Aggressive, or stunt skating, is the stuff YouTube videos are made of: flips, jumps, grinds and slides, with some spins and other crazy footwork thrown in. As always when it comes to skates, performance rules -- but some reviewers lend a lot of weight to style, too.
The Xsjado Avant line, now in its third iteration as the Xsjado Avant III has developed a reputation for combining all the qualities that make for a high-performing aggressive skate. (Xsjado is pronounced like "shadow.") The Avant III's liner "footwraps" are comfortable, the skate itself is light and locks your foot in for ultimate responsiveness, and thick, wide, one-piece soul plates allow you to grind on pretty much anything.
The Xsjado Avant III comes with 57mm/88a Avant Team wheels, ABEC 7 bearings and a Kizer Fluid 4 anti-rocker frame. (Anti-rockers are smaller, hard wheels set in the second and third positions on the skate, giving you more space and stability for grinds and slides.)
Another trademark of the Xsjado skate is its removable footwrap -- what would be the liner in a fitness skate -- which doubles as a stand-alone shoe. Users say the footwraps look good and feel good, and when you're ready to skate the instep ratchet strap plus toe and ankle straps lock your foot securely into the skate shell.
The Xsjado frame can even accommodate some non-Xsjado skate shoes in addition to the stock footwraps. Because the foot straps lock your feet down so well that they won't move inside the Xsjado Avant III, the skates work like extensions of your feet, freeing you up to pull off crazier tricks than you may have thought you were able to do.
If you'd like an alternative, the Razor Genesys 11 (Est. $200) is the latest update to another perennial favorite. They also come with a super-comfortable, well-padded liner with extra heel padding to cushion landings. They fit true to size, with a little extra space to accommodate wider feet.
The Genesys 11 comes with 56 mm 90a wheels with 42 mm anti-rockers, on aluminum spacers and ABEC 5 bearings -- just a little slower than those on the Xsjado Avant 3. All in all, reviewers say this stock package is good for beginning to intermediate skaters; upgrade the bearings and wheels to get a really high-performance package. The Genesys frame accepts up to 59 mm wheels in a freestyle (all four wheels the same size) or anti-rocker configuration.
The Razor Genesys line packs a few other benefits: In particular, reviewers say the soul and backside plates are easy to replace, and they're pre-grooved, which means you can head right out to the skate park as soon as you pull these skates out of the box. With that said, the Xsjado Avant 3 still gets the top spot for its overall higher performance.
Both of the aforementioned skates are a great bargain, but if you're ready to invest a little more in your aggressive skating performance we think the Universal Skate Design Carbon Franky Morales III (Est. $370) is a great value for the money. Shells made of carbon fiber, Kevlar and basalt fiber makes these some of the lightest, most supportive and most durable skates you can buy, with a simple soul plate/backslide construction to keep weight down.
Pro skates like this are only available for a limited run, and the first two versions were extremely popular. This version has an updated tongue to provide more padding for your shin, and a Kizer Clear Fluid IV frame -- one of the better antirocker frames out there, says Dave Hirt of Roller Warehouse. You won't want to run these skates flat (with all four wheels the same size), and at some point you'll want to upgrade the 58mm/98a wheels and ABEC 5 bearings. Otherwise, however, you'll be ready to go right out of the box, with one of the sharpest looking skates on the market.
Elsewhere in this report: