infinity Titanium
Cross Cut: This toe pick is for skaters who want a quicker rotation initiation. This pick allows for the skaters to grip the top layers of ice as opposed to digging down deeper than Straight Cut Styles.
- Pinnacle Titanium
The Metal Behind the Magic
Do you know the difference between carbon steel and titanium? Did you know that some blades are made of one metal and then coated in another? The type of metal that has been used to make your blades can have a major impact on that blade’s performance. Like toe rake styles, each type of metal is intended for different skaters. Which metal is “right” for you will depend on your skating style and preference. Allow us to break down the difference between the metals commonly used to make skate blades.
- Carbon Steel: This metal is a steel alloy, which means that carbon has been added to pure steel. Typically, this is the metal that most skaters start off with. It is viewed by most to be a jack of all trades metal.
- Nickel: Following carbon steel, nickel is another popular choice for those in the earlier stages of their career. Nickel has the added benefit of being corrosion resistant. Nickel is typically used to plate a blade made of a different metal.
- Aircraft Aluminum: Another alloy, aircraft aluminum has a high strength-to-weight ratio and is one-third more elastic than steel alloys. The result is a blade that feels softer while in use.
- Carbon-fiber Composite Materials: These blades are made from two or more basic material being fused together, which in turn creates a blade with high rigidity and strength. These blades take carbon steel and aluminum to the next level.
- Stainless steel: These blades won’t rust or stain as easily as the previously mentioned, but that does not make them fully stain-proof. These blades tend to be harder than other blades.
- Titanium: These blades have a very high tensile strength-to-density ratio and are extremely resistant to metal fatigue and cracking. These blades can be made to be up to 40% lighter than other blades. Perfect for those who want light feet while performing jumps.
Find Your Match At Riedell
At Riedell, we make finding the perfect blades and skates easy! When you’re selecting your new skating gear through Riedell, we encourage you to consider your discipline of focus and the jumps, spins, and tricks you’ll be performing while wearing your skates. For skaters with a spin-heavy program, we recommend trying a Cross Cut toe pick, those who want a more lift you may want to consider a Straight Cut toe rake, and those who want more power may want to consider a K-Pick. Still undecided as to which toe pick is right for you? Contact our experienced team to find the perfect toe pick for your next pair of skates.