Easton Mako M8: Speed without sacrificing the agility – review for a casual player (and the Zach Kassian types)

Update 2: Please see UPDATE

Important update (copied from the update post):
There is a rumour from a credible source that Bauer will not continue making Easton skates. And we all know Graf is… so… If you have a Mako or any Graf, get extra steel / runners / blade and extra bolt/nut while you can. 


update: I can not emphasize this enough. Buy the skates you tried on. I threw on 3 pairs of M8, and at least two of them fit very very differently.
Consistency (and quality) seems to be an issue. I say quality because it’s simply visually obvious. Materials not lined up properly, glue and cut edges sticking out, a big wrinkle in the liner (we’ll see if this causes blisters).

Short conclusion: NHL may not be so boring for too much longer with the second-gen Makos in the market. (Well, NHLers who are in this niche would probably wear VH)

Second short conclusion: I did not think it was possible for any skates to come close to Grafs. This one is a contender. I’m impressed. BUT there seems to be significant consistency issues and customer service issues.
Yes, I would recommend this to a friend who fits the description “Recommend to” below.

Advice:
Buy from a local hockey shop you trust who will fight for your interest. Easton phone customer service is absolutely disinterested. The attitude is kind of like…they don’t really care if I buy their skates or not. It left me feeling that, if they don’t know it, I do not need to know it even if I really want to know it. This is a VERY different impression than the one I had a few months ago where they contacted someone in tech to find details for me.

(UPDATE: To answer many of the same question I received, if I must choose only one pair, I would choose Graf G9035. But I would leave a huge part of my heart in Makos. My decision might change after playing with the rocker. See below for more details. If you’re considering Grafs, I’d caution you on two things: pay attention to the depth of the toe caps – took me a while to get used to it, and adult females with jr-sized feet should consider ordering custom flex because the jr flex are too flexible for us.) 

Pro: Fast. Agile. Good price. Puts you in the correct skating position. The maximum these skates can perform to is simply so great. This is a game changer.

Con: Little information available on technology. Very painful to get the foot in and out of the stakes due to small opening. Very wide heel. The skates can perform at such high levels that it ends up asking a lot of you too, physical strength wise. Especially if you keep the factory default 9′ rocker, which I believe is an overkill.
Con: it depends on the skater, but to me, the 9′ rocker is an overkill. I feel no less agile in 9.5-10 on Grafs (just checked the profile, and it is still 9.5-10) than 9′ on the same Grafs. 9′ on Makos may be contributing the feel that I have to concentrate on my feet sometimes.
CON: Possible issue with heat moldability (M8) – the shell becomes very soft and easy to manipulate when heated (10 min), based on which everyone is convinced it’s completely moldable. BUT after the shop guy laced them up and let them cool on my feet, there seemed to be no improvement on the fit. Heels were still just as “too wide” as before the heat mold, and the space in front of the ankle was not closer at all whatsoever. Why? I don’t know. Thankfully the skates fit near perfect out of the box, so this was no issue for me.
Con: There is a serious lack of padding from the heel and up to the ankle joint. I’m very hesitant to heat mold one more time and try to get the heel narrower, though. Currently, the sides of my heels don’t touch anything, so no blisters. What if making the heel fit my foot would cause friction and pain? Having it “too wide” right now doesn’t seem to negatively affect my skating – albeit a completely unfamiliar feeling for my heel to touch nothing but insoles.
Con: Consistency issue? I’ve tried on 4 pairs (Mako II, M8, M7, then the M8 I bought). They all have different padding, so it’s expected they feel/fit different. But I swear they flexed differently too, and the heel of the M8 I bought is bigger than the M8 I tried on.
I have no concrete proof, but I do strongly recommend buying the exact pair you tried on. UPDATE: A senior fitter at a reputable store just told me “Makos have one of the narrowest heels on the market.” This is the complete opposite to my experience. It might be different for different size, but for size 2, Mako M8 I purchased have by far the widest heel compared to CCMs (new and old), Bauer (supreme 2000, 2010, 8000, Vapour X, Vapour XX, One90, One95, Apx), Graf (502, 703, 301, 60X, G75, G70, G9035) and possibly other Makos I tried on. This is another reason I recommend buying the exact pair your tried on.

Photos at the bottom.

Recommend to:
Players who are interested in greatly improved speed and agility at the cost of some sore muscles.
Players who are willing to sacrifice scoring in a couple of games while adjusting to the new body position.
Players who has body position issues, e.g. skate on tippy toes and not from the balls of the feet, deep in the heels, trouble bending the knees, etc. and wishes to correct it.
Players who can handle these powerful, demanding skates and a 9′ profile (or take the time and money to re-profile it). It’s like driving a formula-1 racer – the driver have to keep up to what the skates can do. (Though I do not know what happens when less-powerful skaters are in those. I’ll soon have a friend, an intermediate skater, in Mako demo. I’ll report back soon)

Info on me: 128 lbs, 5’2″. Grew up on skis – moguls and mini ski where if you didn’t ride the edge correctly, you broke your sternum or your skis. Started skating at 27, started organized hockey at 30. A decent skater. I know my edges. Not a great shooter. Atrocious puck-handler.
Have played every position including goal and the referee.
My foot is a perfect fit in size 2.25 regular-width Graf G3, G70, G9035. Slightly too wide for regular-width bauers (heat mold and some punching required) size 2 (1.5 in one of the models – One90, I think?). My mid-foot is waaaay too wide for CCMs. Currently wearing custom 2.5R 75-Flex Graf G9035 with Sidas footbed.

From here, it’s just rambling. Read on only if you’re also a gear nerd. 

I believe that the straight-forward speed of the composite skates took away agility and excitement from the game of hockey, and I’m no longer really excited to watch an NHL game. I don’t know if younger fans even know that players used to have much more lateral movements that showcased creative, exciting dekes and made it fresh to watch every game?
Makos have the potential to bring the excitement back – they are faster than any of other composite skates I’ve tried on without sacrificing the agility.

For recreational skaters with relatively stronger legs, Makos are great news as well.
You know the common story? You go to the skate shop. The skates are very vertical, and you tell the skate shop guy that you can’t bend your knees. They suggest you skip the top eyelet. What does that tell you – Are we supposed to use those skates in a way other than designed? Like “Oh yes, buy this Ford, but as soon as you buy it, put a VW suspension in it”?

In Makos, I felt absolutely no reduction in support, including ankle support, even though the skates are smaller and shorter. Though I would note that I have very strong ankles. The skates are incredibly fast, agile, and overall high performing.

Fit is a bit weird. Narrow through the forefoot, wide through the mid-foot and heel. A couple more baking might fix it.

I would recommend these skates if you wouldn’t mind being put through the rigours of using a set of very unfamiliar muscles. I’ll report back how many games it takes to develop these muscles to a point I’m not completely ceasing at the end of each 45-second shift.

Comparison with Graf G9035:
I will definitely keep my Grafs for reffing because I am almost as fast in them as in M8 and am never ever unstable for even a split second in those Graf G9035s where I couldn’t say the same for M8 (factory rocker is 9′ though) – there are moments where I needed to concentrate on my edges. Graf G9035 is noticeably lighter even though it’s 1/4 too big on me. Has the same ankle height. Makos are (or at least feels) slightly faster, but I’m playing in rec and I’m absolutely fast enough in Grafs.  Makos are agile, but I’m nore agile in Grafs. And looks…as I always say, any skate looks expensive till you put it beside G9035.

Read on if you’re interested in more.

On paper:

I have a 6-month-old Graf G9035 (size 2.5, 75 Flex) that I adore, and I certainly did not need another pair. But the curiosity won, and I’m glad it did.

When I read the information on the Mako skates, my first impression was two folds.

1. The game of hockey has been ruined by the speed of the plastic skates since the birth of Bauer One90. If Makos work the way they are advertising, they have the chance to change that back.
2. There were too many words and phrases in common with Graf for it to be a coincidence. Easton has studied Graf. This is why, I knew I had to try the Makos at some point. Were they successful in filling the niche that Graf left vacant? (For women with small feet, Grafs are not available in the right stiffness unless ordered custom – as of Sept 2015.)

I’m late to trying Makos because the first generation had issues with durability. Before I started skating in custom Grafs, I had to replace my skates every year because I weigh way more than what junior skates are designed for. Skates with questionable durability would have lasted a few months.

In my hands:

Here are my first impressions of seeing them in person at a store.

3. It’s really too bad they used such an abrasive material as the liner. This, like Graf’s last generation black mesh, this will eliminate barefoot as an option. Sure they say it’s hydrophobic, but it will still hold moisture and smell will grow on the skin cells that would be embedded into it. Graf uses the word “hydrophobic” with their current line, which has truly surpassed my expectation in terms of keeping the smell out.

4. The colours are awful in Mako M7 and M8. Mako II are fine. This was not unexpected because they have always shown very very poor design. I had great hopes when they adopted the yellow E, but they decided to bring back the orange for the Mako series sticks and skates. (The rumour has it that Easton is demolishing the Mako name (keep it simple with Synergy and Stealth). My guess? They hired a professional to rebrand the company but decided not to listen to them and brought in the orange – probably thinking that the brand recognition between BASEBALL and hockey cross. No.

5. Ok, finally, the quality of the skate. The padding is delightfully thin as hockey skates should be. The CXN holder is delightfully stiff like a hockey skate should have. The tendon guard has the perfect stiffness so it stays with your calf but does not get in the way of extending your toe. (I compared Cobra (now known as Graf 5000), SB, CXN, and Tuuk. Tuuk is the softest – like putting a passenger suspension on a ferrari. Other three are equally stiff. Graf’s Cobra is the lightest, then Easton’s CXN, and CCM’s SB is the heaviest.)

6. The shell is stiff, and the opening is very narrow – it was very very painful to squeeze the foot in and out, leaving the top of my foot bruised (it gets better after a few games – see below).

I let a year pass after the second generation came out to make sure the durability issues have been addressed.

I decided on M8s because I felt the slightly higher density foam and the plastic tendon guard on the tongue were worth the $50 dollar difference from M7, but $150 difference between M8 and Mako II were not justified.
Don’t get me wrong – I called everyone to try to justify buying Mako II. As proven by the fact I wore Bauer 7000, One90, Graf G70, G75, and now G9065, I like buying the top of the line. So why not this time?

a. Easton phone reps are extremely unhelpful. I’ve asked a few questions, and they just told me they “don’t have that information.”

b. Their technology information are very anecdotal and colloquial. Unlike Graf who sent me a sample, Easton phone reps just say “oh that foam is a higher density. But I can’t tell you exactly what that means to you.” – this doesn’t help me at all. My pillow is higher density than my cushion. The foam in my helmet is a higher density than the foam in my Grafs. Their catalogues are peppered with jargon that means nothing (I imagine they created those words on purpose to awe the average consumers). There is absolutely nothing else you can find out about it.

c. Do NOT trust the hockey store guys. Not everyone has read the instructions from Easton. I baked the skates once and went back to the shop to punch the ankle out to accommodate my jetting joint. The local hockey shop used a punch machine even though I informed them what Easton instructions say. This caused too much area of my size 2 skates to be pressed out, negating any effect punching may have had. Second time, the guy used his thumbs, which worked well. But, as you know, once punched, it’s stretched out for good.

d. It’s SO VERY painful to get the foot in and out. After baking once and wearing them three times, they are a bit better. But because the local hockey shop messed up the punching around the ankle and I still need to reheat it one more time, I imagine it might get worse after the second heating.

On my feet:

The shops and Easton phone reps are so unhelpful. I called all the stores, I walked into the store, I phoned Easton three times, just to try to find out how much wider 2EE is compared to 2D. Nada. Can I take advantage of Easton fit guarantee? No, because 2EE has to be brought in from the warehouse, which means the fit guarantee does not apply because of the extra restocking fee. I’ve even offered to pay the difference, but everyone has already decided on my behalf that I don’t want to pay the restocking fee and won’t even tell me how much it is. Basically, if I want 2EE, I have to fully commit to it sight unseen. This means I ended up in 2D, which is clearly too narrow, thinking too narrow is easier to fix than too wide.

Trying on these skates is very painful. The top of the foot runs along the eyelets where the laces create a pressure point while the foot is being pushed through. I have a heavy bruise on the top of the foot from that. It got better after 3 ice times.

On the ice

In my first game, I developed pain across the balls of my feet and had to switch the skates after the first period. From the second game, I learned the right tension in the laces.

Those skates are FAST. I was already wearing Graf G9035 that I thought was already in the fastest of all that are currently out.

Those skates forced me into the correct skating position. My feet and body had trouble keeping up with the aforementioned speed – but my agility returned in the second game. I still can’t shoot because the skates put me in such a different body position, but I’m not about to adjust skating to match my shooting.

Those skates corrected my stride. Having started as an adult without any proper lessons, you could spot me from across the arena based on my stride. mostly because I turned my knees in and skate from my quads – a common mistake among female players including many of Canada’s top players.
Knees turned in http://www.puckedinthehead.com/wp-content/images/Kirsten-s.jpg – ineffectively using gluteus medius.
Knees turned out in line with the skate, using gluteus medius and maxius effectively – http://www.prodigy-hockey.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/skating-extension-form.jpg

(What’s wrong with skating with the knees turned in? Who am I to question what the top players are doing? Well, it’s hard to deny that, in Canada, the game’s top players in their age group do not receive proper coaching. They might skate recklessly like Taylor Hall. They might bitch at referees like Sydney Crosby. Alex Burrows’ skating. Ovechkin’s backchecking. Hayley Wickenheiser’s slow feet. The world’s best players rarely have the perfect skills in everything.)

After one game in Mako M8, all the right muscles hurt – the gluteus medius that one uses if they use the first foot of the stride properly, and everything on the outside of the leg that gets used in the last foot of the stride if done properly.

Though there are a few other things that hurt. The Achilles tendon that hits the end of the skate at the ankle. The width is hair too narrow. I am unsure yet if another heat mold will make it better or worse.

One performance problem is the stability. I haven’t been able to put a finger on it, but at a hard stop or turns, it’s a bit wobbly even with the feet apart and diagonal in a textbook fashion. Possibly the 9-foot rocker (My grafs have 9.5-10 rocker). Possibly that it puts me in such a deep knee bent that there is no deeper I can go in hard stops. I’ll report back if/when I figure this out.

Other players

I’ve watched a couple of my friends with different skating styles go on these skates and noticed something. One of those players had a habit of skating from her tip toes. Do you know what I mean?
A lot of female players are put into hockey skates and told to put the weight forward. And they end up skating from the toes not from the balls of their feet. Mako M7s she is wearing appears to have fixed this overnight.

Graf G9035 and Easton Mako M8
My TWO BABIES I LOVE! You see that those are very similar. Good news is that we now have another choice in the niche Graf had monopolized (Mako came out a few years ago but had durability issues)

Photos:
A bit of “Skates look expensive till it’s put beside a G9035” thing happening, but Mako II does look a bit better than M8.

Below are the photos of G9035 and M8.

IMG_20150915_094158
Graf G9035 Hydrophobic liner, which is actually hydrophobic. I wear my G9035 barefoot, and it hasn’t started smelling.
IMG_20150915_094207
Size 2.5 with custom 75 flex. Off the shelf, the flex numbers size 2 comes in are too soft for my 128-lb adult frame.
IMG_20150915_094235
G9035 – note: My G9035 has an oversized holder by custom order.
IMG_20150915_094254
Screws holding the runners are already having issues. Though CXN is a very stiff holder, and I’m loving it.
IMG_20150915_094404
Easton “looks” much smaller. But it isn’t.
IMG_20150915_094451
Same height at the heel (aggressive pitch-forward for both skates) and ankle on the side.
IMG_20150915_094459
The biggest difference is here.
IMG_20150915_094532
look very much the same except for the size of the tongue. If you need to have the shin pads inside of the tongue, you will have issues with Makos.
IMG_20150915_094557
Graf Canada gave me a Sidas insole. I took it out for the photo because, well, I wear my skates barefoot, and it is gross-looking now.
IMG_20150915_094633
This would be too exfoliating to wear barefoot. This is very similar to last-generation Graf liners. They say the inside is hydrophobic, but what’s the point if it’s textured…

IMG_20150915_094541

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