How To Tell if Ice Skates Need Sharpening

Written By: Riedell | December 29, 2023

Keeping your ice skates in peak condition is beneficial for ice skaters of all skill levels. Whether you’re still learning the basics or preparing for the Olympics, sharpening ice skates regularly is key. The sharpness of your skates can have more of an effect on your skating than you might realize. It affects how you turn, stop and the overall control of your skating.

Well-maintained blades don’t just help with your overall performance. They can also help keep you upright, minimizing the risk of falling in the midst of your routine. But unless you’re an expert at taking care of skates, it’s not always obvious when your skates need sharpening.

Thankfully, we have some simple tips and tricks that will help you determine when you need ice skate sharpening services. 

How Often Do Ice Skates Need To Be Sharpened?

Ice skates need to be sharpened regularly to keep them from becoming dull, damaged, and rusted. The general recommendation is to sharpen your blades every 20-30 hours of skating time. So, if you skate for five hours a week, you’ll want to get your ice skates sharpened every 4-6 weeks.

There’s some leeway with sharpening ice skates, as it really depends on the blade, the skater, and the conditions in which you skated. For example, skating infrequently while learning very basic moves will require sharpening ice skates much less frequently. Meanwhile, anyone who skates outdoors will need to sharpen their blades more often because the ice is typically rougher in texture and can have small bits of sand or debris which will dull the blades faster.

Figure skaters rely on their blades to help them safely transition seamlessly from one move to the next, which is why it’s recommended to err on the side of sharpening more frequently. Going too long without sharpening your ice skate blades can create difficulties on the ice. 

Along with taking care of your blades regularly, you should also make sure your blades are getting sharpened properly. Make sure you take them to a sports shop or an ice skate dealer who has experience sharpening figure skating blades. Not all blades are the same, and even hockey skate blades are sharpened differently than figure skating blades. So, always bring your blades to someone with experience working with figure skating blades.

Do My Ice Skates Need Sharpening?

Experienced figure skaters can often tell when their blades need to be sharpened just by feeling something is ‘off’ while on the ice. But for new or returning skaters, it’s not always obvious.

Thankfully, there are plenty of methods you can use to determine whether it’s time to bring your skates to the shop.

  • Visual Assessment: The first way is to visually assess the skates. Do you see reflective marks or nicks on the edges? Is there rust in the hollow or on the sides of the edges? Is there gunk from the guard building up in the hollow? Any of these issues would indicate the need to sharpen your blades.
  • Feel the Edges: Another helpful trick is to feel the edges. You want to be very careful with this method, and parents of young skaters should do this themselves. Take the pad of your fingertip or your fingernail and gently feel down the length of both edges. Slide up and down the outside and inside edge a couple of times while keeping your finger at a 45-degree angle. Don’t press down! You should be able to feel any rough spots or areas that catch your finger or fingernail. If you notice that, it’s time to get your skates sharpened!
  • Feel the Grip: For this method, use the pad of your fingertip or thumb and gently brush back and forth down the hollow of the skate across the edges. Move down the length of the blade, brushing perpendicular to the blade. Pass down the length from toepick to heel and then back up a couple of times. If you notice the edges tugging at the ridges of your fingertip or slight scraping, you’ll want to get your blades sharpened.

Remember, keeping your blades sharp is essential for footwork, jump takeoffs and landings, and stopping, so it’s important to check your blades frequently. Make sure you keep up on other regular maintenance as well, like cleaning your boots and skates, and storing them properly when not in use.

Do New Ice Skates Come Sharpened?

There’s nothing like that bite and rip of fresh edges on ice! But skaters should never assume that their new ice skates come sharpened. Most figure skates don’t come pre-sharpened, and even the ones that do come “factory-sharpened” often get dulled during transportation and handling. 

It’s always helpful to get a new pair of skates sharpened before taking them out on the ice. It’s a good way to start getting into the habit of regularly maintaining your skates, and it guarantees you’ll have a great first experience when you try out your new skates for the first time. 

Curious about how ice skates get sharpened? Check out the process in the video below:

Reliable, Quality Ice Skates

Getting skates that last for many years with proper maintenance is easy when you shop with Riedell. If you’ve sharpened the blades on your old skates one too many times, why not check out our line of casual ice skates or our Eclipse ice skate blades