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Improve Your Skating Instantly: All About Contouring, Radius, Pitch, and Hollow

Updated on August 14, 2010

If you want to compete at the highest level or you just want to instantly improve your skating, then you need to learn about your skate blade. There are many properties of your skate blade that affect your speed such as blade radius, pitch and hollow. By getting you skates specially contoured you can change these properties to increase your top end speed, acceleration, glide, and energy efficiency. Many pro shops or hockey stores offer contouring services.

 In this article we will discuss the things you need to know before getting your skates contoured and how specifically these properties affect you’re skating. The videos explain these concepts further and offer illustrations for the concepts.

Blade Radius

The blade radius is a measure of the curve of your hockey skate blade. The depth of the curve affects how much skate blade touches the ice at any given moment. A blade radius is measured in feet and blades can be contoured or sharpened between 13’ and 6’. Out of the box most ice hockey skates have a 9’ radius. These different radii have drastic effects on your skating speed and mobility. We will examine how each radius affects you skating.


A 13’ radius is the longest on the market. The longer radius provides a greater amount of blade contact with the ice. More blade on the ice results in a higher top end speed, better balance (because the blade is long and flat), and better energy efficiency. The downside to a longer blade is a loss of maneuverability; a longer blade is harder to turn sharply and change directions.


The most common radius found on most new skates. The 9’ offers a compromise in speed and maneuverability


Offers drastically increased maneuverability, but significantly reduces speed and energy efficiency. Players who use a 6’ radius must have incredible balance and amazing endurance. Not recommended for most hockey players, especially not youth players.

These are only the three most common types of radii, however, if you want to maximize your skating it is recommended to use an 11’ radius. Most players are used to skating with a 9’ radius, but most could easily transition into an 11’ radius. If you do not need as much maneuverability, but need more speed, and 11’ radius would drastically improve your speed balance and energy efficiency with only sacrificing a little maneuverability. Most skaters will have no problem adjusting to an 11’ radius and will undoubtedly notice a significant increase in top end speed.

Blade Pitch

The blade pitch is the difference in millimeters between the height of the back of your blade and the height of the front of the blade. The blade pitch affects where the player’s weight is balanced over the length of the blade.

There are three different kinds of pitches


The height of the front of the blade is shorter, thus a player is forced to lean forward in their boot. This aggressive stance allows for greater acceleration because your weight is balanced forward over the toes of your skates.

0 neutral

A neutral pitch makes your foot flat and balances your weight in the middle of the blade. Most skates have a neutral pitch out of the box.


Not recommended for anyone, sometimes occurs as manufacturing defect. Player’s weight is balanced over their heels and is forced to lean backwards. Back height of blade is shorter than the front height.

Blade Hollow

Blade hollow refers to the arc or the circle cut into the blade when you have your skates sharpened.

There are three main types of hollows: ½’’, 5/8’’, and ¾’’. ½’’ gives a good amount of grip into the ice and is a fairly deep cut. 5/8’’ and ¾’’ are shallower and depending on the ice composition could help improve your top end speed. If you skate on hard ice, a shallow hollow is more effective. Hard ice has a smaller liquid layer than soft ice and less to dig your skate into.


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    • profile image 6 years ago

      Great article. As one commenter stated, there are lots of players who don't understand the whole sharpening process. Thanks for sharing.

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      thatguy 7 years ago

      i was wondering what i should ask for next time i get my skates sharpened i play fowardand im prettyt fast but i wanna increase my speed and i play bantam AAA

    • profile image

      Anon 7 years ago

      Another correction: the -1 blade pitch is suitable for defense; the same way the blade pitch of 1 aids in forward skating acceleration, the blade pitch of -1 aids in backward skating acceleration, something the defense generally needs.

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      dukecola 7 years ago

      Nice article. Too many skaters know nothing about radius, it's one of the most important aspects of skating. One correction to your article however, the 13' is not the longest radius. There are many longer ones available. I skate on a dual radius, a 9' in the front and a 15' in the rear. Works great for me, super turning and great balance and speed.