Types of Inline Skates
Unlike the rigid, high-cut plastic boots of yesteryear, modern inline skates have boots that are often made of soft, flexible materials that breathe, helping keep your feet cool and dry no matter how hard you're skating. Typical wheel sizes range from 78mm to 100mm; as a general rule, the smaller wheels are more maneuverable and easier to control for beginners, while the larger wheels are faster and more efficient for cruising long distances. Large wheels also help you roll more smoothly over obstacles like sticks, gravel, and cracks in pavement, and they better absorb shock when skating across uneven surfaces like bridges.
Inline Skates for Kids
As you might expect, inline skates designed for older kids are scaled-down versions of the most popular adult skates. They often have adjustable boots designed to grow with your children, prolonging the useful life of each pair of skates. That said, not all kids' skates are created equal, and models designed for younger kids may have plastic wheels that can't stand up to use outside a roller rink. Durability is sometimes an issue for these skates too, so it pays to shop carefully. For toddlers and other very young children, you can purchase specialized training skates that come with training wheels and extra safety features to help them learn without getting hurt.
Aggressive Inline Skates
On the surface, aggressive inline skates have the same
boot-and-wheel structure you'd expect from any inline skate. But their wheels
are smaller and harder than other skates to better endure repeated tricks on
concrete or metal, and specialized, grooved plates in the frame make it easier
to balance and move smoothly during slides and grinds. You'll find aggressive
skates in two general configurations: A flat setup uses four wheels of the same
size, while an anti-rocker setup pairs front and back wheels of the same size
with two inner wheels that are smaller and harder, leaving more space for
certain tricks. Aggressive skates also lack a heel brake, which would get in
the way during tricks -- so if this is what you choose to ride, you'll have to
master different types of braking. For the most comprehensive roundup of
inline-skate braking techniques, see the <a href="http://www.skatefaq.com/skate.2.1.html" target="new"><u>SkateFAQ website</u></a>.
wheels are sized by their diameter in millimeters. Large wheels are faster, but
small wheels are more maneuverable. Just a few years ago, hi-lo setups -- which
were meant to capture the best of both worlds with smaller wheels in the first
two slots of increased maneuverability, and larger wheels in the last two
positions for better speed -- were common, but nowadays hi-lo setups are very
see a second figure, followed by an "a," used to describe skating
wheels. That number represents the skate's durometer, or hardness. The higher
the number, the harder the wheels. Harder wheels are more durable, better able
to stand up to the constant friction of skating on rough, outdoor surfaces or
doing tricks. Softer wheels are "grippier" and less likely to slide
during fast changes of direction on smooth surfaces, making them a favorite of
inline hockey players on smooth indoor rinks. The downside is that soft wheels
wear out faster, especially if you take them outdoors onto rough surfaces.
inline skates for women?
change we've noticed in inline skates over the last two years is that
single-gender models are increasingly rare. Quite a few manufacturers used to
produce one model for men and a completely separate model for women, but
nowadays you'll usually find men's and women's versions of the same model.
This is more
a change in terminology than anything, but it makes things much less confusing
for shoppers. All of our top-reviewed skates are very popular with both men and
women, and with high-end models the women's sizes are usually built on a
women-specific last instead of simply a smaller version of the men's skate.
Finding The Best Inline Skates
type of inline skate has specific priorities to fit its intended use, as
experienced and avid skaters ourselves, we look for similar qualities in the
best-reviewed models: a stable, supportive and comfortable boot, with secure
and easy to manipulate closures; maneuverable, responsive handling; and
reasonably durable wheels on speedy bearings.
very few expert reviews for inline skates, so we heavily weighted our
evaluations toward user reviews from websites like InlineSkates.com,
InlineWarehouse.com, RollerWarehouse.com and AggressiveMall.com, along with
more general feedback from sites like Walmart.com and of course Amazon.com.
After all, the real measure of a skate's worth is how it performs when the
wheels hit the pavement under real world conditions.
Rollerblade duke it out for ownership of the fitness skating field
In one of our
last updates to this report, we wrote that K2 was far and away the dominant
company in the world of fitness skating, but Rollerblade was providing the best
competition we've seen yet. That's still true as K2 retains every top
best-reviewed spot in our report, but Rollerblade is now solidly established as
the favorite brand for many intermediate-level skaters, or simply for those who
prefer a recreational skate with a hard boot.
popular high-end skates come with large wheels (90mm and up) and relatively
soft, low-cut boots that are really designed for intermediate users, but we
found quite a few reviews from relative beginners who were pleased with how
quickly and easily they adapted to the 90mm wheels and speedy ILQ-9 bearings on
our best-reviewed skate, the (Est. $240).
Users say the
VO2 90 Pro offers the best combination of speed, stability and support they've
experienced. That ease of handling is, at least in part, due to the smooth ride
and shock absorption you get from those big wheels; for most riders, they're
the perfect combination of maneuverability and energy-efficient cruising
that'll help you go faster and farther with less effort. Those 90mm wheels also
let you roll over gravel, sticks and pavement cracks with relative impunity.
The K2 VO2 90
Pro also draws a lot of praise for its soft boot, which has generous mesh
siding for great ventilation and a form-fit liner that molds to your foot every
time you put the skates on, meaning that they require little to no break-in
period. One user skated a half marathon the first time he put the skates on and
found them perfectly comfortable.
owners say the VO2 90 Pro boot fits true to size or runs a little small (go up
a half-size if you have wide feet), and that the improved speed laces work well
once you get used to them, tightening all the way down the boot to the toes.
The lace cinch point is integrated into the tongue of the skate, so you don't
have to worry about the laces flopping around. We did find a few comments that
the laces seem to loosen over time, though. If you like a consistently tight
fit you might prefer the (Est. $290). This is
the exact same skate with the addition of a twist-tighten, wire-laced Boa
The K2 VO2 90
Pro's wheels have a durometer of 83a, which makes them fairly hard and fast.
That also means they'll last longer than you might expect; in fact, users say
the entire skate seems to hold up well to prolonged use, so it's a good
investment that will require minimal maintenance.
Both the K2
VO2 Pro and the K2 VO2 Boa are available in men's and women's sizing, and you
can also purchase the VO2 skate with 100mm wheels as the (Est. $280). Wheels of 100mm and larger
are usually the province of fast-moving, advanced recreational skaters, or
marathoners who are willing to sacrifice a little maneuvering ability in
exchange for a fast, smooth and easy ride over long distances. Interestingly,
although the K2 VO2 90 Pro runs true to size or a little small, which means you
need to order a half-size larger if you have unusually wide feet, several users
of the K2 VO2 100 X say they prefer to order a half- to full-size below their
athletic shoe size because the liner compresses enough to provide a looser fit over
The K2 VO 90
Pro is the best all-around skate in this report, and it's surprisingly easy to
control once you have a little experience under your belt. If you're just
starting out, however, you might be more comfortable in the (Est. $180),
thanks to its smaller 84mm wheels. The F.I.T Pro comes with a well-ventilated
soft boot and K2's integrated quick lace system, and it's also available with
80mm wheels as the (Est. $170).
skates continue to dominate the high-end market, the (Est. $200) is almost as
popular with intermediate users. They say it's very fast -- too fast for
beginners -- but if you can control it, you'll get a smooth ride, even over
Users say the
Macroblade boot is soft and comfortable after a short break-in period, with a
seamless toe and decent breathability. However, on long skates you'll notice
that this boot is not as well-vented as the K2 VO2 90 Pro. User opinion is
fairly evenly split on whether the Macroblade boot runs a little small or true
to size. The Macroblade 90's wheels are 90mm/84a -- just a little bit harder
than the stock wheels on the comparable K2 model -- on SG9 bearings.
Macroblade is also available in 80mm, 84mm and 100mm wheel sizes, so you can
tweak the wheel sizing to suit your ability level; each wheel size is available
in men's and women's sizing. Its soft boot design also goes against the
hard-boot aesthetic that most Rollerblade boots are known for. We still prefer
the K2 VO2 90 Pro for advanced skaters, but the Rollerblade Macroblade is a
Rollerblade is the
choice for urban environments
All of the
skates we just discussed are at their best on long cruises, although they're
certainly maneuverable enough to handle windy, snaking pathways too. If you're
skating in a crowded, obstacle-laden urban environment, though, you might
prefer the (Est. $230).
wheels and short wheelbase offer excellent maneuverability for avoiding people,
cracks in the road, or darting through slalom cones. If you're looking to turn
up your inline skate dancing game or catch big air, these are the skates for
you -- although for skates built to do tricks like grinds and slides, you
should see our section on aggressive skates.
Users say the
Rollerblade Twister 80 is also good for short-distance cruises, and the SG7
bearings are fast enough for most people. (The higher the number the faster the
bearings, so real speed demons might want to upgrade the stock bearings in this
skate.) The Rollerblade Twister 80 comes with an optional brake that you can
install for cruising, but if you're doing tricks you'll want to leave the brake
off and master other stopping methods.
molded plastic boot on the Twister 80 is a mixed bag. It offers exactly the
support and protection you need to land tricks like jumps, and it's great for
beginners who are struggling to control a skate with a soft boot, or just want
the ultimate in ankle support. However, you should definitely buy these skates
from a place where you can return them if they don't fit well. We found a few
complaints that if the boot doesn't fit just right, it'll cause pain in the
protruding bones on either side of your ankle, and most users recommend wearing
long socks -- padded, if possible -- to prevent blisters. They also say that
you need to size up between a half size and a full size to get a good fit.
beginner-friendly skate that doesn't present the conundrum of a hard boot, we
recommend the (Est. $100), which
also happens to be the best inexpensive skate we found for this report. The
Zetrablade has a soft boot that's cut high for extra ankle support and it comes
in men's and women's sizing. The SG5 bearings are speedy enough to let you get
a feel for the exhilaration of skating, but slow enough to help a novice keep
things under control.
Rollerblade Zetrablade's smallish 80mm/82a wheels skew a little toward the
maneuverability/control side of the equation -- again, good for beginners just
learning to control their Rollerblades -- and are a little softer and grippier
than the wheels on the other skates we've covered. The good news is that this offers
you great control; the bad news is that they ride a little choppier over rough
asphalt and are going to wear out very quickly if you skate on rough ground.
With a retail
price that's about half that of the other skates we've covered, these skates
are a great entry point to help you decide if inline skating is for you. If you
find yourself hooked, you can either invest in one of the mid-range to high-end
models for the better ventilation, speed laces, additional padding and a
smoother ride, or keep these skates and upgrade the wheels and bearings. Be
warned that the Zetrablade comes in whole sizes only; if you can't get just the
right fit, switching to thicker socks can help pad any empty space.