Boot Covers: Just Fashion or an Essential Accessory?

Boot covers are a whimsy; arguably not a skating essential, but I’d put them in the recommended category nonetheless.

What Are Boot Covers?

Boot covers are typically made of a stretchy lycra / spandex / polyester material and are designed to cover the entirety of the boot, from the top of the boot down to just under under the sole (wrapping underneath the foot just enough to hold the cover in place). They’re a pretty simple design, kind of like a soft bootee without a sole on it:

Boot Cover, Flat

The top and bottom of the boot cover are elasticated so that the cover will hold in place properly:

Boot Cover (folded)

Why Boot Covers?

Some people wear boot covers because the wide range of colors and designs available can make the ice skates look prettier or more fashionable, and that’s a very valid reason. My youngest daughter, for example, loves wearing her turquoise boot covers with her turquoise spiral skate pants because by chance, the colors match so well it makes the pants and boots merge in a pretty seamless way:

Boot Covers

My son wears black boot covers because while most boys / men wear black skates, he has white skates (for reasons I’ll explain in another post); black boot covers normalize his skates’ appearance to the color people seem to expect.

However, the very best reason I know for wearing boot covers is to protect your investment in your ice skates. The ice skate uppers are made of leather, which can get scratched and dinged like any other shoes. Ice can be rough when you scrape your boot along it doing a lunge, for example:

Lunge; photo by K. bird N. via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

When practicing crossovers, it’s easy to nick one skate with the blade of the other. Scraping against the wall at the side of the ice can damage the leather as well. Rather than try to clean and repair the surface afterwards, it’s much easier to protect it beforehand and minimize the risk of damage. For purely protective purposes, it’s very common to use white boot covers over white boots; it’s not necessary to go with funky colors and patterns if you don’t want to!

Sizing And Cost

One size fits all, they say. I disagree, but apparently I’m in a minority because most covers are at best available in Child (to fit size 1-13) and Adult sizes. Adult, in this case, seems to mean Adult Women based on the fact that Adult in the popular Chloe Noel brand, for example, is Size 1-8. It’s not clear what a boy or man with feet larger than size 8 is supposed to do, because most brands seem to only offer those sizes. As a guide, my 12 year old son wears an adult size 8½ skate, and his “Adult” boot covers only just fit. I am not entirely sure what to do when his feet grow larger, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Interestingly, when seeking larger boot covers I did find them for sale in the UK. It seems that the Spanish company Intermezzo manufactures boot covers in an XL size. Sadly I have not found a US distributor for them. Maybe I have just found a new business for myself! I plan to get hold of a pair of all three sizes that they make in the near future and I will report back on the sizing, and whether we can organize some availability in the US going forward.

If the sizing is a pain, in comparison the pricing is a joy. A pair of boot covers in the USA typically runs from ~$10 upwards, depending on brand, color, material or pattern. I’ve linked some examples below, and as ever these are not personal recommendations, just examples of the type of thing available.

For the $10 or so it costs to get a pair of boot covers, my belief is that they will pay for themselves over time, so for me they are highly recommended.

What If I Hate Boot Covers?

Not everybody likes boot covers; I get it. The only way to protect a boot is for it to be protected. Boot-covering tights may provide some protection if you wear those. Similarly I’ve seen some people use tape to protect the most vulnerable areas of the boot. I can’t speak to either of these directly, but the verbal advice I’ve had from the coaches I’ve spoken to has always been to use boot covers.

9 Replies to “Boot Covers: Just Fashion or an Essential Accessory?”

  1. I can’t seem to find boot covers that last. First pair lasted a week then got a hole. Second pair lasted a day before tiny holes appeared. My daughter’s a decent skater and is taking care of them.

    1. I’ve had some do that – including starting to break through around the lace hooks – and others which have lasted remarkably well. I’ll try and look to see if there’s a a particular brand I’ve had more luck with. Please report back if you find a good one, too!

    1. I haven’t had this happen to me, but I’ve seen some similar reviews,. It’s hard to know under what conditions this happened. but there are some things I do to minimize the risk, like:

      1) Before using the covers, wash them. Some vendors actually provide this advice with the product, but I suspect many people ignore it. I just shove them in on a short, cold wash in my machine. If I’m feeling brave I might throw in a “Color Catcher” sheet as well to sock up any dye floating around.

      2) I never store the (almost certainly damp after use) boot covers in physical contact with the boots; keep them separated! Throwing them in a bag together after practice sounds like begging for an issue.

  2. John,

    I was hoping you could expand on your thoughts about boys wearing white skates. Sadly for me I’m much older than your son but I’m taking a beginner figure skating class. I do not want to spend good money on a new pair of black skates if I don’t enjoy the class. Used men’s skates are much harder to find than used women’s skates – which seem to be plentiful. Fortunately my feet are small enough to fit into a women’s size 10 Jackson skate. As you suggested, I can get a pair of black covers, or, honestly, the white doesn’t bother me. I’m there to learn how to skate so the colour is a non-issue.

    Has your son had any issues with stability or fit or any other drawbacks while wearing ladies’ skates? I can get a nice pair of white Jacksons (Classique I believe) for less than half the price of a pair of men’s skates.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks for your time

    1. Sean, you ask a really good question. My son did not experience any issues at all with the women’s skates, other than needing to get a slightly larger size in order to fit his foot width. It’s also of note that the sizes in women’s and men’s skates are not the same. That is, Men’s size 10 is not the same length as a Women’s size 10. Thankfully it sounds like you’ve been able to try the skates on and know that they fit, so that’s not really an issue.

      I’m also told that Jacksons tend to have a wider fit than similarly priced Riedell models, so that’s also in your favor. Basically, if the boot fits, I don’t see any issue whatsoever in wearing it. My youngest daughter loves wearing black skates; my son had no issue wearing white skates. The only issue I had at one point was that when searching for an upgrade for my son’s skates, I wanted to get a D-width boot, and discovered that quite often the women’s models simply did not offer a D-width option and that to get that I had to open my wallet that bit wider and investigate the men’s equivalent black boot, where amazingly a D-width boot was suddenly available.

      Especially if you’re beginning skating, my personal feeling is to say go for it. If you enjoy the class and keep developing your skating then at some point your coaches may recommend that you consider a different boot for various reasons (usually related to being an adult with height and weight that require a bit more ankle support than a kid), but then again, adults don’t usually start doing lots of jumps either, so the stress on the skates is much less than those crazy young ‘uns!

      Good luck to you and I really hope you get some enjoyment from being on the ice. It’s so great to see adults taking up figure skating!

      1. Thanks John,

        That’s sound advice and it’s refreshing to hear that we are there to skate. So considering the cost is better, the fit is fine, and it’s a beginner class – I think white is the way to go. Plus it’s important these days to not plug kids (and adults) into gender roles such as skate colour when the point is to get out there and have fun and learn a new sport. I used to play goalie but my knees have suffered so I’m heading in a new direction so I can get back out on the ice.

        Thanks again 🙂

  3. Sean and John, I am an adult beginner andtook classes with an instructor who skated for many years with one of the ice shows. She routinely dyed her skates, and would show up with different colored boots (the tiger stripes were my favorite!) from time to time. I don’t know what long-term effect the dye would have on the leather, but it didn’t seem to be a problem for her. And I think it would be much easier from white to black than vice versa.

    1. Thank you for sharing! It’s interesting to know that it’s – to some extent at least – a reversible or at least repeatable process.

      I don’t think it hurts the leather particularly from what I’ve read; it’s just a bit of work to do it (or money to pay somebody to do it). I’m lazy so for me it would be cheaper and simpler to just get boot covers in a variety of colors, even though it isn’t as cool as actually having skates that are a particular color. But reading around I do see some people using that as a way to get black skates when they bought white, so you have shared a good tip!

      That said, even with black boots my son used boot covers for the protection they offer, and my youngest enjoys mixing the colors up based on her mood 🙂

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