When the folks at MLX Skates contacted me about reviewing their new custom hockey skates, I wondered just how much of a difference high-end skates could make for a recreational player. After all, as a middle-aged beer leaguer whose best playing days were 15 years and 40 pounds ago, what kind of impact would better wheels provide? The answer? Plenty…
Comfort & Customization
The first thing one notices when looking at these skates is the number of ways in which they can be customized to an individual player’s needs. Just about every aspect of the boot and skate can be maneuvered, then secured to properly match that person’s physique and skating stride. This starts, of course, with the baking process which molds the interior of the boot to your individual foot shape. This isn’t a unique feature to MLX Skates, but it is the foundation of having that “custom feel”. Like any boot, you’ll still need to take it out for a couple sessions of open skating to break it in, but once that was done, I was amazed at how comfortable and responsive these skates felt. Simply put, it was more like wearing a basketball shoe on ice than the typical, clunky feel of a hockey skate. In the video below, company founder David Cruikshank talks about how bringing some characteristics from the speedskating world make the MLX Skate unique:
This is just one of many “how to” videos available on the MLX website which help explain the various features of the skate, and how to best utilize them. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the various bolts need to be monitored periodically, as they can come loose over the course of time. I lost one right before hitting the ice for a game recently, and it became a big problem that night. So just remember, that extra level of customization and comfort does require a bit of maintenance. When shipped, the skates do include extra bolts, nuts & washers, and if for some reason you lose those, you can order replacements easily.
Protection & Performance
One of my favorite features on the MLX Skate is the tendon guard, which is designed to provide maximum protection while still allowing the ankle to flex freely. With most skates, a stiff leather tendon guard leaves the skater two options. First, you can tape it snugly against the back of your leg, which then causes tugging and resistance while you’re trying to skate, or secondly, you can leave it loose and run the risk of suffering a terrible injury if another player’s skate blade sweeps through that area. With the MLX Skate, you can get the protection you need while still enjoying that essential freedom of movement.
That combination of form fitting to each skater’s individual foot, along with the flexible protective elements and incredibly lightweight composite materials, make for a skate which not only responds well to what you’re trying to do out there, but bolsters a skater’s confidence. I’ve noticed while playing defense, for example, that quickly reversing direction and getting into backward strides has been much easier and more natural in these skates than anything I’ve used before. When you have that assurance in your mind as a player, that allows you to actively engage in the action, rather than play hesitantly and worry about not being able to react in time.
At a suggested retail price of $799.99 these certainly aren’t for the entry-level or cash-strapped hockey player. Currently, they are offering them at an introductory price of $599.99, and you can purchase clearance hockey skates with cosmetic defects (but full protection & performance) for $100 less than that. If you’re willing to make a bit of an investment in your game, however, establishing a solid foundation from the ice up with MLX custom hockey skates could make a fine choice.