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Inline Skate Reviews

By: Lisa Maloney on June 08, 2018

Editor's note:
K2 continues to dominate our inline skates report, taking the top spot in all three categories. But there's still plenty of competition out there, including a  strong showing from Rollerblade. Rollerblade also manufactures the Roller Derby brand, which has become quite the hit with young skaters.

K2 VO2 90 Pro Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Wheel size: 90mm Wheel durometer: 83a Bearings: ILQ-9 PRO

Best inline skates

The latest entry in K2's long-lived VO2 line is fast enough to provide lots of zippy fun for advanced skaters, but it's also surprisingly friendly to intermediate skaters who are ready to make the leap to a higher-end skate. The 90mm wheels roll over obstacles with relative impunity; the soft boot fits true to size (go up half a size if you have wide feet), is highly breathable, and requires almost no break-in period.

Buy for $239.95
Rollerblade Zetrablade Review
Also Consider
Specs that Matter Wheel size: 80mm Wheel durometer: 82a Bearings: SG5

Cheap inline skates

If you're just starting out or don't have a lot of money to spend on your next pair of skates, the Rollerblade Zetrablade is one of the most affordable inline skates out there. The 80mm/82a wheels skew toward soft and grippy, and are large enough to be fun but not so big that they'll send you speeding out of control. The SG5 bearings are decent, and the soft boot is a great find in this price range.

Buy for $98.97
K2 Raider Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Wheel size: 70mm Wheel durometer: 80a Bearings: ABEC 3

Best inline skates for kids

If your kids are ready for real inline skates, the K2 Raider, or the K2 Marlee (Est. $60 and up) for girls, perform just like the real thing. The 70mm/80a wheels are fast enough to be a lot of fun, yet tough enough to handle rough outdoor conditions. The skate's ABEC 3 bearings roll smoothly, but are stable enough for good speed control. These K2 skates are also adjustable, so they'll grow through several sizes along with your children.

Buy for $54.84
Chicago Skates Review
Also Consider
Specs that Matter Wheel size: N/A Wheel durometer: plastic Bearings: N/A

Best training skates

If your kids need a little help mastering inline skates, the Chicago Skates Training Inline Skate Combo can help. These skates transform easily between "training wheels" (one wheel in front, two in back) and a true inline skate. The combo also comes with knee pads, wrist/hand pads and a helmet -- plus a child-size backpack to carry them all. There is a girls version as well, the Chicago Girls Training Skate (Est. $30 and up).

Buy for $49.99
K2 Unnatural Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Wheel size: 60mm Wheel durometer: 88a Bearings: ABEC 5

Best aggressive inline skates

The K2 Unnatural lives up to its name by being unnaturally good for a stock skate. Users love the sturdy build and an unusual boot design that can be fine-tuned for a comfortable, flat-footed ride or to allow the forward lean that is more typical of aggressive skaters. The Unnatural has a huge sweet spot for balance on both frontside and backside tricks, and a one-piece soul plate with a Teflon insert that helps it slide smooth and fast.

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Types of Inline Skates

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 outdoor use. 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 SkateFAQ website.

Wheel size and durometer

Inline skate 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 rare.

You'll also 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.

What about inline skates for women?

The biggest change we've noticed in inline skates over the last few 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
Our Sources
"Inline Skates"
"Roller Warehouse"
"Inline Skates"

Although each 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 Rreviewed models: a stable, supportive and comfortable boot, with secure and easy to manipulate closures; maneuverable, responsive handling; and reasonably durable wheels on speedy bearings.

There are very few expert reviews for inline skates, so we heavily weighted our evaluations toward user reviews from websites like InlineSkates, Inline Warehouse, Roller Warehouse and Dick's Sporting Goods, along with more general feedback from sites like Walmart and of course Amazon. After all, the real measure of a skate's worth is how it performs when the wheels hit the pavement under real world conditions.

The best inline skates

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.

K2's most 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 K2 VO2 90 Pro (Est. $230 and up).

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 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 and are particularly comfortable around the ankle, a (literal) sore spot for other skate brands. One user skated a half marathon the first time he put the skates on and found them perfectly comfortable.

In general, 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 lace ends flopping around once they're tightened. 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 K2 VO2 90 Boa (Est. $200 and up). This is the exact same skate with the addition of a twist-tighten, wire-laced Boa closure.

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 90 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 K2 VO2 100 X Boa (Est. $250 and up), or in a quick-lace configuration. 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.

If you enjoy fast, big-wheeled inline skates but don't like K2's trademark soft boot, consider the pricey Rollerblade Maxxum 100 (Est. $320 and up), which comes with a rigid, molded boot. It also features three 100mm wheels and, puzzlingly, a single 90mm wheel in the second slot, all on speedy SG9 bearings. Heads up: Those big wheels make it easy to get going faster than you expect, and they create a long wheelbase that means these skates are only for skating long distances fast, not for precision maneuvering or for tricks.

Unlike lower-end skates with smaller wheels, the boot on the Rollerblade Maxxum 100 is cut more for performance than ankle support, and users say it can take a few rides to break in. Even the customer service staff for a retail site agree that if you don't get the tongue of this skate lined up just right when you put it on, it can rub your foot or ankle raw during a long skate session. We also found a couple of warnings that this skate can run a half-size to a full-size small, especially if your feet are at all wide.

User opinion of this skate's durability is mostly good, except for a few concerns that the ratcheting instep and ankle straps can wear out quickly. DIY types will appreciate the ability to adjust the wheel frame laterally to fine-tune your balance or even swap it out for another wheelbase entirely. If you like everything about this skate except for the wheel size, it's also available in a 90mm version and an 84mm version.

Another popular, big-wheeled option is the Rollerblade Macroblade 90 ALU (Est. $200 and up), which has a soft boot that makes a more direct competitor to the K2 VO2 90 Pro. The Macroblade 90 is also available in a dedicated women's version (Est. $175 and up).

This skate is almost as popular with intermediate users as the K2 VO2 90 Pro is with the advanced crowd; users say it's very fast -- still too fast for beginners -- but if you can control it, you'll get a smooth ride even over rough ground. Most say the boot is comfortable after a short break-in period, with a seamless toe and decent breathability.

However, on long skate outings you'll notice that this boot is not as well-vented as the K2 VO2 90 Pro. 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.

The Rollerblade Macroblade is also available in 80mm and 84mm wheel sizes and a whopping 110mm three-wheel configuration, so you can tweak the wheel sizing to suit your ability level. We still prefer the K2 VO2 90 Pro for advanced skaters, but the Rollerblade Macroblade is a worthy alternative if speed isn't your absolute highest priority. Heads up: User opinion is fairly evenly split on whether the Macroblade boot runs a little small or true to size.

K2 may still dominate this category but Rollerblade has them outnumbered, with one more new model to mention this year: The Rollerblade RB XL (Est. $250 and up). This skate caters specifically to the large-footed crowd, with sizing from men's 14 to 17 -- the range at which most other skates max out. Although Rollerblade doesn't describe this as a wide skate, we found several reviews from men with wide feet who said they fit comfortably.

The Rollerblade RB XL sports a soft boot and four 90mm/84a wheels on SG5 bearings, offering a ride that's smooth and fast -- if not quite as fast as some of the models just mentioned. Some users are so thrilled simply to find skates that fit, they're happy to contemplate swapping the stock bearings out for something speedier.

A quick note on inline skates with big wheels: Novices should approach this type of skate with caution, because the larger wheels make it easy for the unwary to get start rolling too fast, too easily. Often, the determining factor for whether you'll be comfortable on this sort of skate is your braking ability. Once you've mastered stopping and slowing yourself at will, the skates' potential speed becomes much less of an issue.

Rollerblade is the choice for urban environments

All of the skates we just discussed are at their best on long cruises, although with an experienced skater at the helm they can do decently on winding, snaking pathways too. But if you're skating in a crowded, obstacle-laden urban environment, you might prefer the Rollerblade Twister Edge (Est. $230 and up), which also comes in a Rollerblade Twister Edge women's version (Est. $230 and up).

The 80mm/85a wheels and short wheelbase on the Twister Edge 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 Edge is also good for short-distance cruises, and the ILQ-7 bearings are fast enough for most people. The Rollerblade Twister Edge 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.

The rigid, molded plastic boot on the Twister Edge 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.

Last year we wrote that users sometimes complain about pain in the protruding bones on either side of your ankle if the boot doesn't fit just right. Most users recommend wearing long socks -- padded, if possible -- to prevent blisters. These skates are also known to run small, and some users say that simply going up a half-size or full-size was enough to get a good fit. If you find yourself struggling for balance, whether on distance runs or when pulling tricks, you can also adjust the wheel frame laterally.

If you like the Twister Edge but want even more performance, you can upgrade to the Rollerblade Twister Edge X (Est. $280 and up). This skate features Hydrogen 80mm/85a wheels and speedier ILQ-9 classic plus bearings, although we note that there are complaints about discomfort from the rigid ankle cuff here, too.

For a beginner-friendly skate that doesn't present the conundrum of a hard boot, we recommend the Rollerblade Zetrablade (Est. $100 and up), 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.

The 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.

Also, if you happen to scope out the reviews for the women's model, take note that, at least as of this writing, many negative reviews for another item have been mistakenly appended to this item. They mention mobile apps, batteries and other items that clearly don't apply to inline skates.

K2 is known for producing high-end, pricey skates, so we were pleasantly surprised to take notice of a relatively inexpensive model, the K2 Kinetic 80 (Est. $70 and up), in this year's research. Like most of the other models we've covered, the Kinetic 80 is also available in a women's version (Est. $80 and up). Comfort is a high point in this skate, which sports the trademark K2 soft boot; just be warned that if you have a strong inward or outward roll to your ankle, you might need a skate with a hard boot instead.

The K2 Kinetic 80's wheels are 80mm/80a, which users say do great at beginner-friendly moderate speeds, but are still zippy enough to lend a thrill to regular use. Watch out for that 80a durometer; it's best for indoor skating or, at the very best, smooth outdoor surfaces. Rough surfaces will chew up these soft wheels quickly, although if you're in love with the skates you can always reply the wheels with something in a higher durometer.

Elsewhere In This Report
Recently Updated
Inline Skates buying guide

What every best Inline Skates has:

  • Comfortable boots.
  • Ventilated boots.
  • High-quality bearings.

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