Everything You'll Ever Need to Know About Skating Tights
Updated: Dec 30, 2019
When I started skating at the age of 4, I fell in love with it. But all it took was one itchy pair of hot pink, knee-high, wool socks to make me swear off the sport until I was older. I remember very little of my toddler life, but I remember those stupid socks vividly. To this day, I hate them. I mean, they essentially robbed me of my chance at Olympic gold (kidding). The point is, if given the ultimatum between itchy clothing and being able to skate or not skating but also not being itchy, I'd always choose the less wool-covered path.
You can imagine my horror when, as a teenager, I was told that being a competitive figure skater meant wearing tights. I don't like tights. "Iiiiiiiitchyyyyyyy" in a low growl became my standard response every time Christmas or Easter or some other dressy-occasion came up that involved awful pink or black tights. Why did parents in the 90's do that to their children?
There are three kinds of tights in the skating world: footed, only feet, and over-the-boot.
The good news is, they all go on the same way. After underwear, but before bottoms (like a skirt, pants, dress, whatever). The key to getting tights on the fastest way possible is to reach your thumbs inside one leg hole, gather the whole leg of material up, then stick your foot in and slowly release more and more fabric as you move up to cover your leg. Leave enough room in the crotch-region so that it's not uncomfortable, but do not leave them, like, half way pulled up so you have the soggy-diaper effect. Not cute as a baby, not cute as a skater, and it'll prevent dresses/skirts/pants from being able to hug you like they should (which is what helps them stay up).
These are your staple tights. We can even just call these the tights- get 5 pairs and rotate. These are the only ones you'll need to worry about washing frequently.
Washing tights: Most tights can go in the wash just like normal. Some skaters wash them every time they are worn, some wait. That's not what I'm here to get into. MY laundry is enough of a problem as it is, I don't need to dictate YOURS, too. However, make sure you wash them enough. Tights are right against your skin as you essentially "work-out", a.k.a. skate. They get sweaty. Sweat releases bacteria. Bacteria grows, and if you shave your legs, you get microscopic tiny cuts in your skin. They're too small to even see with the naked eye, and they don't bleed. So most people don't even realize that they're getting little teeny-tiny cuts. That's just part of shaving. Yay. The reason I bring that up is because when the dried sweat/regular sweat and those tiny cuts mix, those tiny cuts get infected. No, not like a huge, crazy infection. These little infections are related to staph and actually look more like red dots- you might even mistake them for pimples. They go away after a few days with clean outfits and some Epsom-salt baths, but they're a pain that you don't need to deal with. So wash your tights.
My all-time favorite tights are Rainbo brand tights. They're crazy soft, stretchy, breathable, I just love them. But they do run on the more expensive side (2-3x more than some of their competitors). You can check them out here.
Mondor tights are the standard, and a lot cheaper. You can find those here.
ChloeNoel are a good in-between. Not as expensive as Rainbo, but a little more comfortable than Mondor. You can buy them here.
There are a ton of brands- if you find one that you love, PLEASE let me know! I love to hear more recommendations and pass them along.
Only Feet Tights
I don't know that "only feet tights" is a proper term, but for the purposes of my explaining, it's the best I could do. I guess you could call them sock tights. Tight socks? Whatever. These are awesome for coaches. If you coach and you don't have a pair of these, I'm not sure where you've been. Also, if you only have one pair, you need a few to rotate. these work perfect for when you want to skate but don't want to do the whole "tights" ordeal. For example, when your friends ask you to go skating during the winter, it's a little intimidating to show up in full-on practice mode. That kind of thing. But it's important that your foot is able to properly maneuver the skate and ensure a proper fit, so socks are no bueno (no good). I never advise wearing socks with skates. Tights or sock-tights only.
Rainbo makes knee-high socks that are actually a really good price- and with a wider toe seam, they also avoid getting stuck under your toenails (that's another post in and of itself).
Mondor tights can be found in knee-high length, also.
ChloeNoel Knee-High Socks are actually cheaper and don't go up as high- I have them and love them.
Again, different brands are endless. Give me your suggestions if you have any!
These are your outer layer of tights- and depending on your coach, you may not need them. If your coach wants your skates to be showing (or if you feel a strong way about that), then two pairs of footed tights, one on top of the other, will be perfect. Personally, I like the look of over-the-boot tights. It makes the skater's feet look smaller, and allows spectators to focus only on what's going on artistically (the skating, the dress choice, the facial expressions, etc.).
It does not matter what you do or how careful you are, these will catch on your hooks or blades, they will get holes, and you will NOT have a happy coach if you show up to a competition in tights with holes in them.
Over-the-boot tights go on after the underwear, over the footed tights, but before any skirt/dress. My trick for making sure I leave enough at the bottom to cover my heel (which I'll discuss in a second), is to take the foot part, cover my foot with it, step on it to make sure it stays there, then roll the rest of the tights up. You want to have any of your extra slack in your tights down at the boot instead of gathering up in the crotch-region.
One thing to look out for when buying over-the-boot tights is the style of clip used. I have bought over-the-boot tights that had "clips" of Velcro. Not a fan. They just looked and felt cheap and tacky. Those were some thick tights though, so they didn't run as easily.
You can find over the boot tights from any brand- I don't have any favorites for this, really.
"But the pros don't wear over-the-boot tights..." That's because elite skaters are often given their equipment for free in exchange for promoting the brand. So, obviously, the brand of their skate needs to show.
Should I cover the heel of my skate in over-the-boot tights? Again, personal/coach preference. Personally, I think that if you spend the effort covering part of your skate you might as well cover the whole thing.
The Unspoken Others: Footless Tights, Skating Socks, and Halfsies
I cannot make up any excuse why you would need footless tights, unless you just love having your feet and the rest of your leg separated. I don't have any reasoning for the existence of footless skating tights. If anybody knows, please share. It baffles me. Honestly, if you buy those, I want to know why.
Skating "socks" are now a thing, made by companies like Edea. I'm sure the idea is to give skaters the comfort of a cotton sock while allowing enough tight foot-to-boot contact, but I'm a bit old-fashioned here, and I don't think there's any way to get that kind of close contact other than barefoot (which is disgusting, don't do that) or tights. Hockey players sometimes swear by going barefoot inside their skates. That's probably why everything they own smells so bad (kidding... or am I?).
I'm sure "halfsies" isn't what people call these, but because I honestly don't know what to call them, that's the nickname we're going to go with. They're not very popular, so they're only available in a few places, but I can see the appeal- you get the best of both worlds. We've been seeing this trend emerge more and more, so it will be interesting to see who catches on and who absolutely hates it. Opinions?
So what's the best?
It's all a matter of personal preference, and everybody has an opinion (including non-skaters who have no idea what they're talking about). Consider a few things before deciding: are your skates new and gorgeous or old and worn out? Are you hoping to go for a long, slender look, or give yourself a more muscular appearance (honestly people use that reasoning, I think it looks the same). When in doubt, ask your coach or choreographer.
Now, give me your opinions below, share this with your skating friends, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you on the ice!