Exactly what are inline skates? In casual conversations, kids and adults use the term roller skates when talking about quad skates as well as when discussing inline skates.
But strictly speaking, inline skates aren’t the same as roller skates (quad skates), nor are rollerblades the same thing as roller skates.
I dedicate this post to describing what inline skates are, what they’re not, what they do, and the different kinds of inline skates available on the market.
Related: Best inline skates for toddlers and kids
What Are Inline Skates?
Inline skates are a kind of roller skates (not quad skates) with 2-6 wheels positioned in a single line, one wheel after the other. The boot may be made from leather, suede, faux leather, synthetic materials, or a combination of different materials. The wheels attach to the boots through a aluminum, carbon fiber, or plastic frames. Some are one-size skates while others are size adjustable and a great option for kids.
There are different types of inline skates designed for specific use cases. Beginner inline skates typically have smaller wheels and come with a brake on the right skate while high-performance inline skates such as fitness skates, speed skates, rough-road inline skates, and slalom skates don’t have brakes.
Are Inline Skates the Same as Rollerblades?
Yes, rollerblades are the same thing as inline skates. In fact, the term rollerblades is more common than inline skates, but they refer to the exact same skate. The name Rollerblade is actually the name of a popular US-based inline skate brand. The brand’s grown phenomenally successful over the years to the point people now use the brand’s name to refer to all kinds of inline skates.
Are Inline Skates the Same as Roller Skates?
Well, inline skates are a type of roller skates, but in the strictest sense, roller skates and rollerblades aren’t the exact same thing. The main difference between roller skates and rollerblades is that the wheels on rollerblades are arranged inline (one after another) while roller skate wheels are arranged side by side, two parallel wheels in the front and two in the back.
Another difference is that roller skates look pretty much like everyday shoes on wheels while inline skates/rollerblades look like, well, real skates.
Rollerblades vs Roller Skates for Kids, Which is Better?
I’ve described the differences between roller skates and rollerblades for kids here in case you want to learn more. If you’re wondering which is better for kids roller skates versus inline skates, kids tend to learn easier on roller skates than on inlines. This is mostly because roller skates have a wide base plate that bolsters stability right off the bat.
Additionally, the wheels of roller skates are arranged side by side instead of in a single line, and this makes it easier to balance on roller skates. Also,since roller skates have wider wheels which are also smaller than those on inline skates, they’re slower and more stable.
But while rollerblades are harder to balance on and control, they’re not too hard to ride. In fact, some kids find it easier to learn on rollerblades. But once some kids master inline skates, they love them so much and never want to go back to roller skates.
What Are Inline Skates Used for?
Inline skates represent tons of endless fun in skate parks and on sidewalks, but some people also use them for commuting to work. Inline skating is also a great way to exercise and stay fit all while burning up excess calories and losing weight.
Another way people use inline skates is to connect with family and friends, building a rich lasting reservoir of rich experiences over time. And when rolling down a rough forest trail on the ruggedest rollerblades with pneumatic tires, the skater effortlessly tunes into the harmonious, symphonic calm of the great outdoors.
Inline skating is also a recognized competitive sport, and some skaters use certain kinds of rollerblades to participate in and win contests. Slalom inline skaters and marathon inline skaters come to mind.
If you didn’t get into rollerblading when Covid showed up and sent the entire world into a mega shock, it’s not too late to start. You can buy a pair of decent adult skates for yourself and good kids rollerblades for your son or daughter and start enjoying all the wheel-y fun these boots offer.
Inline skates are used for:
- Having fun and recreation at skate parks, sidewalks, on the street, and to explore cities and towns
- Commuting to work
- Socializing with others at rinks and other places which can greatly help a child’s social skill
- Burning excess fat off the body/losing weight
Different Types of Inline Skates/Rollerblades
According to Skating Magic, there’s at least 11 different kinds of inline skates. Here’s the list of 11 types of rollerblades:
- Recreational skates
- Fitness skates
- Aggressive skates
- Speed skates
- Slalom skates
- Outdoor inline skates
- Inline figure skates
- Inline hockey skates
- Forest trail inline skates
- Off-road inline skates
- Kids inline skates
Let’s consider each skate type and see whether it’s what you need.
Kids Inline Skates
Kids inline skates typically are made of cheaper materials and aren’t long-lasting. The wheels are small because speed isn’t the most important thing in kiddo inline skating. The bearings are often crappy, too, but these can be easily and cheaply replaced.
The frame is usually made from plastic because kids aren’t very strong and need lightweight skates. Kids love light-up wheels, which is why many kids skates come with these kinds of wheels.
One feature that’s common in many children’s rollerblades is size adjustability. These skates have a button somewhere that’s pressed in to release the skate so you can pull the front out and increase its size.
Are adjustable inline skates good? Yes, they are a great choice. This kind of skate grows with your kid. Purchasing it saves you money since you don’t need to buy new skates every 3 months.
All this said, there are good kids skates that are in every way like adult skates except for the size. These are good quality skates that even adults can wear.
Recreational skates are basically beginner inline skates. These rollerblades typically have 4 wheels with a diameter of 80mm, and they’re suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. These boots provides enough ankle support while at the same providing a decent amount of comfort. With a relatively stiff and high cuff and ample interior padding, recreational rollerblades care more about support, safety, and comfort and less about performance.
Recreational inline skates are the type of boot most people are talking about when discussing inline skates. They usually have plastic or affordable aluminum frames, and they’re not as expensive for the most part as other options.
One feature that instantly announces that a boot is a beginner or recreational inline skate is the plastic safety brake usually affixed to the right skate. This brake is usually detachable and can also be shifted to the other skate if the rider so wishes.
Closure types: It’s almost always a 3-tier closure consisting of an ankle-securing powerstrap, traditional laces, and buckles at the top. Pricier rec skates may have more advanced closures such as speed laces or a BOA closure system.
Recreational inline skates are designed for beginning inline skaters and folks who just want to have a little fun time outdoors or indoors.
These may look like recreational inline skates, but they’re not the same boot. First off, the cuff is taller and stiffer because the skater who normally uses them is a more advanced rider.
The wheels on fitness skates are much larger than those on rec skates. While rec skates usually have 80mm wheels, fitness inline skates have 90mm-100mm or even taller wheels. This means these skates roll much faster than beginner skates and require much better balance and skating still to master.
Rollerblade manufacturers created fitness inline skates as a product that ice skaters could use off the ice for practice. Those who love these boots are fitness freaks, and all they want is to bolster personal fitness all while having lots of fin outdoors.
Fitness skates are for advanced and intermediate-level inline skaters. They’re not for absolute beginners.
Speed Inline Skates
Speed inline skates are extremely high performance rollerblades, the kind you see on speed inline skating races. These are the lightest inline skates you can ever find. They have a shoe-like boot designed this way to cut weight and ultra-light carbon, plastic, or aluminum frames for the same reason.
The boot comes in a low-cut style that hugely promotes ankle articulation, but it sacrifices tons of ankle support to achieve this quality. The cuff is super low, and the skate doesn’t look like a skate at all. It’s like a light shoe placed on a wheeled frame. Speed inline skates are pretty much quad skates attached to extremely light frames instead of base plates.
The frames are quite long for stability at high speeds. As for the wheels, they are extremely large. 4-wheeled speed skates usually have 110mm wheels while three wheelers normally have 125mm wheels. These wheels are extremely hard (have a very high durometer number) because power transfer and soft wheels don’t work well together.
And since these are super high speed skates, they use the best-performing skate bearings available. I’m talking about ABEC 7 bearings as well as high-precision titanium and Swiss-grade bearings and Ceramics here.
Speed inline skates are high-performance skates for advanced riders and are usually used in competitive inline skating, principally racing.
Slalom Inline Skates
When it comes to navigating the snaky twisty path at a slalom course, no other skate type fits the bill the way slalom skates do. Slalom skaters move at high speeds while making sharp turns around 20 plastic cones distanced 31″ or 47″ from one another.
For these twisty movements, one needs a solid skate with a sturdy boot that provides lots of ankle support. The wheels are neither small nor big. They’re medium-sized skate wheels in the 76-80mm diameter range.
Here’s one more thing: for the most part, slalom inline skates have moderately soft wheels attached through a banana rocker configuration. A rockered setup has wheels of different sizes arranged inline. And for slalom skaters, it’s a 76mm/80mm/80mm/76mm wheel setup.
The rockered shape is pretty much a blade, not unlike the blade on ice skates, and it helps immensely when it comes to doing quick turns in a competition.
Slalom skates are highly supportive skates with moderately large wheels set up in the so-called rockered configuration. They’re designed for making quick, sharp turns and twists while traveling at speed through a cone-dotted slalom course. They’re not a beginner skate.
This isn’t exactly a different category of rollerblades, but not all skates can be described as rough-road inline skates. Skaters who have crappy sidewalks and roads need skates with big, soft wheels because such wheels absorb impacts and vibrations really well.
These wheels are also venerable champions when it comes to conquering cracks, small rocks, twigs, and obstacles of all kinds. The wheels have a diameter of 90mm-125mm wheels. Like speed skates, rough-road skates have large-size wheels, but the wheels are soft rather than hard.
Rough-road rollerblades are high-performance boots designed to endure all vibrations, shocks, and impacts bad roads and sidewalks constantly throw at them. They have large soft wheels with great rebound. These aren’t beginner rollerblades.
Off-road/Forest Trail Inline Skates/All-terrain/Cross-country Rollerblades
Can you skate rough forest track and mountain trails? Yes, that’s possible as long as you’re wearing the right kind of skate. Off-road skates are what you need to conquer the roughest and most unforgiving surfaces such as cobblestone-covered paths and bumpy forest trails.
These skates usually have 2 or 3 very large air-filled tires (pneumatic tires) that have deep, extremely grippy tread. Two-wheeled off-road rollerblades are pretty much like roller skis.
If you’re wondering how tall the wheels on cross-country off-road inline skates are, the smaller ones stand 125mm while the biggest wheels have a diameter of 150mm.
Being big and soft helps these tires roll over all kinds of obstacles nicely and smoothly, and the rider never feels the ruggedness of the terrain while skating. Nordic inline skates are a good example of these forest trail mini SUVs.
The boots are tough and hardy, and they’re designed to offers lots of foot and ankle support. The frames are tough, light, and not too long for maximum maneuverability while out in the woods.
They have calf-activated brakes rather than the heel brakes often found on beginner or recreational inline skates.
Off-road inline skates are extremely rugged rollerblades with extremely large pneumatic tires designed to take on the toughest terrains. They have brakes for safety, but they’re not meant for starting skaters. These are like high-cuff speed skates on steroids!
Inline Hockey Skates/Roller Hockey Skates
Inline hockey skates are rollerblades designed for playing hockey. These look similar to ice hockey skates, except that instead of having metal blades, inline hockey skates have skate wheels.
These wheels are usually really soft (72A-76A) for indoor inline hockey. Indoor inline hockey normally takes place on really smooth surfaces, and rolling around on super soft wheels is the only guarantee you have that you’ll remain upright throughout playtime.
As for wheel diameter, inline hockey skates use really small wheels. These wheels have a diameter range of 72mm-76mm, the sort of wheels found on some aggressive inline skates and some kids rollerblades.
But when it comes to outdoor inline hockey on rougher surfaces such as concrete or asphalt, the softest wheels wouldn’t be the best bet. This is because very soft wheels on rough surfaces wouldn’t last longer than 3 hockey sessions due to accelerated wear.
For outdoor inline hockey, the best wheels for the job are relatively harder wheels in the 82-84A durometer range. These wheels are hard enough to resist wear and soft enough to resist slipping while skating outdoors.
Wheel shape is another important factor when it comes to inline hockey skates. The best wheel shape for inline hockey is the round shape. Solid round wheels that aren’t too hard grip the surface extremely well while helping the kid or adult hockey player turn on a dime.
Finally, like freestyle slalom inline skates, inline hockey skates have a rockered setup. Players have 2 small wheels (76mm wheels) and 2 bigger wheels (80mm). One of the 76mm wheels is positioned out front while the other one stays under the heel. This rockered configuration is favored for the same reason it is in slalom rollerblading: improved turning ability.
Hockey inline skates are for playing indoor or outdoor inline hockey. The wheels are round-shaped, small in size, and extremely soft for indoor hockey and harder for outdoor hockey. Like slalom inline skates, inline hockey rollerblades prefer a banana rocker configuration over the usual all-wheels-on-the-ground setup.
Inline Figure Skates
Inline figure skates are essentially ice figure skates on wheels rather than metal blades. Picture a regular figure skate with wheels; that’s what an inline figure skate looks like. Most people use this as an off-ice training figure skate. These are the artistic version of rollerblades, and they really shine when it comes to waltzing on smooth rink floors.
The International Roller Sports Federation now recognizes inline figure skating and organizes championships that feature this wheel-y sport.
The FIRS regulates all kinds of roller-type sports including rink hockey, downhill inline skating, speed inline skating, figure skating, Inline Alpine, and Roller Derby.
Unlike traditional rollerblades, inline figure skates have the brake around the toe versus under the heel for regular rollerblades. Also, the boots of regular skates sit flat on the flame and is attached at three or more points while inline figure skates attach to the frame at two points, one at the front and the other at the back.
One more thing: these skates have the wheels (3/4 wheels) organized in the banana rocker configuration. The middle wheels or wheel is bigger than the those on either end of the frame. Rockering the skate turns it into a sort of ice skate on wheels, one that turns on a time during dancing and spins and other complex maneuvers.
Inline figure skates are like ice figure skates on wheels. They have a rockered configuration for easier turning and maneuverability. They’re used mainly for dancing on rink floors as well as for training for figure skating.
Aggressive Inline Skates
What are aggressive inline skates? Aggressive inline skates are a type of rollerblade designed purposely for doing grinds, jumps, and tricks at skate parks and over found obstacles out on the street. They have solid cuffs that provide great ankle support.
One distinctive feature that sets aggro skates apart from other skates is the H block in the middle. The H block is where all the grinding takes place.
There are 3 kinds of aggressive inline skates namely:
- Soft-shell aggressive skates: These have a relatively soft outer shell and offer decent comfort and a reasonable amount of support. They have an anti-rocker configuration. The two small wheels sitting on either side of the grinding block help control and guide your glides while also preventing the skate to catch on rails and other obstacles. These ones aren’t the best bet for massive jumps.
- Hard-shell aggressive skates: They typically have 4 wheels, 2 at each end and two small ones on opposite sides of the H-block. This is called an anti-rocker wheel configuration. This type is what most people are referring to when talking about aggressive rollerblades. It’s super tough and supportive and takes abuse with a smile. And it’s a great bet for beginners and advanced skaters.
- Skeletal-shell aggressive skates: Sits somewhere between soft-shell and hard-shell skates. They’re flexible enough and at the same time supportive and protective. This skate usually comes with two wheels not four. It looks like a foot wrap of some sort, like a sneaker combined with a hard outer shell. No removable liner here.
Outdoor Inline Skates
These are skates designed for outdoor use. Rough-road skates, aggressive skates, fitness skates, long-distance skates, slalom skates, and urban style skates are outdoor inline skates. Most outdoor skates have relatively large wheels in the 80mm-100mm diameter range so they can roll over cracks without issues.
In terms of wheel hardness or softness, outdoor rollerblades live in the 78A-75A durometer range. Since there are cracks and small pebbles to roll over, these skates need relatively large wheels which are soft enough.
However, not all outdoor skates have large wheels. Aggressive skates have relative small wheels, usually smaller than 60mm, yet they’re usually used outdoors not indoors.
Urban/Freeride/Freestyle Inline Skates
These are for seeing the city and performing low-impact tricks. They’re not for jumping over the biggest obstacles. Rather, they’re for cruising around town and just enjoying the ride.
The wheels have a diameter of 80mm-85-ish, and how hard or soft the wheels are depends on rider preference. That said, 80-85A durometer is common. As for the frame, it’s rather short since the skater needs to be able to turn on a dime to avoid cars and people.
These skates are highly supportive, too, but comfort/padding is also important. Think of this kind of skate as something designed to help you roll around without performing any kind of big jumps and stunts.
Do urban-style inline skates have a brake? Yes, most come with a brake in the package. But since most owners of this skate type have intermediate to advanced skating skills, most don’t attach the brake. If you need a foot brake on your urban style or freeride skates, install it and have fun safely.
Where to Buy Inline Skates and How Much They Cost
Amazon carries bazillions of decent inline skates at equally great prices. Whether you’re looking for Powerslide skates, Bauer inline skates, Impala skates, Rollerblade inline skates, and many other skate brands, Amazon has them.
Another place to buy good rollerblades is on the manufacturers’ websites. Most skate brands sell decent options at reasonable prices, sometimes for cheaper than the same product’s price on Amazon and other online stores.
Rei.com is yet another place to buy inline skates. This popular and reliable online store sells great skate gear at great prices. But there’s many other places like Rei that sell good skates and other skate gear including helmets and protective pads, places like Inlinewarehouse.com and others.
As for pricing, it all depends on what you’re buying, quality, who’s selling it, size, color, and other factors. Some stores sell their goods at exploitative price points (and I won’t mention names here) just because they’re big-name brands.
All this said, inline skates cost as little as $30 and as much as $500. Crappy plastic kids’ rollerblades cost around $30-ish, but they rarely fit well, nor are they known for lasting long. Good beginner inline skates are available for as little as $100, better ones cost somewhere between $200-$400 and off-road rollerblades such as those from Powerslide cost well over $500.
Putting It All Together
Inline skates, also called rollerblades, are a type of roller skate used by kids and adults and sportspeople around the world. They help people enjoy the great outdoors more while connecting with others and burning excess calories.
Unlike roller skates (also known as quad skates), inline skates have 2-6 wheels set up one in front of the other. Some have plastic frames while pricier ones have carbon or lightweight aluminum frames.
Some skates are for rolling around having fun while others are for performing tricks at skate parks and on the street. Others are for roller dancing while others are for racing and other skating competitions.
Then there are off-road rollerblades, badass skates designed for the most demanding terrains.
Looking for inline skates for your son or daughter? Here’s a bunch of rollerblades that kids love riding. And no, don’t let that tyke get out the door before wearing a dual-certified skate helmet and decent knee pads.