A history of skating

Two skates on the ice Pixabay

Education and sports all in one

Without thinking about it many of us this chilly winter season have laced up skates and hit the frozen pond with no thought about where this invention came from. Many of us have memories of falling time and time again while learning how to get our balance on these skillfully crafted blades. What brought about such a unique invention that brings us so much joy now?

The first depiction of ice skates that we know of is from Scandinavia, from approximately 1800 BCE. However, these did not resemble anything like the graceful skates we lace up today. They did not have any sort of sharp edge and were crafted out of the bones of either horses or cows. In order to keep these bones from falling off they would drill a hole before nailing a strap of leather to the bone. Eventually, these became adjustable with buckles. Although not fancy nor all that graceful, they got the job done. That job was strictly for transportation purposes along the various rivers and canals that run through the various regions of Scandinavia.

You may be wondering how they were able to move around on the ice without a blade. Well, these handy-dandy skates were accompanied by a lovely stick. The skater would then use this stick by stabbing it into the ice between their legs before pushing off. Although this made any kind of turning quite challenging, once they got moving it was fairly smooth skating.

As we know, this did not last forever. In the 13th century, the old bone and stick were discarded for something that resembles our current skate design a little more. They were made with a piece of wood and an iron blade attached to the bottom. This allowed for the skater to utilize their legs to propel themselves forward and to have more overall control with the direction that they were wanting to move. In the 14th century there was a very dramatic curled toe added to the end of the skates. One reason for this was because the initial bone skates had a small curve which many were used to. The second and more important reason was because it was a fashion statement that people felt they needed in their lives.

Between the 14th and 20th centuries, not much had changed in terms of design. The blades soon became the entire length of the skate to allow for better weight distribution and thus making the wearer go faster. As well, the art of figure skating was born in the 19th century, first introduced by a ballet dancer by the name of Jackson Haines. This new use for skating caused the blades to become thinner to allow for more fluid movements on the ice.

Finally, we reach the age of modern skates where the straps have been replaced with the equivalent of a boot and the blades are then screwed into those. This is much safer for the individual wearing the skate and allows for easier movement as it remains tightly fastened to the foot. The new design also allows skaters to take fewer strides to cover the same distance, allowing us to travel significantly faster than our ancestors.

Where does the future of skates take us now? Currently, they are working on the most effective way to make the boot style into something that can help athletes against injuries. As some may know our ankles take a beating from frequent skating, and ankle injuries are quite high in these athletes. Being able to engineer a new style to help prevent these injuries would be revolutionary. Watch out world, new skates are on the way.

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