Honest Hockey Review: Easton Mako II Hockey Skates

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A question that plagues people in all walks of life is “What If?”

In December 2013, I was desperate to find skates that would fit my feet properly. At that point, I had been through a frustrating number of CCM and Graf models, and it had been over a year since I owned a pair of skates that let me to play to my potential.

The original Easton Mako had come out earlier in the year, and the various aspects of the skate – particularly the Monocoque/single-piece construction and the malleability of the quarter package – seemed tailor-made for someone with my fitting problems. I went back to the same store from which I purchased Graf 535s a few months prior, and I got my feet into a pair of the 1st-generation Easton Mako skates.

The thing is, you can’t appreciate any skate – let alone one as cutting-edge as the Easton Mako – wearing it unbaked in the store. Here were the only things I could take away from the fitting:

  1. In a D (standard) width, the skates hurt so badly I could barely stand, and
  2. In a EE (Wide) width, the skates didn’t hurt and wrapped my foot well

At the time, I was much less-experienced in skate-fitting, and of the belief that I needed a volume (deep/wide) boot to accommodate the bone spurs on my feet. After much research, I narrowed my choices to two models: the Graf 709 Textalite, which I ultimately purchased, and the original Easton Mako in an EE Width.

I dodged a minor bullet in not purchasing the Makos, as I would have purchased a skate that was not only too wide, but also too long, for $400 more than I paid for the Graf 709s. I’m not going to name the retailer who did not one but two apathetic skate-fittings, but it’s safe to say that a certain small-chain store in Southern Pittsburgh cared more about my credit card number than how well a given pair of skates worked for me.

But this chapter in my skate-fitting saga left a major “What If?” that I was unable to answer, until recently. I was able to finally pick up a pair of the re-conceptualized Mako II at a price I could justify, and I’m very happy that I did.

While the Mako IIs and I have irreconcilable differences, I got to experience the “Science of Skating” concept firsthand and see what all of the brouhaha was about. Below is my Honest Hockey Review of the Easton Mako II. As always, I appreciate smart feedback and commentary.

Executive Summary

The Mako II is a superb upgrade on the original Mako, surpassing it in every facet of looks and performance. I’ll go into detail below explaining the differences between both the Mako II and its predecessor, as well as the Mako II versus other skates available in late 2016.

Sadly, the Mako II will be remembered as both the apex and the final entry in the Easton Hockey line of skates, as Easton Hockey was purchased by Bauer’s parent company, the Performance Sports Group (PSG), in January 2016.

The Mako II, along with most other Easton Hockey products, have been closed out as of November 2016. The Mako II originally retailed for $799 USD, and as I write this a number of units remain available in atypical sizes at clearance rates of around $400-$500 USD.

First Impression

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My Mako IIs arrived in glorious resplendence, gorgeous and eager to undo all of the visual damage done by the original Mako. Describing how sharp and unique the Mako IIs look in person tests my descriptive powers.

Now that the Mako I is well-behind us, I think we can all admit that the parking-cone orange graphics on the Mako I were unfortunate, to say the least:

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Perhaps the fact that I’ve spent 25 years hating the Philadelphia Flyers with every fiber of my being explains my disdain for the Mako I’s graphics, and you may or may not feel the same way. But all of us can agree that the Mako I’s color scheme was a … bold choice, to say the least.

Meanwhile, the mostly-black, nightmarish color scheme on the Mako II is eye-popping when you hold it on your hand, nicely accentuated by the plush, white pro-style skate tongue. You’ll have to take me at my word that the black scheme really commands attention in-person. I baked them at the local rink, and while I was there more than one guy commented on how cool the skates looked.

Here’s a shot of the pair I purchased, complete with a Jack-Crease (TM) on the inside of the left skate:

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Warm, the Mako IIs feel incredible, with the comfort and weightlessness of a running shoe. They fit unlike any hockey skate that I’ve ever worn. I waited the requisite 24 hours for the bake to set in, and I took the skates out to an afternoon stick-and-puck.

I was expecting the worst, as I’ve heard and read repeatedly that the unique, aggressive pitch of the CXN holder takes some getting used to. However, the adjustment to the CXN holder/steel wasn’t bad for me, as I usually skate on a forward pitch/9′ radius.

Hilariously enough, I’ve been trying to “make” the Mako II for years by using my heat gun to force skates wrap my foot more anatomically, and I independently came to the same conclusion as Easton that a shorter radius and an aggressive forward pitch might maximize athleticism. I grew up playing every sport under the sun, so I wasn’t constricted to certain hockey dogmas, such as the recent trend for blade profiles to be longer. I’ve just always wanted skates that allowed me to play to my natural strengths, which include my Spider-like agility.

I almost have to discount my on-ice First Impression entirely, because the calcium deposits on my arches dug into the Mako IIs so badly that I could barely stand, let alone reap the benefits of the Mako IIs. It’s obviously a closely-cropped skate with a narrow fit, and while that suits my foot well (I measure a ‘C’ width/AA heel in CCM), the quarter was absolutely unforgiving on my bone spurs. It would take some work with the heat gun to get the Mako IIs usable.

Second Impression

Wanting to spend more time using them in non-game action (more on that in a bit), I took the Mako IIs out for a Sunday public skate. I continued to apply local heat to the rough spots on my arches, and while the skates were warm they felt “OK” – meaning the pain level was tolerable  – on my arches/bone spurs.

The crying shame is that the Mako IIs otherwise felt marvelous. They wrapped most of my foot in the anatomical way I’ve been seeking for years. I was getting great Heel Lock. I wasn’t experiencing any discomfort at the high ankle, the site of the notorious “Mako bumps” associated with the original Mako. But the Mako IIs were literally making the insides of my feet bleed, despite dedicated work with a heat gun. I removed the post-Mako picture of my feet because it’s gruesome, but suffice to say this was a major problem.

If you scroll up or down, you’ll notice that there’s a prominent “V” along the side of the Mako, right above the heel. This “V” is reinforced to support the feet, which would be a big selling-point if one didn’t have bulging bone spurs right underneath.

But this is my unique problem, and not something most players will have to deal with. As noted above, I got tremendous Heel Lock from the Mako IIs, and the reinforcement no doubt allows the quarter to be extremely-supportive despite it’s pliable construction. But the reinforcement sits right over top of my spurs, and caused very problematic blistering.

Nonetheless, I wasn’t prepared to punt on these skates without a fight. Tip-toeing like an exotic dancer in eight-inch high-heels, I stepped onto the ice for Sunday Public Skate and did my best to give the Mako IIs a legitimate evaluation.

Performance

I’m very glad that I toughed it out, because once I got into a groove, I really saw what Dave Cruikshank and Easton meant by “Natural Movement Equals Speed”.

The combination of the great Heel Lock, the exceptional Foot Wrap, and the Mako’s asymmetrical quarter allows for razor-sharp turning. The inside of the quarter is slightly taller (5 mm) than the outside of the quarter, which lets an experienced skater really lean into turns. Here’s a look a graphic from Easton explaining the benefits of an asymmetrical collar (image courtesy Ice Warehouse):

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Notice that the skate is taller on the inside than the outside. This provides greater support to the inside edge while allowing greater ankle mobility on the other skate.

If you can picture a player turning sharply to her or his left, the Mako II allows a player to get more weight over the outside edge of the left skate while providing greater support on the inside edge of the right skate. This allows a player to get lower, balance better, and ultimately turn more-crisply.

Many skates, notably the CCM Crazy Light and including my dutiful 11Ks, have caused me major discomfort at the high-ankle because the top edges of the boot cut into my ankles, simultaneously limiting my mobility and making me bleed my own blood. There are numerous pics of this in the Training Manual as well as in the Honest Hockey Crazy Light review. Nothing of this nature to report on the Mako IIs, which I attribute to both the asymmetrical quarter as well as the anti-abrasion pads Easton placed at the top of the boot cuff.

A common criticism of the original Mako skates was that the skate collar was very abrasive. The Mako II addresses this criticism with extra padding at the collar of the skate. Most of the high-end skate models are now including this type of anti-abrasion padding. I’ve seen it on the Bauer Supreme 1S/Vapor 1X as well as both the CCM Jetspeed and the Super Tacks.

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Something else I noticed was that my body “settled back” into the boot, particularly on turns. The only comparison I can make is going from a front-wheel drive car to a rear-wheel drive car. My weight was pretty evenly distributed across the skate – with maybe a slight bias to the rear of the skate – allowing me to generate better power and a complete extension of the leg. Again, the term that comes to mind is “natural movement”.

I was able to reverse direction sharply with a non-existent turning radius. While it took a little getting used to, I was the belle of the ball at this Sunday Public Skate, impressing enough Hockey Moms and high-schoolers to slake my ego’s thirst for the day.

The Mako II – be it the frame or the suppleness of the boot – also placed my body into an optimal mechanical position, forcing me to drive from the heel and finish through the ball of my foot.

Once I got used to it, I really loved what the Mako II was doing for my skating, because it was forcing me to use the ball of my foot and heel as tent-pole components of my stride in a way that skates such as my 11Ks had not.

The Extendon Guard comes as advertised. I was getting better toe-snap/stride length with no discomfort. I was again limited by how badly my feet were killing me, but mechanically the Mako IIs skated perfectly. I actually liked the relatively-soft quarter, and certainly don’t see it as a detriment to reactivity in a way that some others might.

Here’s a glance at the Extendon Guard concept:

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Lastly, I’m glad I waited and got the Mako IIs rather than the Mako M8. While the primary difference between the two is a full composite boot-form on the Mako II versus a glass composite boot-form on the M8, I don’t think an even-softer quarter would have been to my benefit. My take is that if you’re an experienced player or over 200 lbs., shell out the extra for the Mako II if you’re debating between the two.

Performance Features Summary

  • Monocoque (single-piece) Construction: the boot is extremely reactive to heat in all but one flipping spot, and the CXN Holder is attached directly to the bottom of the boot, allowing for better Foot Feel and Energy Transfer. These are two Performance Features that I put a premium on, and the main reasons I keyed in on the Mako II rather than the Bauer Vapor 1X, original CCM Tacks, etc. It’s very easy to give yourself additional Heel Lock or work out most trouble-spots along the quarter. As promised, the Mako II delivers exceptional Foot Feel, and can give a precise skater great control over her or his edges.
  • Extendon Guard: Easton triggered a trend in which skate companies are now going to play around with the stiffness of the tendon guard on particular skates. The Easton Extendon Guard allows maximum Ankle Extension, which is going to help player optimize the power of their stride.
  • Asymmetrical Patterns: in tandem with the single-piece construction/lack of outsole, the Asymmetrical Pattern of the skate collar absolutely helps a player transition and turn directions more sharply. A great concept that works in actuality.  I expect to see Bauer and CCM experiment with the height of the skate collar in the near future.

In short, full marks to Easton and Dave Cruikshank for being so innovative. It’s a damn shame that Easton Hockey closed it’s doors, because the Mako II is a masterpiece of ingenuity and applied science. Easton was really on the cusp of something special.

My lone criticism, of course, is the hard plastic reinforcement across the back and lower-half of the quarter, which by itself prevented me from getting years of joy and use from the Mako II. Alas.

After public skate, I took off the Mako IIs, the insides of my feet bleeding like (insert borderline-offensive crucifixion joke), and I was ready to go home … when my adult-league team, the Misfits, showed up in typical style with six flipping skaters.

Not wanting to leave the boys in a lurch, I went out there, hobbled, and played a mostly-useless game. I can’t comment on how the Mako IIs could have helped or hurt my performance, because the arch/bone-spur issue was so significant that I couldn’t really contribute. But I was encouraged enough by how my skating mechanics had self-corrected at Public Skate that I wanted to take the Mako IIs to a professional to see if I could have them usable.

Intermission

I took the skates to my equipment guru in Raleigh, Andy Scoggins of ProSharp. Andy has done a number of unusual modifications for me over the years, and he can’t come any more highly recommended. If you are anywhere in North Carolina (or even the Southeastern United States), it’s well worth a trip to his shop if your skates need work.

Again, my feet measure a ‘C’ Width on both Bauer and CCM Brannock tools. I have a narrow foot full of bony protrusions, and the Mako is a narrow skate line with a very malleable quarter. It should have been a match made in Heaven.

However, the spots where my biggest bone spurs are located sit right where the footbed meets the bottom of the quarter. This part of the skate was not meant to be heat-molded:

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Andy did his very best to give me a little breathing room, and I did a re-bake on the skates. My feet were so sore from the Sunday double-session that it hurt to stand in the Mako IIs, let alone skate in them, so I decided to give my feet a full week to heal and let the bake set in before giving the Mako IIs another try.

In the mean time, I skated another mostly-useless game for the Misfits in my 11Ks. Going back to the 11Ks after the Makos really accentuated how mediocre the 11Ks fit my feet and how badly I had broken down the quarter. It’s not as noticeable in slower skates or at Stick-and-Puck sessions, but the fit of the 11Ks was so sloppy that I lost speed pretty much every time I changed direction. In a game situation, this is obviously the last thing a player wants.

The 11Ks/Reebok/RibCore skates have been good soldiers, but after four pairs and three years of use, I couldn’t grade the fit (and thus performance) out at anything higher than a C+. They’ve been serviceable. But I am damn tired of my skates limiting my performance, and the Mako IIs dictated the possibility of a skate that could finally maximize my skating rather than hinder it.

Whether I kept the Mako IIs or not, using them taught me two very valuable lessons:

  1. A natural-fitting (but appropriately stiff) skate reinforces proper skating mechanics the same way a wooden stick reinforces proper shooting and puck-handling mechanics. The Mako IIs were worth what I paid for them because they put my body back into proper skating position.
  2. The Mako IIs also spot-lighted how mediocre my 11Ks fit by comparison. My skating has been up-and-down for four years, which coincidentally was when I swapped my original U+ Pros for the garbage U+10. Skates can and do limit a player’s performance, especially players like me who work to stay in shape. Even if the Mako IIs don’t fit my feet, they still come recommended for other players because they can and do provide a tremendous, pro-level fit and performance.

Durability

I’m not grading the Mako IIs in Durability, as I only used them about 5-6 total hours. Having said that, a major concern that kept me from buying them at full retail was how well they would hold up under my bullish 210-lb. frame. In the limited time I used them, I skated the Mako IIs hard, and they showed no indication of flimsiness.

Basis of Comparison

As noted above, I’ve now skated my fourth pair of Reebok 11Ks into the ground, and generally I use higher-end CCM/Reebok skates. I tried, reviewed, and really liked the CCM Jetspeed skates, and the only reason I didn’t just sink $800 USD into those was that I wanted to see the Mako IIs and the CCM Super Tacks. One down, one to go.

 (UPDATE 12/31/2016: I purchased the Super Tacks, and by the time you read this, the Honest Hockey Review should be posted on the blog. I’ll link to it after it’s published.)

The Mako II was the first Easton skate I’ve ever used, and the only one I’ve ever really wanted to try. The Mako line comes on the heels of the very-underwhelming Stealth RS line. The next player I meet who raves about any skate from the Stealth line will be the first, as most of the players I meet who have used a Stealth skate have tried to resell them within weeks of purchase.

I’ve also written the best $11 e-book on skate-fitting that money can buy, so I’m your man when it comes to this sort of thing.

Personal Biases

No biases here, other than some sentimentality toward Easton. I’m really disappointed they’re no longer producing hockey gear, because Easton has been an industry titan for the length of my playing career. It’s my sincere hope that someone will buy Easton Hockey back from PSG in the future and re-open the operation.

(UPDATE: mercifully, a line of Easton Hockey Sticks will be released for 2016. The line is called the Synergy GX line, and it celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Synergy. You can read about line here. Just ignore the fact that the cash is adding to Bauer’s big-stack.)

I’m biased against the Mako I because it’s a hideous shade of orange, but no such biases persist with the Mako II, a black beauty if ever one existed.

Conclusions

So your question might be, “how could anyone, even someone as insightful as Jack, accurately review the Mako IIs if he only skated them a few times, and they killed his feet anyway?”

People sometimes ask me how long I’ve been playing. I think about it for a second and then shrug and say something like, “24, 25 years.” And their mouths fall agape. But then you do the math: started in the very early 1990s, it’s almost 2017…do you need a calculator? The years really fly by.

My point, Junior, is that I was skating before the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a thing, and I’ve seen generational changes in how equipment us constructed. I know how skates are “supposed” to fit, just like I know how sticks are “supposed” to shoot. This allows me to review a piece of equipment with plenty of historical context, not to mention that certain j’ai ne ce quois that makes my bosses cringe and women throw drinks at me.

Besides, as both a very-active player and the Author of the award-winning Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual – plenty of copies still available, folks! -my finger is firmly on the pulse of modern Hockey-Skate Fitting and Performance.

I would recommend the Easton Mako II to any experienced player, anywhere, with the following caveats:

  • The Mako line runs narrow. If your forefoot is even normally-wide, you may be more comfortable in a EE Width. If you’re considering purchasing a closeout pair of Mako IIs online, do yourself a favor and get measured by a quality hockey shop with enough professionalism to give a damn.
  • I do not recommend the Mako line for newer players, simply because the skates are so different from anything else on the market. Plus, God forbid a new player fall in love with the Mako IIs – obviously no longer in production – and then fail to re-acclimate to a Bauer or CCM model.
  • The Mako II is a relatively-soft quarter. If you block a lot of shots, it’s probably not the best pick.
  • If you skate on a longer profile (10-11′ or more) or on a neutral pitch, the Mako II is going to present challenges. The CXN holder is pitched forward, and while you could level off the steel, it’s going to feel very unnatural to someone who has skated on a TUUK or an E-Pro holder for years.

I would definitely recommend the Mako II to the following people:

  • Good all-around athletes who feel constricted by traditional Bauer/CCM offerings. What I liked best about the Mako IIs was how effortlessly I could change direction. They reminded me of more of snug baseball cleats than hockey skates. Most of the Bauer/CCM offerings for 2016-17 are going to be pretty restrictive at the ankle, which is the opposite of what a skater wants.  The Mako II is a stunning alternative, offering agility and suppleness not unlike a figure skate.
  • Anyone who wants to work on her or his skating mechanics. The Mako II really reinforced good mechanics for me. I was achieving great balance, leg extension, push/return, and body lean while using them, and that carried over when I went back to my 11Ks.
  • Skaters with narrow feet, or skaters who have a hard time finding skates with good Foot Wrap. The Mako wrapped my feet perfectly. If I could take the wrap of the Mako II and combine it with the quarter of the CCM Crazy Light, I might finally have a skate that fit, and I could quit writing skate reviews and leave you people in peace. Regrettably, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards, so let’s all make the best of it.

This isn’t a typical graded Honest Hockey Review, because I couldn’t wear the skates without pain. But I toyed around with them enough to assess the pros and cons, and in my view the Mako II is a fantastic overall skate … if you can get your foot into it comfortably.

The Easton Mako II comes very highly recommended, if you can find a pair to fit your feet. As always, Like Reboot Hockey on Facebook, and thanks for reading.

Jack

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