It's not the skates, but sometimes it's the skates.
It's not the skates that make the skater. A good pair of skates are the bow that tie up the package of physical, technical, mental, and emotional factors producing an effective skater. Even having the best physical or technical preparation does not make the skater. What makes the skater is their cognitive and affective proficiency; their ability to know when and how to adjust skating techniques and the desire to do it.
As equipment, physical, and technical performance factors are being addressed my ultimate goal as a skating coach is to affect mental and emotional development. The skaters should be able to internally recognize what the technical elements of effective skating feel like: sense the ideal body position before initiating a stride: perceive the proper body movement to build pressure under the blade to push from; recognize which part of the blade the push is being applied to; distinguish the direction and sequence of joint movements to produce an optimal stride; and then want to repeat and evaluate the cycle over and over. The outcome is that the skater has the knowledge and desire to make appropriate decisions on their own, in the moment, to adjust skating elements when it is not as effective as it could be.
Getting a skater to a level of proficiency were they are able to internally recognize proper technical performance requires the development and integration of several performance factors:
Skates / Equipment:
Skates should fit snugly to provide the skater a with good base to develop balance and edge control. When acquiring skates, and all other equipment for that matter, avoid the statement "there's plenty of space to grow into". Ill fitting equipment can impede the ability to balance and/or achieve a good range of motion especially when those factors are crucial for technical acquisition.
Physical / Motor:
Strength, stamina, flexibility, coordination, balance, and agility must all be acquired and developed to achieve an effective skating stride. These physical abilities can not fully be achieved from skating specific practice alone. Many top athletes developed the physical abilities required for their primary sport by being multi-sport participants during their developing years.
Skill / Technique:
Good technique is the result of a sequence of physical movements or skills being executed properly. A skater with good technique will be more efficient that a skater with poor technique. Developing technical proficiency progresses from initial skill acquisition through to advanced skill refinement. Technical proficiency can take many years and may need to start anew if skills are missed or developed poorly.
Mental / Cognitive:
The skater needs to understand the whats, feel the hows, and make decisions about stride elements. What is the most effective body position? How does that position feel? When does it need to change? Repetition and feedback with a knowledgeable coach are key to a skater understanding and feeling the effective stride elements.
Emotional / Affective:
An internal, and thus harder to identify, element to great skating comes down to how does the skater feel. A skater may have the right equipment, physical, technical, and cognitive capability but potential performance can be hindered if they lack motivation or interest, or have fear.
When analyzing skating performance consider each of the performance factors moving up the body from skates to psyche; identifying impediments, prescribing corrections, executing remedies, and then reassessing. When one factor is eliminated as a potential impediment to performance then move on to consider the next. Through the process of trial and assessing what contributes to performance and what doesn't the skater develops that sense to internally recognize the technical elements of effective skating. However, a skater with the complete package of desire, knowledge, technique, and physical ability can still be left a floppy fish on ice if their skates fail.