The origins of ice skates goes back further than most people
realize. Not a mere few hundred years, more like a few thousand. A pair of skates dating
back a couple thousand years was found in a frigid lake in Switzerland. These were simply a bone with holes for leather straps and were more likely used with poles for getting over iced lakes more quickly. In the sixteenth century these bone sliders were upgraded to metal blades more resembling the ice skate known today. With these blades the skater could now push and carve the ice and loose the poles.
It was in the mid nineteenth century that ice skates
became more popular with the masses. In Victorian times a night out on a rink was a typical recreational activity. Lighter and faster blades came on the market and skating became much more enjoyable.
Although recreational skating was already flourishing in Europe, ice hockey began a parallel evolution in Canada. Nova Scotian blacksmiths had there own idea of skate making. Coming from Irish roots they took their beloved game of Hurling and adapted it to playing on a frozen pond. Most of these skates were metal attached to wooden blocks which were then tied onto winter boots. Each blacksmith it seemed had his own idea of how to make these. It was in 1848 that skates took on a more standard look when a Mr. Bushnell invented a clamping device for easy wearing.
The Starr Manufacturing company came up with the modern design of attaching the blade to the boot. Prior skates had always been attached onto a boot with a strap or clamp. Another big leap for ice skates happened in 1870. The toe pick was added enabling figure skaters to make leaps and do things that couldn't have been previously attempted.
In the early twentieth century with hockey growing in popularity ice skates continued there evolution. The boots were made out of higher quality leather along with full metal toes for added safety. The boots became lighter all while offering even more protection. Through the sixty year period there weren't many upgrades other than better leather and sharper blades. It was in the late seventies that the plastic Tuck blade made an appearance. The biggest leap in ice skate evolution since the one piece blade/boot. These modern skates were so much faster and lighter it lead to the speeding up of the game of hockey which led to the growth of the NHL. With a new danger of getting lacerations, no doubt the next step in skate design will be the use of cut resistant materials.