If you are reading this and are anything like me (ie. goalie… knows how he likes his equipment… control freak) there has been a long and strange journey while searching for the ‘perfect skate’. Behold goalies, I was very fortunate to get a pair of (prototype) skates from the folks at VH Footwear that are truly changing the way goalies look at skates.
Perhaps a little known secret outside of the Province of Manitoba, VH Footwear prides itself as being a truly innovative company; so innovative, they are introducing the first ever 1 piece goal skate.
Made of Aerospace grade carbon fiber that is fused to thermo-plastic, this allows it to be heat molded in the shape of the player’s foot… but more on the fitting process in a bit. That combination of carbon fiber is then layered using epoxy and hardeners to create an extremely light and hard shell that is then integrated into the quarter package and rest of the boot.
All of that being said, I definitely had some objections right off the bat: who is this company? Why haven’t I heard of them? Do NHL players wear them? Why do I have to spend so much time sizing myself, when I can just go to the local hockey store and have them do it instead?
I’ll start from the beginning… VH Footwear was created by Scott Van Horne who has been experimenting, tweaking, and fabricating skates for over 25 years. He was a member of the Canadian National Speed Skating Team, then went on to earn a Bachelor’s of Science Degree from the University of Calgary in 2001, graduating with distinction. Scott then completed his Masters of Science Degree from the University of Calgary in 2003 with an NSERC scholarship. His thesis on the biomechanics of the skating push was published in the International Journal of Applied Biomechanics. Safe to say he knows his stuff…
Just because a hockey consumer hasn’t heard of this brand/product doesn’t mean it’s sub par. They’re targeting early adopters who can think ‘outside the box’, and players that want NHL quality custom skates hand made for them at a reasonable price.
Final tracing submitted of right foot
Is this revolutionary skate ‘good’ enough for an NHL goalie to wear? Consider that Ryan Miller, starting goaltender has been using the skates since summer – working very closely with Scott, he had input from the prototype (used in summer, and the pair that were made for me) to the 2nd pair he is currently wearing now. If the skate can be worn and take shots from the best hockey players on the planet in the NHL, then anybody can use them.
Final tracing submitted of left foot
Skates are a serious concern for a lot of goalies, especially beer league goalies like myself – we are on the ice for over an hour straight so everything on our feet must feel “right”. Obviously the last/fit of the skate and even the sock are all taken under consideration. I personally have a wide toe box with a narrow heal and a medium instep. I wore the Bauer One100, Easton Mako boot (customized to be a goalie skate/boot) and the MLX goal skate. NEVER has anybody come forward and announced that they manufacture a 1 piece goal skate… is it too innovative? Too forward thinking for goalies? When I first heard of this, I thought of Pete Smith and his SP6000 pads. It was a solution for a lot of goalies – more durable, better rotating and lighter. BUT, would goalies actually wear it? That’s what I honestly thought when I was talking about this skate with Garth Smith, VP of Sales & Marketing – would goalies actually accept this?
Right foot inside tracing ‘highlighting’ abnormality
The short answer would be – I sure as hell hope so! Let’s look at the solutions it provides:
- Comfort – below are pictures of the sizing process and how the skates turned out. Again, the fact that these are custom made by hand for you AND they are the most moldable skate on the market puts them in a space all by themselves in regards to comfort. Starting goalies & beer leaguers are on the ice for an entire game so if your feet aren’t comfortable, you’re going to be miserable. If your feet are cold, toes go numb etc you are going to be miserable. THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN WITH THESE SKATES. If sized correctly, and it’s not hard to size yourself, they really will fit perfectly. And honestly, it feels uncomfortable at first because there is 0 negative space. NONE. No slippage, no heel lift, no volume issues, nothing. I was not anticipating the kind of fit and responsiveness the skate provides. Was I wearing skates that never fit me correctly all along? Were the skates I had before meant to break down after 2 years? Tough to tell, definitely a possibility though. As far as adjustment time, it took me roughly 10 ice times (so about 15 hours) to get used to the “feel”. These skates are all about “feel”. You “feel” locked in with these on your feet. You “feel” more comfortable and on point, you “feel” like you are in complete control of your skates and your skates are working with you, not against you.
I will however note that you MUST work with your local sharpener very closely to dial in your radius of hollow to where it’s comfortable for you. I went 1/8” more shallow because there is no give/flex in the skate when moving side to side. For example, if you are on 3/8”, you will feel almost “stuck” in the ice… thus move to ½”. Perhaps more, depending on ice and preference.
- Mobility – by design, this skate’s bottom half does not flex. There have been times when I can cheat on a 2 on 1 to force a pass across because I know that I can get across in time for the shot. There is 0 flex in the “cowling” – this translates to a MASSIVE advantage for the goalie. The carbon fiber stays in place allowing for maximum energy transfer; basically your shuffles, T – pushes and butterfly slides are now faster (instant!) because of the stiffness of the carbon fiber.
- Weight – the aerospace carbon fiber is another advantage. No rivets or cowling erases the need to replace them when rusted or when the “cut out” on some cowlings blow out. Easily the lightest skate available because of the materials used.
- Sizing – Remember, during the sizing process, you articulate everything about your current skates: size, what skates you are currently in, what cowling you currently use, what runner(s) you currently use, how you like your skates to fit (pro fit or a little room) etc. They work with you every step of the way.
Right heel tracing
With these, you are talking directly to the manufacturer, sending in your specs and working closely with your sharpener to dial in your hollow and pitch.
You are also eliminating risk as well. When you go to a hockey store, you are greeted and taken to their skate fitting area. They pull out a generic skate brannock then pull a skate they think will fit you best. Most times you are at the whim of the employee. And yes, there is a lot of available information on the internet to erase the line of asymmetrical information, however, I still hear guys in dressing rooms complaining about their feet hurting due to skates.
And, a lot of people have 2 different sized feet, so then, you just hope that a last of 9D will feel good when you left foot is a 8 ¾ and your right is a 9 1/8. Then you hope that the volume of the boot is correct. Then you hope that the heel pocket fits you correctly so you don’t develop a massive bump that will need to be surgically removed costing time and money. In my opinion, there are too many variables with mass produced high-end skates that can easily be solved with custom skates for the same price.
All of the components and solutions that this 1 piece skate offers really does make this a huge advancement in the antiquated goalie skate market. Hats off to VH Footwear, this skate really is a magnificent piece of innovation.
- Skates are projected to retail between $990 – $1190, depending on design and engineering finalizations
- Expected color choices are black and white
- VH Footwear will start delivery no later than July 1st
- Stay tuned for further announcements, including when the company will start taking orders for the new model! Visit the website to find more information.
Front view of right foot with measuring tape for accuracy
White Version of Skate worn by Curtis McElhinney
Screw Attachment and Closer Look at Heel Mold
Author: I&T Today
Innovation & Tech Today features a wide variety of writers on tech, science, business, sustainability, and culture. Have an idea? Send it to email@example.com.