For thousands of years, skating was the only mode of transport over frozen waters.
The oldest skate-like items found were used more than 20,000 years ago in the Netherlands. From there, the concept of putting blades on shoes “over the water” to northern Europe and England.
In Scandinavia, about 3000 years ago, something similar to today’s skates developed. The first skates were made of rib bones or shank from elk,oxen and reindeer. It’s not exactly known when the skate blade began to be manufactured in metal, but proof has been found that steel skating blades were used in the Netherlands as early as the 13th century.
As a recreational sport, ice skating has been practiced by both women and men on the canals of the Netherlands since the Middle Ages. Skating on frozen lakes became popular in Great Britain in the 17th century and the first skating club was formed in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1742. In 1740, the British brought ice skating to North America.
Of course, skating was even popular in France, where Marie-Antoinette herself was known to skate.
It took until the twentieth century for skates to be manufactured with their characteristic toepick. With this, skaters were able to have a better grip on the ice and thus reach for new abilities within ice skating, progressing towards today’s figure skating.