What Is the Pencil Test for Skates?


The pencil test is a way to size hockey skates to see if they are too large or too small for a player's foot. Hockey skate sizes vary by manufacturer and by model, so it's impossible to tell if a skate will fit simply by using the size as a guide. There are two tests known as the pencil test used by hockey players.

Instep Test

  • One pencil test used by hockey players is the instep pencil test. A player selects a new pair of skates, puts them on and kicks his heel back into the skate. The player then laces the skates up to the third or fourth eyelet down. Pull the tongue forward, then place the pencil across the skate just behind the tongue. The instep should just brush the pencil without making it lose contact with the skate on either side.

Alternative Method

  • Alternately, the test can be done with the heel kicked back into the heel cup and the skate unlaced. Pull the tongue forward and run the pencil up and down touching the eyelets on each side. The pencil should not hit the foot except a slight brushing near the third or fourth eyelet. If the foot pushes the pencil out so it can't touch the boot at any point, then the boot is not deep enough.

Heel Test

  • The other pencil test is done after the boot is completely laced up. Set the heel in the boot, lace the skates, then stand up. Bending the knee slightly, lean forward. If someone can put a pencil between the heel and the boot, the skate is too large. Hockey skates need to be snug to avoid blisters and hot spots.

Professional Fitting

  • While the pencil test can be a solid rule of thumb and give an idea of how a skate will fit, it's generally best to have skates fitted by an expert at a hockey shop, especially for a player's first pair of hockey skates. The pencil test, whichever one is used, is only a rule of thumb, and a professional who knows hockey skates well and has played the game will be able to get a better fit than either pencil tests will give.

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