Types of bindings and boots, a brief history

Fixed heel.
Originally, all skates had fixed heels. The boot was strapped to the skates both at the toes and the heel. The bindings were two separate parts that would fit over extended lips at both ends of the boot and then the foot was strapped down as well. After the evolution from leather to textile straps, innovation was slow until "speed bindings" were invented in the early 90s. A mechanical strap would snap over the extended heel to fix the boot to the skate. While much quicker, the system was sensitive to tuning and too much space between the toe and heel bindings would see the boot come loose during skating.


Loose heel, "BC".
The end of the 90s saw bindings from cross country skiing fitted to skates for the first time. Meaning only the toe was attached to the skate, therefore a loose heel. The idea came after clap skates were introduced during the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. The clap skates broke all previous speed skating records and became universally used by speed skaters within a few years.

Sturdier cross country skiing bindings became the next thing in Nordic skating. The Lillehammer Olympics had shown how advantageous loose heels were and back country, "BC", bindings from both Rottefella and Salomon were used. The systems were similar, but you had to buy boots to fit the bindings you wanted as they were not interchangeable. Rottefella´s BC system is the one we use today, it is also sometimes referred to as NNN (New Nordic Norm). The Salomon BC system is no longer manufactured, the same goes for the fitting boots. This should be noted if you are looking at the second hand market as Salomon BC boots will be hard to find.

The Nordic ice skating community has always had a high share of inventors. Those have drilled holes, fitted any bindings they could find and even made their own in some cases. A common home build was skates made for hiking boots which were secured with sheet metal and straps. They earned the nickname "Glappskridskor" - "Skates with play", referring to how the boot heels never managed to stay fixed in place.

This trend of innovation has affected the skate industry as home inventions usually were a step ahead of manufacturers. As a result, the promising ideas developed by skaters often became real products when manufacturers saw what worked.

Fixed heels with lip-less boots, toe plate.

When BC systems gained popularity, the supply of boots with lips decreased noticeably. Those who still wished to skate with fixed heels had a hard time finding boots fitting the old bindings. New skates developed to fit hiking boots then hit the market. The solution to fixed heel skating without lips on the boots was a metal toe plate extending over the top of the boot and pressing down. One of those skates is one of our classic models Skyllermarks Viking. More than the new toe plate it also used a snowboard inspired pump-click strap to fix the heel in place. The Viking became very popular and many Viking skates are still used today and available on the second hand market. Often spotted on smaller lakes and plowed ice tracks but rarely used for long tours anymore. We recommend properly stiff hiking boots for all fixed heel skates as regular winter boots don´t offer enough support for proper skating.

Side to side adjustment.

Side to side adjustment of the bindings was considered important already in the days of fixed heel skating. Both the toe and heel bindings were fitted with two screws each, one on each side of the blade. The two parts of the binding could be moved and angled individually to point the toes slightly outward for better balance over the blade. 

When the cross country bindings began to be fitted to skates their screw placement of several holes in the central line, right on top of the blade, required new innovation. At this time, the steel blade was fitted all the way up towards the base and only allowing the screws 2mm to thread in, not enough.

Skyllermarks legendary constructor Tommy Malm, together with Ragnar Wijkström, designed the models Skyllermarks Blue and Red in the beginning of the 21st century. These models had bindings adjustable both sideways and back to front thanks to lowering the blade mounting almost a cm, giving room for hidden nuts under the base. This became the new Nordic skate standard and was quickly copied by other manufacturers. 

Skate bindings and other cross country skiing bindings.

Slimmer cross country bindings (not BC) were fitted to skates by innovative skaters already in the 90s. It would take several years before any manufacturer would create models made for slimmer bindings, like the Salomon SNS and Pilot. The main appeal of slim bindings was weight reduction, something valued by quicker skaters in particular. A worry among many was that the lightweight bindings would fail under the forces of skating as they had thinner and more fragile components compared with the BC systems. It turned out to work quite well despite fears, bindings rarely break from regular use. They are still sensitive equipment however and require both maintenance and cleaning to last. Unusual resistance while closing the bindings might be small rocks or something stuck under the boot. Excessive force should not be necessary and can break bindings. Another part to be careful of is the metal rod in your boot. It will slowly wear down from walking and can fail eventually, accidentally kicking rocks is a big risk.

In cross country skiing the skating style was discovered in the 80s. Through several rules, the skating style has coexisted with the classic style even though it is clearly faster. While the skating technique was developed, so was new equipment better suited for it. Mainly there was a need for boots more resistant to turning forces and with more side to side stability. At the same time there was as always a demand for making the boots as lightweight as possible. These are of course the same things the Nordic ice skaters wanted and as previously some individuals were quick to fit their own skates with these "skate" bindings.

Our latest model Skyllermarks Orange was launched the winter season 2021-2022. It is designed solely for skate bindings. Since skate equipment is so rigid, there is no real need to adjust bindings from side to side as before. As such we have been able to make Skyllermarks Orange as narrow as the bindings and more lightweight than any of our skates before it.

As previously with the BC systems, Rottefella and Salomon have their own versions incompatible with each others. At least until Salomons new Prolink system, which fits the same boots as Rottefellas skate bindings. Now any modern skate boot will fit both. Caution is however as always needed on the second hand market as many SNS and Pilot boots that aren't compatible with the new systems still are sold.