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How the Different Sports Shoes at the Winter Olympics in Beijing Work & How They Help Athletes Win

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.

Biathlon

winter olympics shoes, 09 January 2022, Thuringia, Oberhof: Biathlon: World Cup, pursuit 10 km, women. Marte Olsbu Roeiseland from Norway jumps over the finish line. Photo by: Hendrik Schmidt/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Biathlon: World Cup, pursuit 10 km, women. Marte Olsbu Roeiseland from Norway jumps over the finish line.
CREDIT: Hendrik Schmidt/picture-alliance

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

winter olympics shoes, Bobsleigh, 09 January 2022, North Rhine-Westphalia, Winterberg: Bobsleigh: World Cup, four-man bobsleigh, men, 1st run. Pilot Justin Kripps with Cam Stones, Ryan Sommer and Benjamin Coakwell from Canada start into the ice track. Photo by: Caroline Seidel/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Bobsleigh: World Cup, four-man bobsleigh, men, 1st run. Pilot Justin Kripps with Cam Stones, Ryan Sommer and Benjamin Coakwell from Canada start into the ice track.
CREDIT: Caroline Seidel/picture-alliance

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.

Figure Skating

Winter Olympics, Adam Rippon, skates, figure skating
Adam Rippon competes in Figure Skating: Men Single Skating Free Skating at Gangneung Ice Arena during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games on February 17, 2018.
CREDIT: ZUMAPRESS.com / MEGA

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.

Curling

curling shoes, winter olympics shoes, (From L) Yurika Yoshida, Chinami Yoshida and Yumi Suzuki of the Japanese women's curling team play in a match against Estonia on Dec. 15, 2021, in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, at the final qualifying tournament for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. (Kyodo via AP Images) ==Kyodo
(From L) Yurika Yoshida, Chinami Yoshida and Yumi Suzuki of the Japanese women’s curling team play in a match against Estonia on Dec. 15, 2021, in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, at the final qualifying tournament for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
CREDIT: Kyodo

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.

Winter Olympics, Short Track Speed Skating, skates
Athletes compete in Heat 2 of the Short Track Speed Skating Men’s Men’s 5,000m Relay at Gangneung Ice Arena at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games on February 13, 2018.
CREDIT: ZUMAPRESS.com / MEGA

Hockey

hockey shoes, winter olympics footwear, 6738928 11.01.2022 Dynamo's goaltender Ivan Bocharov, Stanislav Galiyev, Jokerit's Teemu Turunen and Dynamo's Nikita Novikov struggle for the puck during the Kontinental Hockey League ice hockey match between Dynamo Moscow and Jokerit Helsinki, in Moscow, Russia. Vladimir Fedorenko / Sputnik via AP
Dynamo’s goaltender Ivan Bocharov, Stanislav Galiyev, Jokerit’s Teemu Turunen and Dynamo’s Nikita Novikov struggle for the puck during the Kontinental Hockey League ice hockey match between Dynamo Moscow and Jokerit Helsinki, in Moscow, Russia.
CREDIT: Sputnik via AP

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

luge shoes, winter olympics footwear, UMHAUSEN,AUSTRIA,09.JAN.22 - LUGE - FIL World Cup, natural track, team event. Image shows Ekaterina Lavrenteva (RUS). Photo: GEPA pictures/ Daniel Schoenherr(Sipa via AP Images)
Luge athlete Ekaterina Lavrenteva (RUS).
CREDIT: Sipa USA via AP

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.

Ski Jumping

ski jumping shoes, winter olympics footwear, Japanese legendary ski jumper Noriaki Kasai performs during the HBC Cup Jump in Sapporo City, Hokkaido Prefecture on Jan. 10, 2022. The eight-times Winter Olympican placed 4th in the event. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )
Japanese legendary ski jumper Noriaki Kasai performs during the HBC Cup Jump in Sapporo City, Hokkaido Prefecture on Jan. 10, 2022. The eight-times Winter Olympian placed 4th in the event.
CREDIT: AP

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

Winter Olympics, Shaun White, snowboarding, boots
Shaun White competes in Snowboard Men’s Halfpipe Final at Phoenix Snow Park during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games on February 14, 2018.
CREDIT: ZUMAPRESS.com / MEGA

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.

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