Minor update: 1/10/98
OK, as you can probably tell, I originally wrote this page a very long time ago, and the last update was just about 10 years ago!!  Well, as soon as I get time (), I'll re-write it to make it more in line with the times!  JS (12/2007)

There are two basic types of speed skates: Short Track and Long Track. Long track boots are lower cut than short track boots, and the  blade is also somewhat flatter than a short track blade.
 All of this is due to the vast difference in track sizes.  The standard long track is close to four times larger than the short track.  The larger size track means that the skates need less support, and the blades do not have to be off-set to the left, as in short track.

At least up until 1997, probably the best example of the Long Track speed skate was the Viking shown on the left, below. For comparison, on the right is a standard Short Track speed skate.
Long Track Speed Skate
Short Track Speed Skate

However, in the winter of 1996-1997, a new type of Long Track speed skate entered the scene. Whether you call (or spell) it "klap", "clap", "slap",  you will be hearing a lot about this new skate very soon.
The clap skate blade is hinged at the front attachment, which allows the
entire blade to hinge out from the heel at the end of the stroke. This permits the blade to stay in contact with the ice a little longer each stroke. The skate makes a noise ("clap") when the built in spring snaps the blade back into position, hence the name.
While it seems somewhat radical, apparently everyone agrees that this skate is shaving about 1 second per lap (on a 400 meter track) from the skaters' times. In August,1997, the International Skating Union (ISU) "officially approved" this style skate "for use in all competition, including the Olympic Winter Games".
For you short trackers out there, when the Laberge Short Track skate first appeared in the early 1980's, to most it too looked pretty radical and downright ugly, compared to the traditional Planert skate.
At first glance, the clap skate looks pretty much like a regular long track skate. However, the attachment system, not quite visible in the photo, is very different. 
The skate is shown here with the blade extended, as it would be at the end of the push. This allows the skater to add push with the front of the foot (ankle) efficiently and without digging in the toes (see next)...
The blade mechanism is only open for brief instant at the end of the push. Therefore it's about as easy to get a good skating photograph of it fully opened as it is to get a good picture of a  UFO :-).  The best I could do in my short visit to the Pettit Center in Milwaukee in the summer of 1997 was this picture of Catherine Raney, at the end of a push.
On the right is a picture of David Besteman in Butte, Montana, in 1990. You can see the use of the toes for that extra little bit of energy at the end of the push, but with the drawback of digging the toe in. The clap mechanism gives this extra energy, without the drag.

Below is another brand of clap skate. The clap mechanism is mountable to any number of boots (even short track boots), making it really versatile.  In this case, a Marchese long track boot. The blade mechanism is somewhat different than the Viking shown above, but the function is pretty much the same, that is, allowing the entire blade to remain in contact with the ice for a slightly longer period each push, thereby increasing the total power applied to the ice over the course of a race.

The function of the spring used to return the blade to the boot
is very obvious in this picture.

Next: up-close and personal: A detailed look at a clap mechanism.
Please note (opinion):  I have chosen to call this thing a "mechanism", since it is mechanical in nature, that is, it has moving parts.  However, having seen it in action, and understanding the true mechanics of the push with this thing, I personally do not see any "mechanical advantage" to the clap skate.  It simply allows for more efficient application of the power to the ice.  The spring is only there to return the blade to the bottom of the boot.
Just an observation.
A custom boot with clap mechanism.


The same skate, with the clap mechanism extended (and held open with an ink pen).   The spring tension is fairly strong, and is adjustable to 
fit the needs of each skater.

A good view of the clap mechanism itself:

And open (again, proped open with a pen).  In the Viking photo earlier, I edited the pen out of the picture.  However, this also takes away from the fact that the blade is under spring tension to return it ("clap") back to the boot.  In fact, the tension is pretty strong.  In one instance, while taking these pictures, the pen slipped out and I got my finger snapped in the heel part!  Ouch!!

Top view of the un-mounted clap mechanism.  As you can see, the mounting is a simple matter, as in a short track skate.

 A close up view of one type of clap heel post. (film can not included!)

The  Original Bont clap skate.
Click on the moving boot to visit the Bont Home page and find out
about the latest Bont Clap skates.
Don't forget to come back! :-)

 David Tamburrino gives us a  static (posed) demonstration
of his clap skates in action. Notice in the right picture that he is able to
add some push with his ankle without digging the toe into the ice.

 Chris Whitty's skates, November 1997.  Great colorful design, they have lace covers that zip up the center.  Keeps the laces dry...and tied!

 Sara Elliott's skates.  For years, long track boots were pretty boring.  Now a rainbow of snazzy new colors have arrived!  The knitted blade covers are to protect the blades while being carried around in a skate bag.  Heavier leather or plastic "guards" are used to walk to and from the ice.

Klap skates are available from Special Equipment Company, as well as the Bonts.

 Equipment Skaters Wear:  HOME to: 
 Set: Dec. 8, 1997