What is boot stretching?

Ever take a puck off the skates? It can hurt like hell. It may even make your foot swell up. Ever take the summer off, or in extreme cases a few years? When you put the skates back on after a while or after taking a puck, do the skates hurt or give discomfort along the sides? If so, there is an option…besides buying new skates. That option is boot stretching.

Boot stretching, while it’s not very common for most folks, is a great way to help make your skates a bit comfier. Some popular reasons to stretch skates are:

  • If you haven’t played in a few years and the skates feel a bit snug even after a few skates.
  • Getting hit with a puck and punching a skate doesn’t do the trick.
  • Gives you more width throughout the whole skate.
  • Giving a tad more length (it’s not recommended to stretch forward too much. It risks the toe cap.)

I am sure there are a few more, but these are the most common I have come across. To stretch the boot properly there is a process. You do have to heat up the skate again. If you have baked the skates a few times, please use caution. (See article here about baking skates.) After heating the skates, the skate shop will take your skates and put them on the stretcher. The machine looks somewhat medieval. The operator will put metal boot lasts that match the size of your skates in the heated skates and start turning handles to get the desired result. Some lasts also can have built-in punches too. If you need a stretch and a punch, this will kill two birds with one stone and save the skates from being heated multiple times.

The process at my old store took about 24 hours. We would leave them on the stretcher overnight. If you take them off too soon, the stretch doesn’t last. (Sometimes boot stretching doesn’t last more than a few seasons, just like a boot punch over time, can get reabsorbed.) Also, doing it overnight allows the full time for the skates to cool down from being heated up again. After the 24 hours you should be able to put on your skates and notice a difference!



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