Aggressive skating is what YouTube videos are made of -- flips, jumps, grids and slides. Performance is the most important deciding factor when choosing aggressive skates, but owner comments show that style also weighs heavily, or is at least the cause for a lot of enthusiasm from owners and owners-to-be. That enthusiasm makes user reviews our most plentiful tool for evaluating aggressive skates. Fortunately a majority of reviewers have actually used the skates, with the balance made up of proclamations about how greatly desired a skate is -- proof of the brand's reputation and cachet, if not its performance -- and the occasional confusingly random message inserted into an otherwise sensible review. The Valo TV.2 (*Est. $170) received 31 total reviews on Aggressive Mall, far more than any other aggressive skates.
Despite the popularity of the Valo TV.2 and the well-accepted Razors Genesys line, including the Genesys 7.1 (*Est. $200) and Genesys 7.3 (*Est. $200), the Xsjado Avant 2011 (*Est. $240) stood out as not only one of the most eagerly awaited skates but also one of the best received, with a 4.8-star ranking on Aggressive Mall and a host of excited comments. Expert print and video reviews on RollerWarehouse.com figured most prominently in selecting the Avant as our Best Reviewed aggressive skate. The Xsjando (pronounced "shadow") has only two relatively small 57mm wheels, with an angled frame in-between. Of particular interest, the Xsjando Avant's footwraps are a separate boot liner that fixes inside the adjustable shell for skating, but resembles a low-profile sneaker for when you need to walk instead of roll. Owners are also enthused about the general adjustability of the boot frame, which can accommodate different-size footwraps and has dual ankle straps so you can fine-tune the fit on each side.
For speed skates, one of the smaller inline skating niches, key features are large wheels that give a smooth ride, and a low-profile, minimalist boot and frame to reduce weight. The Bont Jet (*Est. $430) receives an excellent review from London Skaters. The reviewer, an experienced speed skater, acknowledges that a stock skate like the Jet won't offer the same comfort and fit as a custom skate. He eventually declares this model "the best I've tried," but admits that he used a screwdriver and a heat gun to fine-tune the boot's fit.
The fact that the Jet and the Bont Semi-Race (*Est. $560) are both still in production speaks well for the brand's quality and longevity. However, the Vanilla Blackmail (*Est. $200), a relatively recent, bargain-priced addition to the speed skating world, has an overwhelming presence of positive reviews on LowPriceSkates.com and a corroborating, if lighter 4.5-star review on Skates.com, makes it the Best Reviewed choice by dint of popular opinion. The Vanilla Blackmail isn't to be confused with a high-end or custom inline speed skate, but it delivers good performance -- except for the wheels, which users complain give a rough ride -- and a hard-to-beat price, which we believe plays prominently in its popularity.
Choosing the Best Reviewed roller hockey skates comes down to two comparable brands, Bauer and Mission. A number of discontinued Mission skates, including the Soldier, Lieutenant, CSX, and Command SE received positive reviews from InlineSkates.net, plus accolades from a few vocal user reviews on Hockey Monkey. If you can find one of these models used, you may get an excellent skate at a very good price.
Despite a gaping price difference between the Bauer Vapor RX:60 (*Est. $650) and its nearest competitor, the Mission Axiom T.6 (*Est. $200), they both receive enthusiastic reviews from "icehockeywarehouse," the YouTube presence of online skate retailer InlineWarehouse.com. The Bauer hockey skates receive rave reviews for their "top of the line" Labeda Addiction wheels, which have a hard-pore urethane coating over a softer wheel, combining the handling of hard wheels with the grip of soft wheels. The wheels provide "unbelievable speed," and the review goes on to cite the RX:60's "great combination of speed, stopping, as well as maneuverability." The Bauer Vapor RX:60 hockey skates place you in an aggressive, forward stance but retain the brand's trademark comfortable, low-profile fit.
The Mission Axiom T.6 inline hockey skates receive an almost as enthusiastic review, declaring them an excellent value, with "higher-end performance features at a lower, more affordable skate price." High points include the Rink Rat Hot Shot XXX wheels, which offer a good balance of grip and speed, and a reasonably stiff, light boot. The RX:60 and T.6 both sport hi-lo frames and the same wheel sizes (76mm in front, 80mm in back) for the optimal combination of speed and maneuverability.
The Mission T.6's 76a wheels are slightly softer than the Bauer's 83a wheels; this usually translates to a little less speed but better grip. But the Bauer hockey skate's unusual wheel construction and the lack of head-to-head reviews means we can't be sure which performs faster or grips better in actual practice, although user reviews indicate that both perform well. The Mission T.6 receives a positive review from InlineSkates.net, too, although this review is essentially a less-detailed echo of the icehockeywarehouse YouTube review, and because InlineSkates.net doesn't review the Bauer RX:60, we can't compare the two. The reviewer does recommend the T.6 as a good first specialized roller hockey skate, and makes a few notes about how the components perform, but doesn't really tell us anything we don't already know from the icehockeywarehouse review.
The Bauer hockey skate's frame is made of magnesium and the Mission T.6 has an aluminum frame, one of the small ways in which the cost difference makes itself known. The T.6's lightweight, composite outsole is a compromise for value; it's quite rigid, but has slightly more give than the highest-end skates. Nonetheless it's still light and durable, with oversizd scuff guards to help extend the life of the skate. User reviews uniformly declare the T.6 a comfortable skate, and the InlineSkates.net review points out that the brushed-nylon liner is easy to break in.
Interestingly, Bauer purchased Mission in 2008, with plans to shut down the original Mission distribution center in 2009. Although Bauer and Mission skates continue to be marketed as individual lines, they now share a number of features. The Bauer skate benefits from Mission's "top-of-the-line" Swiss bearings and a magnesium version of Mission's hi-lo frame. The Mission hockey skates have adopted Bauer's sizing guidelines, plus a similar toe cap and heel cup design. With so little to distinguish between the two skates and brands, the slightly higher number of positive user reviews and enormous price difference led us to choose the Mission Axiom T.6 as the Best Reviewed roller hockey skate. If you must have the Bauer name but can't afford the RX:60, the Bauer Vapor RX:25 (*Est. $250) stands out as another well-recommended hockey skate with positive user reviews, although an icehockeywarehouse review notes that this skate sacrifices some stiffness and weight in order to cut costs.