Ultimate Guide to Rollerblades

There was a time in the 1980s where you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing someone rollerblading by as you walked down the street or on a pathway. As a modern take on the rollerskate, it seemed that rollerblades had a whole lot more to offer people, and as evident by their huge popularity today, they still do.

Rollerblades are a unique product, part sports equipment part recreational activity. What is known though, is that there are plenty of benefits of rollerblading and it’s also a whole lot of fun, and for that reason, there are millions of people around the world who enjoy this acivity regularly.

If you’re new to the world of rollerblades or just want to know a little more, there’s a whole lot you can learn about these amazing devices. Rollerblading is something that anyone can get into regardless of age and skill level, and although it might look like a challenge most people find that it’s relatively easy to pick up.

This guide can answer all of the common questions about rollerblades, the activity itself, and how you can source yourself the perfect pair of inline skates. With your own rollerblades and a world of places to try them out, there’s a good chance that rollerblading will become your new favorite hobby of choice and you’ll also be able to reap its many benefits.

The History of Rollerblades

To learn more abou the present day of rollerblades, it’s best to look back at what started the trend and how these amazing rolling boots were invented. Not many people realize it, but the design for the inline skate was actually made before rollerskates, but it wasn’t until 1980 when they would start to take the modern shape and design that we know today.

Scott and Brennan Olsen are the two brothers who can be credited with creating rollerblades after they discovered a pair of inline skates in a sports store. Although the design wasn’t as functional as the modern take, they made some adjustments to use for off-season hockey training. The design quickly took off and in 1983, the pair trademarked the name ‘Rollerblade, Inc” and from there, rollerblades were born.

There were some minor changes along the way, most notably the new brake design and the use of a reinforced resin for strength and lightness. Today, they come in many different shapes and sizes whether it’s for casual use or performance, men and women, and a huge selection of kids rollerblades and junior skates as well.

Rollerblades vs Rollerskates: What’s the Difference?

When looking from afar, it seems that rollerskates and rollerblades aren’t that different from each other. Both are worn on your feet, they have four wheels, and you use your body and force to propel yourself forward. A closer look would show two very different mechanisms at work though, and most people find themselves favoring one over the other usually.

Rollerblades have many interchangeable terms, but the most common is inline skating. Although technically rollerblades weren’t the first and only type of inline skate they are now known as them, they have been given this classification because of the location of the wheels. Compared to a rollerskate which has four thinner wheels spaced in two separate rows, the rollerblade wheels are thin and presented in a single row.

Other parts are different, including the boot or shoe attached to the wheels. A rollerskate usually has a softer shoe made of something like leather whereas a rollerblade has a thicker boot attached, like what you would find on a ski boot. The stoppers or brake are in different locations, with a rollerskate at the front at a rollerblade at the back and of smaller size.

In terms of usability, most people find it easier to learn how to master the rollerblade which is why it’s taken over as the preferred option. Although you will need to be better at balancing to stay upright, maneuvering and controlling the rollerblades are easier to do. They also feature things like shock absorbers and air vents that make them a lot more comfortable and safe to use, adding to the many benefits they possess.

The Different Types of Rollerblades

Within the rollerblade family, there are a few different types to consider, including women's rollerblades, men's rollerblades, and even rollerblades for kids. Depending on the type of skater you are, where and how you like to practice, and what your goal is while wearing your blades, you’ll usually find one type better suited to your needs.

Performance

These rollerblades are for serious skaters who use theirs for sports, fitness, racing, and training. They’re more expensive and with some slightly unique features that make them better for longer periods of use. A performance or fitness skate is lightweight, more comfortable, and have design features like wheels and bearings that allow the user to go faster.

Recreational

The most common type of rollerblade and one that most people own, recreational skates are great for casual use, fun, and basic fitness. They’re easy to get on and off, comfortable to wear, and are multipurpose to suit a range of users. The boot may be softer to provide comfort and there’s a range of closure systems in use, including buckles and Velcro.

Street

Street inline skates are sometimes referred to as urban skates and these are designed for people who prefer a more aggressive skate capable of faster speeds and better handling, but with the comfort and functionality of a recreational skate. Someone with more skill might upgrade to a street skate once they master their recreational skates and they can be used almost anywhere.

Kids

Kids skates are built for comfort and ease, making it simple for children to learn the basics of the activity. They usually come with adjustability up to four different sizes so they can suit the growing feet of kids, and will usually last a few years provided they’re taken care of. They’re made to be lightweight so they’re easy to maneuver and go on and off without much effort.

The Anatomy of an Inline Skate

Whether you’re a total newcomer to the sport or have been skating for years, it pays to know a bit about the moving parts of your rollerblades. The slightest difference in design can have a huge impact on how a skate performs so it’s essential to understand the different parts and what their role is overall.

Boot

This is the physical shoe part of the skate where your foot slides into. Depending on the type of skate, the materials will differ and will have their own feel. Speed or performance skates are made with carbon fiber compared to recreational skates that are softer materials. The higher the boot, the easier it is to skate with, which is why many casual rollerblades come with the traditionally high design. A boot comes with any number of closures including lace-ups, Velcro, buckles, and straps, designed to keep you firmly in place as you skate.

Frame

The frame is what connects the boot to the wheels and they come in materials like carbon fiber, plastic, and aluminum. Cheaper skates might use plastic whereas performance styles rely on durable materials like carbon fiber. The frame should be flexible enough for the user to have control and lightweight enough to create a smooth feeling as you glide.

Bearings

All skates come with ball bearings and their role is to help the wheels move smoothly, with two bearings on each wheel. These are usually rated using the ABEC scale, which was originally designed for machinery. Higher rated bearings can mean better quality but don’t always translate to a better skating experience in terms of speed.

Wheels

The size of the wheel has a lot to do with its performance, and you can generally categorize wheel size by the skill level of the user and also their age. Children’s skate’s wheels are smaller as are aggressive wheels, whereas recreational ones are mid-range. They are measured in millimeters ranging from 44-150mm. Rollerblade wheels are usually made from polyurethane because of their hardness and durability.

Stops/Brakes

In order to stop safely, all skates should be equipped with a brake system. This usually comes in the format of a rubber stop located at the back of the rollerblade, and normally only on one side. Learning how to use the heel brake is important in skating, but when people progressive to aggressive or performance skates these usually don’t feature any kind of braking system built in.

Benefits of Rollerblading 

Most people take up rollerblading because they’ve heard of its numerous benefits. Whether you’re wanting to do it as a form of exercise, something for fun, or take on performance skating and competitions, there are so many amazing benefits that these simple accessories can offer.

Balance and core strength

Rollerblading provides a serious muscle workout regardless of your skill level and as a result, your core strength and balance will improve. Back extensor, posterior, and abdominal muscles all get worked out while you skate due to the natural movement involved when gliding.

Anaerobic workout

Both cardio and strength are worked on when you skate, and it’s similar to a session lifting weights in the gym. You’re working on most of the muscle groups with each stride and as your skills get better, you’ll feel a lot stronger as well. It’s estimated that 30 minutes of rollerblading can burn around 450 calories in the average person, so it’s a pretty good workout.

Improved mood

Numerous studies have proven that exercise has benefits on both body and mind, including an improved mood. Choosing an activity as fun as rollerblading can increase these good feelings even more and give you the perfect mix of exercise and recreational activity.

Easy transportation

Rather than taking your car, riding a bike, or using public transport, rollerblading is a fun way to get from point A to point B. you can easily carry a pair of rollerblades with you in a backpack and make your way from work or anywhere you need to go, getting a fun workout in the process.

Bonding with family

If you’re looking for a fun way to get your whole family active without having it feel like a chore. There are recreational skates available for all sizes, even toddlers, so everyone can have their own pair. Spending time learning a new skill together and getting outside with rollerblading will have huge benefits for the entire family.

What to Know About Choosing the Right Rollerblades

The most important feature to consider is the type of rollerblade you need, with most users better suited to a recreational rollerblade. Secondly, consider the materials and how they might affect weight and comfort, as this can determine how easy or hard they are to maneuver and how long you’ll be able to ride comfortably for.

Rollerblades come in a wide range of prices and with varying quality. For your first pair, you might not want to choose the most expensive but it’s important to get a pair that will be supportive and comfortable as you learn the basics. As your skills progress, you’ll be better equipped to choose the features and specifications that you prefer and those that will suit the type of skating you do.

The size of your rollerblades will have a huge impact on their comfort and how easy they are to use. Choosing the right size of rollerblade is a little more technical than most people realize though. The simplest approach is to choose the size that corresponds with your regular shoe size and then move down roughly half a size. This makes for a tighter fit which can help with performance.

When trying on rollerblades, it’s important to push your heel as far back into the boot as possible to get the right size. As you skate, your feet will naturally move to the back and this will give you the best indication of what size you should choose. For kids sizes, these are usually adjustable and you’ll have some more room to move as their feet grow.

Protective Gear and Accessories for Rollerblading

In addition to getting a quality pair of rollerblades, there are some other accessories and gear that you might find useful. Although not all necessary, they can make your skating experience safer, especially as a beginner or for younger skaters. Protective gear might be required at some skating arenas or for competitive or sports, so it’s best to be equipped.

Helmet

The most important protective gear is for your head, and you can use any type of helmet for skating or cycling provided it has the right protection. You’ll need something durable that can break your fall and padding on the inside of the helmet, and it should be worn at all times.

Knee pads

It’s natural for even experienced rollerbladers to fall, and the most common place we hit is our knees. A pair of knee pads are helpful to stop grazing and burns, but will also reduce some of the impact when you fall.

Elbow pads

Elbow pads can protect your elbows and give you a safe way to fall down if you feel it’s about to happen. A good elbow pad should be comfortable enough to skate with, padded for protection, and breathable so that it doesn’t constrict you while you’re moving.

Wrist pads and guards

If you fall forward while skating, there’s a good chance you’ll land with your hands out as a natural response, doing serious damage to the joints and bones. A wrist guard or pad can prevent anything serious happening if you do fall onto your hands and will also protect against grazes and burns.

Safety When Rollerblading

Rollerblading can be a lot of fun but there’s also the potential to hurt yourself if you’re not careful. Regardless of your skill level, there are risks involved with inline skating that have to be considered to ensure you are as safe as possible and don’t do serious damage.

The most vital part of safety is wearing the right protective gear, and the more you have on the better. At the bare minimum, you should have on a helmet, but pads for knees, wrists, and elbows are also recommended. This is to help you should you fall, crash, or collide with another skater or even a moving vehicle.

Learning how to stop is the most important skill for a rollerblader to learn and before you attempt to go out in public, you should become proficient at this. All skates are designed differently and the stop mechanism can differ for every pair, so mastering this is essential. The easiest way to learn is by bending your knees and then lifting your right toe up so that the brake comes into contact with the ground. As you get better, you might want to change the style of braking but this is the best way to start.

Finally, the location where you choose to rollerblade will have a huge impact on how safe it is and this needs to be considered when you’re still learning. Where possible, you should build on your skills by skating at home on a smooth surface or somewhere there’s little foot traffic. The less interference you can have the better, and straighter and smoother the surface you can practice on the easier it will be.

Tips for Beginners Who Want to Learn How to Skate

Learning how to rollerblade is a lot easier than most people realize, and with just a little bit of practice, you can get the hang of it. Whether you’re learning alone or trying to teach the whole family, there are some simple tips to follow that will make it enjoyable and easy.

  • Before you try skating, take your skates onto a patch of grass and practice walking with them while you gain your balance. A huge part of learning is getting this balance right and it can be made a lot easier by practicing before the real deal.
  • Having skates that fit snugly is one of the biggest advantages you can have when learning. When the skate is tight on your foot, you’ll be able to keep your balance and stay upright so it’s essential to get the right fit.
  • Start slowly by alternating one foot at a time as you skate, and don’t be afraid to take it easy. By learning the basic movement of gliding in smaller strides, it’ll be a lot easier to make your way to larger movements as you pick up speed.
  • Turning and maneuvering your skates is best done by scissoring one leg in front of the other. The key is to scissor the leg opposite to the way you want to turn, and you can start with just small turns on a flat surface to get the hang of it.

A Modern Way to Move

With so many benefits to be gained from learning how to rollerblade, there’s no reason why this sport can’t be enjoyed by everyone. From entire families wanting to learn a new hobby or someone looking to get physically fit, rollerblading can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels.

The world of rollerblading has expanded beyond what it once was and there are now so many ways you can get involved with it.Competitive, recreational, casual, and fitness skating are just some of the approaches you can take with skating, all of them having plenty of benefits. The best place to start is with a pair of entry-level inline skates that are comfortable and supportive, so check out our buying guide for the perfect set for you.