This buying guide includes a basic overview of the different types of roller skates available including:
Quad Roller Skates
Quad Speed Skates
Quad Roller Skates Quad Roller Skates are traditional "2 x 2" styles of skates (two wheels in fron, two in back). There are a number of variations of quad roller skates. The most obvious difference is in the skating boot. Artistic syle skates feature a higher boot than speed skates styles. Most people think of high boot skates when they picture traditional roller skates. Today, Speed skate style boots are just as popular. This article will give you a quick overview of each of the styles of skates. You will find more detailed articles on the various styles in the individual sections of the Skatebuys web site.
Inline Skates are also referred to as roller skates. Many people refer to inline skates as Rollerblades, which is the registered trademark of the Rollerblade company. Inline skates have 3 to 5 wheels, aligned in a straight line. Inlines more or less took over the roller skating market in the '90s for both outdoor fitness skating and rink skating. Today you will see inlines primarily being used outdoors as there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional quad roller skates for indoor rink skating. Inlines are still being used for rink skating, but less frequently.
Inlines behave more like an ice skate than a quad roller skate. Ice skaters wishing to try roller skating often start out on inlines. Quad skates have a different feel on the floor, but many people love the stability of a quad skate. Quads are generally more appropriate for shuffle moves and dance-style skating. For more details on inline skates please refer to that section of our site.
The balance of this article refers to quad roller skates. There are many different styles of quad roller skates. The primary difference between them is the boot style.
High boot roller skates feature a boot that extends above the ankle. Quad Speed Skates feature a low, ankle high boot that is more the height of an ordinary street shoe.
"Artistic style" high boot roller skate use a narrower wheel base and narrower wheels. The support of the higher boot allows the skater to do intricate moves on the narrower wheels and wheelbase. Very commonly worn for recreational roller skating, high-boot roller skates cost anywhere from $25 to over $1,000. Obviously there are big differences in the components of a low-price skate vs. a high-priced skate. Low price skates are typically low quality skates.
Speed style skates have a wider wheel and wheel base than art skates. Originally designed as racing skates, they are built to go fast and hold their grip in the corners. Speed skates are generally not used for artistic or dance-style skating, but "jam skaters" generally use speed skates for their acrobatic and athletic moves. Speed skates are also in wide use for the modern version of roller derby, now conducted on flat tracks. We feature a selection of Roller derby skates on Skatebuys. Speed skates range in price from $25 to more than $1,000. As with high-boot roller skates, the quality of speed skates improves with price. You don't get much when you buy a low price skate.
About skate quality:
When you consider what roller skate to buy, you need to look at the individual components of the skates. The four main components are the skating boots, the plates or chassis, the bearings and the wheels. We give more details on these components in the individual sections and pages of this site. Here are a few considerations as you choose your roller skates:
1. Roller Skate Boots. Better quality roller skate boots are made of leather. Leather can be stiff when new, but typically lasts longer. Once broken in, a leather skate can be as comfortable as a bedroom slipper. Low price skates typically feature made-made materials. While some vinyl boots can be quite good (notably the Riedell R3) vinyl boots usually don't have the longevity of a leather boot. When making your boot decision, keep in mind the likely life expectency of the skates. If you are buing for a child with fast growing feet, a vinyl boot may be just the ticket to keep cost down. If you are buying for an adult who plans to skate regularly for the rest of their life, a leather boot might make more sense.
2. Roller Skate Plates. Plates are made from metal, usually aluminum, or various kinds of plastics. Plates range in price and quality as well. The high-end italian plates such as Roll-Line and Atlas can cost up to $500. Low price vinyl plates can cost as little as $25. Yes, you get what you pay for. The lower end aluminum plates are usually made by Sure Grip. These workhorse plates hold up fairly well, but can be quite heavy. Recently, Riedell has introduced their line of Powerdyne plates. The Riedell Powerdyne styles include a good looking lower-priced aluminum plate and a very nice high-end plate called the Reactor. The Reactor has features typically found on the high-end Italian plates for about 33% lower cost. Rounding out the aluminum plates are plates with the Snyder brand. Snyder plates are mid to high price and quality. Many art skaters swear by Snyder plates however their older design doesn't include some of the features of more modern plates.
Plastic plates can range from basic vinyl to high-tech nylon components. Plastic plates have a weight advantage over their metal cousins. Some skaters only skate on plastic to keep their skates light. Vinyl plates aren't as rugged as metal. If you jump or jam, you probably don't want to use plastic plates. One notable exception is the Sunlight plate, made by RC Sports. This nylon plate is strong, yet light. With the steel jump-bar included, the Sunlight is arguably as strong as all but the very best Aluminum plates. One cool feature of the Sunlight is that it is available in a variety of colors so you can customize your skates to your taste.
Riedell makes a very good plastic plate under the Powerdyne name. This plate is used on their popular R3 speed skates. A similar plate is made by Sure Grip called the Probe. The Probe is used on the popular Carrera speed skate. The probe is available in a selection of colors if you wish to make a personalized skate using a plastic plate. e-mail us if you would like to build a customized skate or call us toll-free at 1 (866) 361-9306.
3. Skate Bearings. We have in-depth information on various skate bearings in that section of our site. In general, you can assume that low price skates feature low quality bearings that won't roll very well. We recommend an ABEC-1 bearing at the minimum, better if you can afford them. Many of our lower level skates can be upgraded to better quality bearings for a small upcharge. Few, if any, other skating sites will take the time and effort to upgrade bearings for you, yet this is the single best investment you can make to improve the quality of your roll. The higher the ABEC number, the more precise the bearing. This translates into a smoother, faster roll. ABEC rated bearings can be somewhat tight out of the box, but break-in quickly. Several bearing models do not have an ABEC rating because they are specifically designed for skating, not use in industrial equipment or electric motors. The "gold standard" of bearings is the Swiss bearing made by Powell Bones. "Bones Swiss" as they are commonly known feature deeper races and handle the side loads of skating better than ABEC rated industrial bearings. The best bargain in skating is also made by Powell Bones. China Bones" or "Bones Reds" bearings are the same specifications as Bones Swiss, but made in China instead of Switzerland. They roll beautifully for less than half the price of Swiss bearings.
4. Wheels. Roller skate wheels come in dozens of variations. For high-boot skates choose narrower art-style wheels. For low-boot speed skates choose from Quad speed skate wheels. One variation to consider is a special class of outdoor roller skate wheels. Outdoor quad wheels typically are softer and have more rebound than indoor wheels. If you plan to skate indoors and out, we recommend buying outdoor wheels and an extra set of bearings. It is quick and easy to swap out the wheels when bearings are already inserted and you can switch from indoor to outdoor roller skating in minutes.
Many beginner skates come with basic indoor/outdoor wheels. If the skates are used to skate around the neighborhood and sometimes go to the rink, this is an acceptable choice. Indoor/outdoor wheels give you pretty mediochre performance for both uses. If you can afford it, invest in a good set of indoor wheels and a good set of outdoor wheels.