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 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.
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 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
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.
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 (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.
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 (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 (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 (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.
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
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.
popular, big-wheeled option is the (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 (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.
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.
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 (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
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
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 (Est. $230 and up), which also comes in a (Est. $230 and up).
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.
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 (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.
beginner-friendly skate that doesn't present the conundrum of a hard boot, we
recommend the (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.
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 (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 (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.