The 2022 Winter Olympics are nearing, taking place next February in Beijing, China. Across 15 different sports, athletes from around the world will compete in competitions ranging from speed skating to cross-country skiing. However, much like the summer Olympics, the winter games require specific equipment with specific features—namely, shoes.
Though some of the circumstances have changed—for example, the NHL has pulled out of this year’s games altogether—many are the same. The season’s usual sports, including the biathlon, curling, bobsleigh and luge, among others, will resume. Additionally, the unique sports in the Winter Olympics require equally specified footwear, ranging from boots to skates, for athletes to achieve their desired goals.
Below, discover some of the unique shoes required for various winter Olympic sports.
The biathlon consists of two portions: rifle shooting and cross-country skiing. The shoe that performs in both is a ski boot with slim uppers, adjustable ridged buckles and rounded toes. However, only the toes of these boots attach to biathlon participants’ skis. Their heels, unattached to their skis, allow them to move in greater strides while competing.
Bobsleigh shoes need to make their participants’ starts count—after all, when sleds are pushed and gaining momentum near the races’ start, speed is everything. The unique footwear designed for the sport is crafted from synthetic materials that can bend with the foot’s natural motions. Its other features are hard middle and outer layers, usually within a zip-up silhouette. Pairs also include slightly upwards-tilted toes, which are accented with brush-like spikes for speedy traction on ice.
Slim-fitting lace-up boots are the standard for figure skating footwear, with thin blades attached to their soles with screws. Sharp toe picks on the front of each blade allow for greater traction on the ice, as well as elaborate moves like jumping.
Footwear for curling resembles sneakers, with thick soles and a lace-up construction in a low-top silhouette. Two large circular soles are attached to one of the shoes’ outsoles, crafted from Teflon to allow smooth sliding on ice. The other shoe has equal sole thickness to maintain balance while competing.
Speed Skating & Short Track Speed Skating
Compared to figure skating, both speed skating and short track speed skating involve faster movements in more enclosed spaces. Speed skates include lower boots with ridged straps and thin blades attached to their soles, which are flat along their entire length. Short track speed skates take a similar form, except their blades are set higher to allow skaters to move around sharper turns on the ice.
Hockey boots differ from those used in figure, speed or short track speed skating due to their thickness. Most styles feature hard toes and uppers, which are internally padded and feature thick woven laces. Their soles are attached by screws to plastic tubing, which encases thin metal blades that provide traction for navigating ice.
Luge booties are essential to strong performance in the sport. Olympic styles feature ankle-high zipped uppers, as well as a curved soles and outsoles that force wearers’ feet into the proper racing positions. The streamlined silhouette also includes synthetic uppers that add to their lightweight feel.
When ski jumping, an athlete’s body is essentially horizontal to their skis. This sport requires flexible boots that allow wearers to lean forward. The high-backed pairs used by Olympic athletes include ridged soles with toes that clip onto their skis, as well as lace-up silhouettes with front buckles for added security while in flight.
Snowboarding boots are arguably the heaviest and most complex styles out of all the pairs needed to compete in various Winter Olympics sports. Lace-up pairs with thick laces and padded soles provide added stability, while textured soles and synthetic uppers provide greater durability. However, parts of the boots that truly make or break boarders on the slopes are their bindings—heavily buckled plastic casings that connect the boots to the boards.