Many people have been waiting for a review of the True skates, and I tried to give them my full attention. This product is new to me: it took me a significant amount of time to research and test it, but now I’m ready to share information and my impressions of the TF7 model after the full test.
TF7 and TF9 in Stores
History of True
Earlier on this site we talked about the True brand in terms of True hockey sticks, a market segment where they have a very strong position. It’s all about the fact that the American company True Temper Sports, founded in 1902 and engaged in the manufacture of sports products made of metal and composite materials, decided to go into the production of hockey sticks.
Since 2000, it has been a manufacturing partner for other brands, but in 2014 decided to create its hockey division, True Temper Hockey. The distinctive feature of this company is not only its R&D center but also its factory for the production of the final product.
The story with skates is a little different, and this product is not a True in-house development. In November 2016, the company VH Footwear Inc. was acquired, whose founder is Scott Van Horne, a former member of the Canadian national skating team.
Van Horne began customizing skates himself at the age of 14, and in 1996 the same company was created, VH Footwear Inc., which created handmade skates for hockey and speed skating. The name VH is an abbreviation of the last name of its founder, Van Horne.
Scott Van Horn has a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science degree: his primary research has focused on the biomechanics of skate repulsion from the ice surface. Today he has almost 30 years of experience in designing and making custom skates, continuing his work already with the True Temper Hockey team, where he is responsible for the True hockey skates (for field player and a goalie).
In July 2017, an official foot scanning program was launched for anyone wishing to order True custom skates. The first generation True Pro Custom was very similar in appearance to the VH models (see above), but the design has been continually tweaked and improved.
TF7 and TF9 models
The year 2020 saw a very significant event – the launch of the first retail True skates – the TF7 and TF9 models. Prior to that, True skates could only be purchased by placing an individual order for the Pro Custom model.
All three models (Pro Custom, TF9, and TF7) received a new unified design with the brand’s signature blue color scheme. The TF9 and TF7 skates were not created from a blank sheet of paper but based on 20,000-foot data from the scanning process.
It is clear that when ordering a Pro Custom the shoe is made to fit the player’s individual foot, but in the case of retail, it is necessary to clearly understand what the skates should be in order to offer the best fit. We’ll talk about the importance of all of this in the following articles about Bauer skate fit, which is also important to know and applies to any modern brand.
A new line of Catalyst skates is expected to launch in 2022. The Catalyst will not replace the TF but will be the second family of True skates. We can assume that they will get a different geometry (boot height, longitudinal flexibility, design features), and it will separate the two lines in terms of skating style. I am looking forward to trying the new product myself: there is a good chance the Catalyst will give me the True skate experience I want.
True Skates vs Mako
Many people compare True skates with the Easton Mako model, but it’s not quite correct. Yes, they look similar (shape and outline), but it’s all about the same roots – both developments came from the sport of skating, but different people dealt with them.
And here it is worth mentioning Dave Cruikshank: skater and member of the U.S. Olympic team, who managed to work as a skating development coach for the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL. It was he who, as part of the MLX skate project, began to incorporate technology from the sport of skating into hockey. In working on the MLX, Cruikshank approached Van Horne for help in developing a boot for these skates, and thus they collaborated on this project.
In 2011, Dave Cruikshank and Easton continued to work in this direction as part of the Easton Speed Institute, which resulted in the Mako and Mako II skates.
In short, the VH/True differs from the Mako in two fundamental ways: boot construction and skating. The True boot is completely monolithic and made of composite material. In Mako, the boot has a hybrid construction, and consists of two dissimilar parts joined together. The bottom is made of composite material, and the top is made of thermoplastic. In Mako it is fiberglass, and in Mako II it is carbon: in both cases, the heel cup is not formed.
The VH/True and the Mako also make no sense to compare: they have almost nothing in common. The only thing that can bring the two products together is some common or similar features in terms of the feel of the boot on the foot, but I wouldn’t say they are identical either.
Level, equipment, weight
Let’s go back to the two current retail models, the TF9 and TF7. The first is a flagship professional solution (if you don’t count the Pro Custom), and the TF7 is a mid-level model. But, jumping ahead, I would say that this gradation is conditional, and the TF7 feels like a much higher level model than the official mid-price segment.
If you present the differences in the form of a list, then it will look like this:
- Boot shell (TF9 / TF7) : carbon fiber / fiberglass
- Protective tongue (TF9 / TF7): TF9 – all foam / classic felt
- Interior trim (TF9 / TF7): TF9 – Clarino / fabric
- Blades (TF9 / TF7): Black Onyx / Stainless Steel
As for the weight difference, it is much smaller than many people believe. The following is a summary of the skates in 10R size.
- True TF9 – 980g: of which 81g protective tongue, 150g blade and 24g insole.
- True TF7 – 994 g: of which protective tongue 89g and blade 155g and insole 24g.
icewarehouse gives the following figures (size 9 and I assume we are talking about fullness R): True TF9 – 945g, True TF7 – 949g.
It is not uncommon to ask about these letters of size in terms of comparing them to each other. It’s simple: the brand chooses its designation and may use the letters D or R for standard fullness, and for increased fullness, you may find the letters E, EE, or W.
It is not worth trying to compare them with each other within the framework of a certain classical gradation of boot parameters. Today it should be perceived simply as a division of the standard geometry or its more voluminous version.
It turns out that the weight differs minimally, the skating experience also seems to be extremely close, but the price of TF9 and TF7 differs significantly.
The top solution costs $599 (for Sr version) and $399 (for Jr version), but the price of TF7 is much more democratic – $329 (for Sr version) and $239 (for Jr version).
And here, I can say for sure that the price difference doesn’t reflect the difference in skating experience, making the TF7 a very interesting proposition on the market (but I have yet to test the TF9 more closely).
In the box, the skates are packed in an individual package. Inside, you can also find instructions on how to form the skates, a tool for changing the boot back, and additional pads for the insoles (PFS – Personalized Fit System), which allows you to create an optimal fit for the foot with a low, medium and high arch.
Externally, the TF9 and TF7 are as similar as possible. If you ignore the color of the blade, the construction of the tongue and don’t look inside the shoe to see the finish material, you can only tell them apart by the heel of the shoe. The TF9 shows the carbon fiber structure: a premium grade 3K twill weave that True previously used in their top sticks. In the case of the TF7, it’s fiberglass painted solid black.
Not everyone likes the design of True, but the manufacturer tried to make it relevant to the modern market, where all skates are very bright and catchy. If you compare them with the first generation VH and True, the work is visible to the naked eye: at least today the True’s signature blue color has become quite a recognizable element. With the departure of Bauer’s Nexus family from the market, blue has become a loose color in terms of visual perception.
The retail models use the same technology and processes as the Pro Custom skates. The TF7, like any other True skate, is based on a completely monolithic boot made with True Shell Technology. It’s worth clarifying here that only True skates today have a true one-piece boot. In the photo below, you can see that it is a fully molded shell, which in the case of the TF7 is made of fiberglass painted black.
The boot has a very advanced level of anatomy, which is an important distinguishing feature of True skates. They actively rely on a better fit. I will draw your attention to the position of the ankles on the outside and the inside. They are located with a natural offset relative to each other, but the walls of the boot have the same length. This causes some discomfort.
True Shell Technology in this case involves the combined use of fiberglass and thermoplastic, which makes the boot forming process possible. The thermoplastic is integrated into the composite shell over almost the entire area of the sidewalls of the boot (photo below): the exception is the toe and sole area, which are not formed accordingly.
Pay attention to the front part of the shoe, where the toe is its continuation, a monolithic part that hides the toes in the composite bumper. This design reliably protects against impact and implies the absence of a junction between the toe and the body of the boot, as in skates of other brands.
It’s a cast construction, where there are no weak points in the form of joining different parts.
Moreover, on the inside this composite rim is glued on the whole length with medium density foam with thickness of about 2-3 mm. The layer of foam not only creates density in the toe area and makes it more comfortable to use, but also significantly increases the level of protection against being hit by a washer.
Inside the TF7 is a black textile material (nylon) with a nice fuzzy surface, which is glued on a layer of medium-density foam with a thickness of about 3 mm. This “sandwich” is glued into the boot’s shell over the entire lateral surface to the level of the sole and goes all the way to the toe. In the ankle area (outer and inner) there are the usual additional memory foam cushions.
The toes in True skates are protected by three layers:
- a strong plastic outer bumper,
- the inner rim of the monolithic boot,
- another layer of foam inside.
No other brand does the same today.
The True has the toughest boot on the market, and we should not think that if it is not a top model, it is softer here, as it is common with other manufacturers. Personally, I could never clearly understand if there is any difference between TF9 and TF7 in this parameter: everything is as close as possible. Another important advantage of the Van Horne boot design is that it is less “tired” over time, retaining its original characteristics.
The tongue is also a hinged element that attaches to the shoe with Velcro. It allows you to adjust the height of its position and easily change it for a new one when it comes in disrepair.
This can be either a variant from True (such as the tongue from TF9, which is very good) or any other tongue that can easily be sewn on or secured with the same velcro. From the inside of the shoe, the Velcro strip is sewn very compactly, and you don’t feel any seam or rough joint.
The standard TF7 model tongue is made of thick black felt (approximately 10 mm) with an additional layer of foam in the center section and a dense foam outer shield. The outer trim is synthetic, and the inner side of the felt is lined with black fabric. The tag on top has the model and size markings. The tongue is quite thick, but soft, flexible, and comfortable like a classic felt tongue.
The heel of the boot is the next piece, which is a separate and replaceable piece.
The rigid plastic element (on the inside a thin layer of foam and textile liner with print) is attached to a single bolt, and in case of breakage, it can be easily replaced. There is special hexagon access to do this from the inside (size 7 – this is listed next to it and the wrench is in the box).
I had thoughts that in this place it can rub, but my fears were not justified: everything is done accurately, and absolutely nothing can be felt. The butt itself is very tight, which was a surprise to me: it is nowhere near the flexibility of the Easton Mako.
Let’s take a look at the inside of the boot. In the upper, you can see a protective overlay in the area of the upper three eyelets, protecting the inner trim material from friction with the tongue or pads. There is no accentuated comfort cushion on the upper edge of the boot here, but there is about 15 mm of soft material up to the rigid composite body, which performs this role.
If we take out the insole, we can see that the internal filling of the shoe is glued into the composite shell and ends at the level of the sole, which has two ventilation holes. We can estimate its thickness: it is 1.5-2 mm.
If we talk about the insole, it is very thick, soft, and perforated throughout. On the front side, it is covered with very thin textiles, which easily let moisture down to the sole, where it is carried away through the drainage holes.
I think that the thick and soft construction of the insole should also compensate for the rigidity of the boot’s construction and protect the foot from the pressure of the rivets. In general, it is so: the fit is soft and comfortable, and you don’t even think about the existence of the rivets.
If necessary, you can glue special padding on the insole (PFS – Personalized Fit System) so that the spot of contact with it corresponds to the shape of your foot. We have already seen something similar in the market – additional insole pads were already offered by Easton, CCM, and the approach to this issue is already familiar.
To the sole of the boot the holder is attached by a standard number of rivets (14 pieces), but four of them are copper, like CCM (Bauer puts three pieces).
I should also note the interesting shape of the rivets. An important issue that many have wondered about is the location of the Shift holder mounting holes with the unified Tuuk/SB. The holes do not match completely and will need to drill some new ones. Clarified this point: the sole holds up, and the recommendation is to simply fill the empty seats with epoxy.
The Shift holder is a proprietary True development that features a quick blade change system. The Shift holder has two other features. The first is the large size “window” between the posts, which is a consequence of the high posts. The puck flies between the posts of any tumbler with a margin (only Graf’s Cobra 3000/5000 has a minimal chance), but the True has the highest probability.
The second feature is that the Shift is completely symmetrical. Van Horne himself talks about the research done on this issue, and they didn’t find any reason to make it asymmetrical as other brands do. For the consumer there is only an advantage: there is no division into left/right: you can just buy a cup and put it on any shoe.
The blade changer requires the use of any object to push back the blue latch, and a small cutout in the blade allows it to be conveniently picked up when needed.
Whether or not to get used to the geometry of the Shift heel cup is up to everyone. After the Tuuk, as it seemed to me, it is not so difficult, but it is all very individual. And the question of more advanced blades is already objectively sharper. The standard blades for the TF7 model are Shift Stainless, and they are very similar to LS2 or LS3.
As mentioned above, the boot is made with True Shell Technology, where fiberglass and thermoplastic are bonded together. The latter is what makes the shoe move when heated to improve the fit, increasing the level of skate feel.
Shape and can be formed at 82-93 degrees Celsius: done on purpose to fit almost any oven (of any brand).
If shaping at home, it is recommended to preheat the oven to 82 degrees Celsius. In the preheated oven, the skates should be placed for 6 minutes with the top two eyelets unlaced.
As for the method of fixing the skate on the foot after heating, it is quite possible to use the usual boot lacing, but the effort should not exceed 70% of the maximum: all the eyelets to the top are laced.
After heating (after 6 minutes), take out the skate, tighten the prepared eyelets (up to 70% of the maximum effort), leaving the top two free.
The lace is not tied, and just immediately tack it with tape, as shown in the photo below. The number of layers can adjust the density with which the tape will tighten the top of the shoe. It takes longer to put on and fix the skates this way, and it is very desirable to have someone to help you do it.
After fixing the skates, sit in such a position that the knee is in the same vertical line with the tip of the boot. After 5 minutes, you can stand up for 1 minute, but it is important not to deviate from the vertical: stand straight and do not sway. Skates are still warm, and you can damage them. After that, sit down again in the original position.
After another 10 minutes (a total of 15 minutes) you can unlace the shoe in the first case and cut the film in the second. Remove the skates from the feet, and now it is important in the area of the top 3-4 eyelets to open the boot a little to the sides: pull the walls slightly outward for 30 seconds.
This will allow them to open up a little so that in the future it will be easier to put the boot on your foot. You can go out on the ice in skates no earlier than 2 hours later.
If the boot has a problem with the fit in some area (pressure or a lot of free space in some small zone), it is quite possible to spot heat it with a construction hair dryer and try to eliminate this point or improve the situation.
There are two options to match the True skate. The first is to convert the Bauer/CCM skate size to True, but try to take into account the specifics of each brand.
The method is not the most accurate: many factors can affect the final result and the most important of them – the correctness of the size of the current skates. The second way, it seems to me, is easier and more correct: it is a measurement of the foot and the choice of size on the parameters of the foot.
The width of the foot is determined by the distance (perpendicular line) between the two parallel lines outlined on the left and right at its widest point. By dividing the length by the width, we get the quotient of each foot.
We take a longitudinal measurement and look at the values in the table below. For example, the length of my foot is 288-289 mm. We need to find the closest value in the table rounded down. We see that this value is 286 mm, which corresponds to a base size 10D. Subtract 0.5 from this value and we get the base size of the True skate – 9.5R.
If you get a coefficient greater than 2.65, then most likely should fit a skate in fullness R. I.e. for myself leave the size 9,5R. If the value turned out less than 2.65, then you already need to look fullness W. In this case we assume deduction of additional 0,5 size and get the size 9W.
As a result, for me, the True TF7 model, given the fairly affordable price, becomes an extremely attractive option, and here Van Horn did not deceive, saying that this is the best product in the class: the price / level ratio here is incredibly good.