The Broke Hockey Players Guide to Expensive Skates

Skates, like any other piece of hockey equipment, can get extremely expensive. The question we’re often asked is, are they worth it over other, starter models? Having worn hundreds of pairs of skates over the past decade in our on ice hockey skate testing, high-performance skates offer the ability to transform your hockey playing experience and we recommend investing in them if you’re able to.

Is there really any advantage of more expensive skates as compared to cheap skates? In all our experience testing skates on ice, there are differences in the built quality over a top-of-the-line skate vs an entry-level skate. With that being said, most skate manufacturers offer a very comparable “close second” option of skate, which we’ll outline before we unpack all the major differences of expensive skates.

These Are The Most Expensive Hockey Skates On The Market Today

Expensive hockey skates can range anywhere from $800 a pair to $1,500 a pair, depending on the upgrades the athlete chooses. In many cases, for the average hockey player, an option just below the top-end model offered by whichever manufacturer you prefer will more than suffice.

In the case of each of the most expensive skates we’ve listed above, we’ll list the “2nd tier option”.

True TF9 

The True TF9 skates offer the biggest disparity in the price of any of the top-end skates and their step-down counterpart. The TF9 skates currently cost $599, whereas True Custom Skates can cost anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500.

Bauer Vapor 3X

In the Vapor lineup, Bauer markets the step down to the Hyperlite skates as the “Bauer Vapor 3X”. These are an excellent pair of skates that will save $400-$500 off the price tag of a brand new pair of Hyperlites.

Bauer Vapor 3X
Bauer Vapor 3X Senior Ice Hockey Skates

The Bauer Vapor 3X skates offer a savings of $400-$500 off the price of the Bauer Vapor Hyperlite skates. An excellent skate with many of the same build materials of the Hyperlite.

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Bauer Supreme 3S 

The “cheaper” version of the Bauer Supreme UltraSonic skate is the Bauer 3S skate. These are still excellent skates, more affordable than the Supreme UltraSonic offering.

Bauer Supreme 3S Skates

These skates are very similar to the high end UltraSonic skates, but on a budget...

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CCM Ribcor 90k 

While Ribcor 100k skates come in with quite the price tag of $1,000, the 2nd tier option, the Ribcor 90k is a savings of around $400-$500.

CCM Ribcor 90k
CCM Ribcor 90k

The CCM Ribcor 90k skates are a step below the top end, CCM 100k Ribcor skates.

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Are expensive skates worth it?

As far as hockey equipment is concerned, the higher the price, the more high quality of the materials used to build it. Considering the fact that skates are the one piece of equipment that can quite literally change your game and overall hockey playing experience, they’re one of the main pieces of gear we recommend upgrading.

Will expensive skates help me skate better?

Technically, yes. The most expensive skates are often the lightest and offer the highest level of performance. The lighter the skate, the quicker your feet move. In addition, expensive skates use top-end material that improves overall foot stability, allowing for more power transfer from leg to foot to skate blade to ice.. and thus more speed.

Woah. Bet you didn’t think you’d get into the science of hockey skates today, did you?

Should I Buy Custom Skates?

If you’ve had problems with skate fit, or suffer from foot injuries such as bunions, custom skates are the best option for you. There is only one company that truly manufactures a custom hockey skate, the True Custom Skate. True Custom Skates are not for the casual skater.

They’re not on the upper entry-level skates end of things, they are right at the top.

The True Custom Skate experience is the single most expensive hockey skate available to the public, for good reason. The athlete’s foot is custom modeled via 3D scanning, prior to the skate build. True utilizes the latest technology in skate manufacturing to create a boot that is trusted by professional hockey players all over the world.

True custom skates are not an option for those on a tight budget, as costs are in the $900-$1,500 range. What they do offer, however, is unmatched foot comfort with a boot molded to the skater’s exact foot shape, incredible ankle support, and better performance than most of the high end skates on the market.

True skates not only offer superior performance, but they’re also extremely durable. If you’re looking to buy good skates, consider True Custom Skates. They’re not a second-tier skate to any other option on the market, put simply, they’re one of if not the best option on the market.

Expensive Hockey Skates vs Cheap Skates

The main difference between expensive hockey skates and cheap hockey skates is the quality of materials used in the construction of the skate boot itself. The top of the line hockey skates uses carbon fiber material to create a boot that can be formed exactly to the player’s foot. On the contrary, entry-level skates will use the cheapest, most basic material to allow players the option to purchase a much cheaper pair of skates.

In the hockey world, each year the top manufacturers of hockey equipment come up with new ways to talk about the products they’ve built. For the most part, it’s marketing jargon that doesn’t mean much to the average player.

With upper-end skates, the most important part of the entire build is the material they’re using to construct the skate itself. Remember, the skates you have the opportunity to buy, are the same ones used by countless NHL and professional players across the world every year. The major manufacturers like CCM, Bauer, and True are not only selling the average consumer on their product but NHL superstars like Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid as well.

When you make the decision to go with the best skate money can buy, you’re getting into a skate that’s being worn on the NHL Network on TV by the game’s biggest stars each and every day.

Boot Differences in Expensive Hockey Skates

One of the main differences you’ll find in top-of-the-line skates that entry-level skates simply cannot offer is upgraded build material throughout the hockey boot, leading to improved heel support throughout the skate boot.

Flex Zones

An expensive hockey skate not only uses different material in the boot construction, they also offer performance zones throughout the boot of the skate itself. With Bauer’s latest skate, the Vapor Hyperlite, they integrate what they’ve called “Flex Zones” that are designed to increase forward flex and wrap. This allows for improved side-to-side stability of the skate itself.

Rigid Heel Support

Top-of-the-line skates utilize ankle padding and memory foam pads on the foot of the skate, similar to entry-level skates. One of the biggest selling points of the best skates on the market is the outsole construction on top-of-the-line skates. Bauer offers what they call the “Hyperflex Outsole” that is “uniquely constructed with a first-of-its-kind material” which is designed to maximize quickness and increase overall agility.


True hockey skates markets a product they call “Hydrofoam” and every other top-end skate manufacturer does the same. Hydrofoam, or whatever foam is used as the upper ankle padding in the skate, is the most durable and softest foam available. The foam used in top-end hockey skates is designed to be antimicrobial, moisture-wicking to keep your feet dry while providing unmatched comfort and protection.

Cheap skates, in contrast, often use a single layer of padding in the heel area, covered with whatever material lines the inside of the skate. If you’ve suffered from ankle pain with your skates, the multi-density memory foam used in the construction of top-end skates gives comfort that cannot be found in many skates.

Toe Cap

While there are only so many improvements a manufacturer can make to the skate itself, toe caps are an important part of the skate itself. The most expensive skates utilize harder material designed to absorb and transfer the impact of a puck hitting the toe of the skate, which is said to reduce the chance of injury.

Upgraded Side Panels

Side panels are one of the most important parts of any skate. This is because they’re the most exposed region of a hockey player’s foot while they’re on the ice. More hockey players are injured by shots to the side panel of a skate than any other part of the skate itself.

Higher-end skates often use a special protective cover on the side panel of the skate itself, designed to increase protection and transfer impact throughout the skate boot.

Weight Differences in High-Performance Skates vs Cheap Skates

All the skates built have a weight concern. Of all the skates on the market, the most expensive hockey skates are also the lightest. Choosing the right hockey skate has quite a bit to do with weight. Outside of performance improvements to the construction of the skate, including interchangeable blade holders, weight is one of the biggest buy factors to any hockey player.

Interchangable Skate Blades

One of the biggest advantages of skates on the upper mid-range and highest quality skates is that they offer the ability to quickly interchange the skate blades.

Previously, Tuuks, as they are called (manufactured by Tuuk company), made changing a skate blade a 10-minute process that required the use of a screwdriver. With the invention of products like the Tuuk lightspeed edge holder, changing a skate blade on an upgraded pair of skates takes just seconds.

The invention of the interchangeable skate blade has changed the way the game is played, especially by NHL players. This allows players to have multiple sets of steel ready to go for changing at a moment’s notice. In fact, at the NHL level, players can and often will use multiple sets of steel during a single period.

Skate Construction Materials Used in The Highest Quality Skates

While each brand markets the material they use in a different way, generally speaking, it’s the same Carbon Fiber type material in each type of skate.

CCM uses what they call an “RFM Composite Material that is both lightweight and durable.”

Bauer builds their skates with what they call a “First-of-it’s-kind-material”, marketed on the new Hyperlite skates as a “Hyperflex Facing” with integrated flex zones and a Hyperflex Outsole.

Performance Differences in Expensive Hockey Skates and Entry Level Skates

If you can afford it, you’ll find that you get more performance out of an expensive skate as compared to something that’s on the lower end, cost-wise.

What we’re trying to say is that, yes, expensive skates will help you skate better due to the quality and weight of the material used in their construction. With that being said, it’s important not to forget the importance of fit when it comes to your skating style. If you’re just getting in to hockey, it’s likely that you will not notice the difference between a high-performance skate vs a cheap entry-level skate.

High-Performance Skate FAQ’s:

Here are the most popular questions we get asked when it comes to buying new and or used hockey skates.

Should adult league players buy custom skates?

Of course, you should buy a skate that is within your budget. With that being said, adult hockey players are also the ones who would notice improvements in custom skates the most. At the end of the day, the best hockey skates are the skates that you find the most comfortable. All of the performance upgrades in the world will not make you enjoy a skate if it’s not comfortable.

Are the tongues on an expensive skate different than a basic skate?

The tongue of an expensive skate is always upgraded as compared to its basic counterpart. The tongue can help prevent lace bite and major manufacturers market this region as one of the most improved parts of a more costly skate.

Do expensive skates really offer more foot support?

Due to the material used in constructing

Is skate sharpening easier on better skates?

While the steel used in higher-end skates is different than the most basic pair of second-tier skates, skate sharpening is important. No matter the cost of your skate, skate sharpening is one thing you’ll never get away from. Keeping your skates sharpened is critical to not only performance but maintaining safety while skating or playing hockey. Sure, pro and semi-pro skaters sharpen their skates daily and while the average hockey player will never have to do that, it’s important to sharpen your skate steel at least weekly.

What makes skates so expensive?

The type of material used to make hockey skates is some of the most expensive in the construction of any type of hockey equipment. As compared to hockey gloves or pants, the material needed to build hockey skates is much more expensive and higher quality. There is no such thing as a “basic foam” or “Carbon Fiber” in a hockey skate, even something considered to be entry-level.

Final Thoughts On Hockey Skates

In the end, it really does come down to your personal preference.  I personally have found that I enjoy playing hockey in skates that are comfortable and really feel good on the ice, but that is me.

Hope this hockey skate guide has been helpful!