Three Things to Consider Before Buying Inline Skates

Inline skating is terrific fun and great exercise if you have the right pair or rollers.

Inline skates, aka “rollerblades,” burst onto the fitness scene in the late 1980s. Even though their popularity has risen and fallen since then, a new generation of skate technology has propelled them back into vogue. Besides being fun to ride, they make ideal off-season trainers for snow skiing, hockey, and ice skating, as well as a great addition to any cross-training routine. Here’s how to pick the right skate for your recreational pursuit.

Training Wheels

This pair is ideal for casual or novice users.

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Form follows function in inline skates, which are available in a wide variety of styles for different applications. From street cruising to speed skating, slalom, dance, cross-training, and more, there is skate for every purpose. If you are just getting started in the sport, look for a skate marketed as “recreational” or “casual.”

Excellent Ride

This pair has super smooth gel wheels.

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Recreational skates generally have a high boot cuff, while performance skates drop the boot height for extreme flexibility and ankle articulation. Entry-level skate boots are mostly soft-shell uppers to enhance comfort, while more aggressive skates combine hard and soft materials or even carbon fiber components for responsiveness and durability. True economy skates may have a mostly hard shell boot, which enhances stability but often at the expense of comfort.

Easy to Use

The durable shell on this pair makes it easier to learn the motions.

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Skates come in both 3- and 4-wheel models. Both configurations offer a range of wheel diameters. Most recreational skates have small to medium wheels (76mm to 80mm), while speed-skating wheels may go up to 110mm or more. The larger the wheel diameter, the faster the skate and the greater your momentum. Larger wheels also absorb shock better. A smaller wheel places the skater’s center of gravity lower and is easier to control but slower and rougher on irregular surfaces. Inline skates intended for tricks and skate parks often have wheels under 60mm.