On 24 May 2018 at 13:00 | updated on 19 August 2018 at 16:49

How to Choose Your Skates?

How to Choose Your Skates?

Esthetics set aside — being a very personal criterion —, choosing a pair of skates, inlines or quads, lies on many objective criteria, varying according to several parameters: type of practice, intensity of use, level of skating, budget. Online-Skating.com browses the key points that should help you make your choice...


How to Choose Your Skates?

A pair of skates is often designed for a specific type of practice.

Roller street à Montpellier avec la Roll School First of all, note that it's hard to find a pair perfectly meeting the needs of several disciplines at once, since their characteristics may be totally opposite. If you're looking for a versatile pair, go for freeride skates, they are suitable for the widest range of practices.

If You Can, Try Before Buying

If you are a beginner and/or if you are not sure that you will like skating, rent a pair for a weekend or borrow your friends' to give it a try.
You will have a better idea whether you feel like skating some more. Don't hesitate to have a go at several skating practices, there is always one that will suit you best!
Moreover, some shops refund their rental fees when you buy a pair.

What Budget If You Know You Like Skating?

Don't rush right away on value-priced skates, which are often uncomfortable and reach their limits very fast. Low-end skates are the best way to put you off skating!
Rather opt for a mid-range pair, more comfortable and efficient, which will allow you to improve safely and with total peace of mind, without having to change or upgrade a few months later. You can get an idea of the wideness of the offer on our Skating Catalog (Warning: this is a skating database, not an online shop).

Advice: a "good" pair of skates to start with costs between €100 and €200. If you don't have the budget, you can also buy second-hand skates.

What Will Be My Main Discipline?

If you intend to practice several skating disciplines but you have a limited budget, always go for the model that will suit the better to your main use. You won't grow weary of skating. The more you vary your disciplines, the better your technical level gets!

Soft Boots or Hard Shells?

You will find lots of hard boots (or shells) amongst entry-level skates because they are less expensive to produce. They are often less comfortable than the "soft" ones, which allow to skate longer without pain. However, hard boots are better suited to some practices such as downhill, freeride, or slalom skating, for which the skater needs control and support.

Skating Boots/Shoes Sizes and Shapes

Coque de roller avec chausson amovibleEach brand fits differently, as for length and width. Your shoe size is only an indicative basis. You should rely on your feelings.
Also know that your feet will swell a bit during effort. It's better to have a small margin at the toes.
According to brands, the shape of the shoe can also vary considerably. Don't be surprised if one model of a particular brand feels tight, and another model of the same size but different brand doesn't.

Advice: Keep the skates on for at least 15 minutes when you try them out, and move around in the skate shop.

For long distance skating, having skates that are slightly big isn't a problem. On the other hand, if you practice a technical discipline, like slalom, hockey, or speed skating, it is better to have close-fitting skates for better precision and reactivity.

Which Skates to Choose for Kids?

For junior skates, the best solution remains to choose an adjustable model. The initial budget is a bit bigger, but the kid will keep the skates longer and will be more comfortable in them. If the skates are not adjustable, make sure you take skates that are one to two sizes bigger, with hard boots and a solid closure system. Hard shells offer good foot support, while compensating for the growth of the kid. You can also use an insole for more support, but avoid slipping on too many layers of socks, which will only result in a loss of sensations.

Further Reading: Choosing skates for your kids

Wheels diameter by practice

Recap: Technological Needs According to Skating Practices

Powerslide Gamma

In order to better understand the technical terms used in the chart above, you can have a look at the tabs explaining the anatomy of a pair of inline skates.

Fitness Skates

Those skates should be comfy and light, to easily cover several kilometers, even several dozen kilometers.

Main Technical Characteristics

• Boot: Semisoft (often canvas + plastic shell)
• Wheels: Medium size (80 to 90 mm), and soft (78 to 82A)
• Frame: Composite or aluminum, medium size (260 to 300 mm)
• Bearings: ABEC 3 to 9

If You Feel That Fitness Skating Is Going To Be Your Main Sport

You may choose skates with wheels up to 100 mm: they will be higher, thus less stable to start with, but with time, they will offer better rolling and comfort on damaged grounds.

Further Reading: Choosing your Fitness Skates

Aggressive / Street / Ramp / Skatepark Skating

Platine roller street BakeAggressive skates are sturdy and enhanced to withstand the constraints related to shocks and friction on rails and walls. They also resist better to falls. They have notches on their frames and shells for stalling.

Main Technical Characteristics

• Boot: Hard (rarely semisoft, except for K2 skates)
• Wheels: Small (52 to 60 mm), and hard (88 to 100A)
• Frame: Flat (4 wheels touching the ground) or freestyle (2 wheels, one at each end) or with anti-rockers (2 small middle wheels and 2 bigger end wheels, not to get stuck on walls)
• H-block, groove, grind plate and soul plate

Types of Frames Vary According to Your Specialty

According to the aggressive specialty you turn to, frames are different:
• Flat set-up: 4 wheels touching the ground - for ramp or skatepark
• Freestyle set-up: 2 wheels at the ends
• Anti-rocker set-up: 2 small wheels in the middle, 2 bigger wheels at the ends - for skatepark

Further Reading:Well Choosing Your Aggressive Skate Frames (street, ramp, park…) and Choosing your aggressive skates for street, skate park and half-pipe

Speed/Race Skating

Roller course Bont CheetahSpeed skating models combine great rigidity for power transmission, and lightness for best efficiency, with big diameter wheels. In general, you only start speed skating once you've got the skating basics down. It is better to do fitness skating before getting this type of equipment.

Main Technical Characteristics

• Boot: Low-cut, hard, made of carbon or composite, without liner
• Wheels: Big (100 to 125 mm), quite hard (82 to 90A)
• Frame: Long, made of aluminum or carbon, with 3 or 4 wheels of big diameter
• Bearings: Standard or micro-bearings, ABEC 5 and above

A Constant Technological Development

Speed skates used to be mounted on 5 wheels of 76 to 90 mm until around 2003. The most common set-ups nowadays are 4x100 mm and 4x110 mm. The 3x125 mm arrived on the marathon market in 2015. Speed skates for kids may have smaller wheels.

Further Reading: Choosing your speed skates and How to choose skates when you are a speed-skating beginner?

Endurance and Long Distance Skates

Fila M100 2004Close to fitness skates, endurance, raid and long distance skates often have bigger wheels to cover longer distances and compensate for bad quality grounds. Their boots are generally more rigid, lower, and lighter. They look more like speed skates, with extra comfort.

Main Technical Characteristics

• Boot: Semisoft, with carbon or composite basis, with liner
• Cut: Lower than that of a fitness skate, but higher than that of a speed skate (with a cuff)
• Frame: Aluminum or carbon, 3 or 4 wheels, quite long
• Wheels: Big wheels (90 to 125 mm), quite hard (82 to 86 A)
• Bearings: Standard or micro-bearings, ABEC 5 to 9

It is important that your feet are not too loose in your endurance skates, and that you don't feel any pressure point.

Further Reading: Choosing your long distance skates and 

How to choose your long rides roller-skates

Roller Inline Hockey

Roller Hockey ReignHockey skates are compact and rigid for increased reactivity and precision. They withstand violent changes of direction, of speed, and sudden braking. They are put to a severe test all the time!

Main Technical Characteristics

• Boot: High-cut, rigid, made of composite (carbon, glass fiber)
• Closing: Laces only
• Frame: Short and rigid (aluminum)
• Wheels: 72 to 80 mm, hard or soft according to the field

A Developing (R)evolution

Since 2016, Reign, the new 100% Roller Hockey brand by Powerslide, has been innovating in launching on the market 3x100 mm hockey skates, a set-up offering more rolling on bigger fields.

Further Reading: How to choose your inline hockey skates?

Downhill Skating

Roller de descenteModels with 5 wheels and rigid shells have been the most common set-ups in downhill skating since the very beginnings of the discipline. The 5-wheel set-up is the best to negotiate a bend, control your braking, and for precision and support. Hard shells give the support and precision needed to take high speeds and emergency stops.

Main Technical Characteristics

• Shell: High-cut and rigid, made of hard plastic or composite
• Frame: Long, made of extruded aluminum, 5 or 6 wheels
• Wheels: Medium size (80 to 90 mm), quite hard (85 / 86A)

Very Little Production Models, Make Way to Customized Skates!

It is hard to find downhill production models on the market, except maybe with the Seba brand. Don't hesitate to go to a specialized shop, or ask for the help of experienced skaters to make your own customized pair of downhill skates.

Further Reading: Inline downhill: where to find your skates and how to get it cheap

Artistic Skating on Wheels and Dance

Quad artistiqueQuad skates still reign supreme over artistic skating and dancing because of the wide variety of steps and moves they allow, compared to inline skates (like edges, for example).
However, inline skates with toe stops may start taking more room on the market! Having a toe stopper is imperative to launch some particular jumps. Today, there are but very little inline models available. Most skaters use Picskates models, made in the USA.

Main Technical Characteristics

• Skates: Quad or Inline Skates
• Boot: High-cut, rigid, often made of leather
• Closing: 100% laces
• Toe Stoppers
• Trucks: Aluminum
• Wheels: 55 to 63 mm, hardness according to the type of floor from 78 to 94 A

Further Reading: Choosing your Artistic Skate wheels and Artistic Inline Skating: Which skates to use?


Quad skates have monopolized this practice for a long time, but now more and more skaters use freeride inline skates to jump. Quads are more stable when landing, but often heavier, thus harder to take off the ground.

Main Technical Characteristics

• Skates: Quad or Inline Skates, preferably with hard shell
• Frame: Aluminum, very rigid and solid
• Wheels: Soft to medium (78 to 85 A)

Slalom Skates

Seba High LightSlalom skates are rigid for more precision and control, with short frames for better maneuverability.
Warning: Within slalom skating, you should distinguish between freestyle slalom and speed slalom, which are two different specialties. More and more speed slalomers go for 3x100 or 3x110 mm frame set-ups.

Further Reading: Well choosing your slalom skates

Freestyle Slalom

• Boot: Rigid or semisoft
• Frame: Short, aluminum (231 to 243 mm)
• Wheels: 70 to 80 mm, rockered set-up, more or less hard according to the ground (78 to 85A)

Speed Slalom

• Boot: Rigid or semisoft
• Frame: Short, aluminum (243 to 247 mm)
• Wheels: 3 wheels of 100 to 110 mm (83 to 86A)

Further Reading: Choosing Your Slalom Skates

Freeride Skates

Powerslide Metropolis

Halfway between aggressive and fitness skates, those skates have the resistance of an aggressive model and the wheel diameter of a fitness model to skate the city and do tricks at full speed. They are sometimes equipped with soulplates on the sides of the frames to stall on walls and rails.

Main Technical Characteristics

• Boot: Rigid, with wrapping cuff
• Frame: Short, aluminum (around 243 mm)
• Wheels: Medium size (76 to 84 mm), quite hard (82 to 86A)
• Side abrasive pads on the boot

Towards bigger diameters

More and more freeride models are set up with 3x100, 3x110, even 3x125 mm wheels! This type of set-up is more designed for speed than tricks. They are less maneuverable than 4x80 mm skates, but allow for quick and comfortable urban skating.

Further Reading: Choosing your freeride skates

All-Terrain Skates

Coyote Rollerblade / Powerslide SUVVery few models are available on the market. Back in the days, you could find second-hand Coyotes by Rollerblade, as well as Roces Big Cats.
For a few years now, brands like Powerslide have taken up the torch with models such as the Powerslide Vi SUV. Other brands, like Trailskate, release skates of a different shape, which are closer to all-terrain wheeled skis, also called Nordic Skates.
Those models can also be used for kite skating.

Main Technical Characteristics

• Boot: Rigid, high upper for more support
• Wheels: Big tires (150 mm and over)
• Frames: 3 wheeled, oversized and strengthen, aluminum
• Bearings: "Waterproof"

Roller Derby Skates

Quad Bont Roller DerbyRoller derby skates look a lot like old quad speed skates. Some brands like Bont use their historical know-how in this field to meet the players' demands.

The skates are subjected to the same constraints as in speed skating or rink hockey, but also need a little extra enhancement. Like in rink hockey, players are constantly breaking their speed and changing directions.

Main Technical Characteristics

• Boot: Relatively low-cut, rigid, with good ankle support (leather or carbon)
• Plate: Aluminum, compact, with trucks tilted at an angle for more maneuverability
• Wheels: 59 to 62 mm, hardness 88 to 95A according to types of floors
• Toe stoppers: Quite short and adjustable in height

Rink Hockey Skates

Rink hockey is very demanding on quad skates: incessant starts, energetic brakes, constant changes of directions... They should protect ankles from ball shots and stick hits.

Main Technical Characteristics

• Skates: Compulsory quad skates
• Boot: Ankle-cut, rigid
• Toe Stopper: Short, allowing for reactive braking and fast starts
• Closing: 100% Laces
• Wheels: 62 or 63 mm, hardness from 88 to 97A

Further Reading: Anatomy of a Rink Hockey Boot

The Example of Fitness Skating

Frequency of Practice

It is important to determine the extent to which you skate, so that you can adapt your skates to your practice. Let's take the example of fitness skating.
Note: Nothing prevents you from buying better quality equipment if you feel like treating yourself.

Occasional PracticeRegular PracticeIntensive Practice

1 to 2 times per month.
You go for skates on short distances at a moderate pace.

Level: Beginner

Once a week.
You go for 10 to 20 km skates at each session.
Skating is already a sport.
You sometimes join city skates.

Level: Advanced

Several times a week.
You go for skates of several hours, sometimes covering over 40 km.
You love endurance and speed.

Level: Expert

Budget from €45 to €90Budget from €90 to €200Budget from €200 to €400 and more
Boot: Hard shell
Frame: Composite or plastic
Wheels: 80 mm (medium), 78 to 82A (soft)
Bearings: ABEC 3 to 5
Boot: Semisoft
Frame: Composite or aluminum
Wheels: 80 to 90 mm, 78 to 82A (soft)
Bearings: ABEC 5 to 7
Boot: Semisoft
Frame: aluminum, long, 3 to 5 wheels
Wheels: 80 to 125 mm, 82 to 88A (hard)
Bearings: ABEC 5 and above

Useful links

Choosing skates for your kids
What type of roller-skates will suits you ?
Buying second-hand skates

Text: Alfathor
Translation: Chloe Seyres
Photos: all rights reserved
Released  on 24 May 2018 - Read 427057 times

By :
Passionné de roulettes devant l'éternel, le jour j'écume le bitume. Si je me crashe, si je tombe, ma peau s'arrache mais pas mon coeur de roller !

Photos :
Fondateur et webmaster de rollerenligne.com. Alexandre est un passionné de roller en général et sous tous ses aspects : histoire, économie, sociologie, évolution technologique... Ne le branchez pas sur ces sujets sans avoir une aspirine à portée de main !
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