I was recently sent a product to review from the fine folks at SPATS — they make hockey skate foot shields to prevent injuries to players’ feet. As a former shot-blocker that was lucky to escape without any foot injuries, I wish these were available to me when I was playing hockey at a level where blocking shots was worth the bodily sacrifice and injury potential.
After installing them, and trying them out for a couple of games, here’s what I thought:
— The process to install these onto your skates is moderately labor intense. You have to unlace your skates (if you have old laces with frayed ends that won’t fit back through the eyelets, you may want to pick up a new pair of laces), and then re-lace them through the plastic attachment. This moves two of your skate’s lace points closer to the middle, but did not seem to affect the tightness of my skate. You also have to nut and bolt the shield into your original eyelets — if you’re not all that handy with two screwdrivers at once, you may need an assistant. After that, all you have to do is stick the velcro piece on the bottom of your skate for the shield to clasp onto and lock. Once installed, the shields then easily open and close for skate tightening and loosening.
2. Game Play — My fear was these shields were somehow going to affect my stride, or my ankle flexion and extension. In all honestly, they did not in any way. I skated just the same as I did without them. I didn’t notice them to be a distraction in any matter. I barely noticed them at all, in fact.
3. Injury Prevention — Fortunately (I guess unfortunately, for the sake of testing), I did not receive any direct blows to my feet — that I was aware of. I can’t say definitively whether they prevented a foot injury for me, but as they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, right?
4. Aesthetics — Let’s be honest, many hockey players are concerned for their style on the ice, and how an supplemental additive outside of the standard 8 pieces of hockey equipment all players wear like this will alter their look. The pair I demo’ed was clear, and were barely noticeable, visually. Other players noticed I had them on, and asked about them, so it’s not like they’re invisible. Personally, I wouldn’t choose to put on a colored pair, but they are available, and teams looking to match can take adavantage of that.
5. Price — SPATS are sold for $50.
All in all, this is a solid product. Its advantages far outweigh its disadvantages. Any hockey players looking to prevent future potential foot injuries, or any players who have suffered them in the past, and are looking for a way to beef up their foot protection would be smart to pick themselves up a pair of these.
Spats.ca is trying to prevent foot injuries and spread awareness by attaching a feather light guard directly over the skate laces. Spats are a revolutionary piece of ice hockey gear designed to stop foot injury. This lightweight armour attaches easily to the skate and allows for quick access to the laces. The high density polyethylene shield can absorb any impact directed at the laces or the inside of the skate boot. In a game where pucks can easily be moving upwards of 80 mph (108.8 if you’re in front of Zdeno Chara’s cannon fire), foot injuries are common. The art of blocking shots is being taught at all levels. Spats will give you the confidence to make that game saving block.
Every year teams lose the services of players due to foot injuries, injuries that are now largely preventable. Many of today’s foot injuries in hockey could have been prevented with skate protectors. A recent list of NHL players missing games due to foot injuries includes:
James Neal – Pittsburgh Penguins (out for a number of weeks)
Devante Smith-Pelly – Anaheim Ducks (out 4-6 weeks)
Ville Leino – Buffalo Sabres (Missed a month)
Jay Pandolfo – New York Islanders (Missed 17 games)
Richard Park – Pittsburgh Penguins (Missed five weeks)
Colby Armstrong – Toronto Maple Leafs (Missed 23 games)
Bryan Little – Winnipeg Jets (Missed eight games)
Jeff Carter – Columbus Blue Jackets
Chris Pronger – Philadelphia Flyers
Hockey Foot Injury Statistics:
- 95% of hockey players have had an injury to their foot from a shot or a slash.
- 78% of players who reported a foot injury experienced bruising and 15% suffered a fracture.
- 23% who have had a foot injury have missed one or more weeks due to their injury.
“Injuries to the foot during hockey are often long standing with symptoms years after,” says Dr. Michael Ball, a leading Manitoban podiatrist. “In my practice, many of my patients who sustained injuries to the feet as children or young adults still complain of symptoms from these injuries to different degrees later in life. Unlike a fracture of the arm, you place two-and-a-half times your weight on your feet to walk and skate. I think that in order to prevent long term problems, any protection from injuries is very important.”
“You wouldn’t go on the ice without protecting your shin bone, so why do we play with the bones in our feet exposed?” says Lawrence Parrott, the inventor of Spats Skate Armour.