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Things to look for when buying Inline Skates


Purchasing a pair of inline skates for the first time can be a bit of a challenge if you don't have all the facts. To make an informed decision and ease the process, you need the right information before you head to the shop. Our Buying Your First Pair of Skates category has a before you buy inline skates, which answers all of your questions about inline skate manufacturers, brands, and sizing for comfort and fit. It's also good to know something about the various parts that make up inline skates before you head to the store, so we've included a subject entitled Getting to Know the Parts.

 

What type of skating?

Perhaps the most common type of skating is recreational skating.  If you're not sure what type of skating you're going to be doing, I would suggest start out by trying recreational skates - these are probably the most common skates and are generally good all-rounders.  All the other types of skating are specialised disciplines, and the skates used will be optimised for those disciplines.  A good pair of recreational skates will give loads of skating pleasure, and still allow you to at least try out some of the other disciplines once your skating has improved.

Some of the other skating disciplines are:

Recreational

This involves skating for fun, often in parks and on trails.  The skates generally fit and are as comfortable as sneakers.  The frames tend to be a little longer, and the wheels a little larger, which keeps the skates fast and good at cruising long distances.


Salomon TR Mg Elite 2 recreational/fitness skates

Aggressive

Aggressive skating is about big jumps, rail slides, stairs, grinds, etc.  The skates tend to be solid, strong, stable, and pretty heavy, and they have replaceable parts to allow for the high wear and tear found in this type of skating.  They're not good for going fast or long distance because of the weight and small wheels.


Rollerblade TRS Access aggressive skates

Fitness/Speed skates

These skates mostly have 5 wheels, although there are some with 4, and are designed for one purpose - to go fast over longer distances.  The extra wheels and long frames help to increase high speed stability, reduce rolling resistance, and improve power transfer to the ground.  Low or non-existent ankle cuffs mean that you will need to develop more ankle strength and control when first moving onto these skates.  The longer frames do make fitness/speed skates slightly harder to turn, but not a lot more than a pair of 4 wheel recreational skates.

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Salomon TR Vitesse fitness skates


Belotti speedskates

Hockey

There are many variants of inline hockey, but essentially it is a little like ice hockey.  Variants include playing with a puck or a ball, contact or no contact (i.e. no body checking), etc.  The skates generally have a very short frame to increase manoeuvrability.  The boots are lace up and fit closely, often needing to be broken in and/or heat moulded to fit a particular skater's feet properly.

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Mission Wicked Light ViBE hockey skates

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The Bauer Vapor 8 with

Fit, Fit, and Fit

These are the three most important things to consider when buying skates.  Skates that don't fit well will probably cause blisters and will be uncomfortable to skate in whether they are too loose or too tight.  When you go skate shopping, give yourself plenty of time to spend trying on the skates in an unhurried manner until you find the right skate for you that fits well and is comfortable.  Don't be pushed by the salespeople - if they are that insistent in hurrying you up, it's time to take your business elsewhere.  Take a pair of the socks you intend to use while skating, as that's what you should be wearing when trying out the skates.

Don't forget to try a bunch of different skate models from different manufacturers.  The experience of trying on these skates first hand will help to give you a much better idea of which skates fit you well.

When trying on skates slip the skates on, and while sitting down knock the rear wheel into the ground to ensure your heel is firmly back into the boot.  Now tighten the laces and/or any buckles on the skate so that they are firm but not tight.  Stand up and bend your knees until they're just over your toes.  OK, sit down again now, and check the fit of the skates:

  • Your toes should be quite close to the end of the boot, but not crunched up into the end.  You may be able to touch the end of the boot if you stretch your toes out, but no more than that.
  • Check the fit around your heel, ensuring that the skate doesn't squeeze your heel.
  • Make sure that you can't move your heel around, and especially not up and down inside the boot.
  • Check the width around the ball of your foot.
  • Now retighten the laces and buckles as the liner may have changed shape conforming to your foot.

 

A good idea is to try on skates that are a half to a full size smaller and larger than your current shoe size.  That will quickly show whether you're getting the right size.  Once you've found the right pair of skates, make sure you spend at least 15 minutes or so standing in the shop wearing the skates.  This is because that 15 minutes will probably bring any fit problems to light that may not be so easily noticeable at first.

Remember that skate models are a little like shoes in that skates from different manufacturers don't always correspond in size, so use your shoe size as a guideline rather than an exact rule.  For example, the following skate sizes all fit me well:  Bauer inline hockey skates - size 8-9.  Salomon - size 10. Mission size 10, and Rollerblade size 9.5-10.  These are all US sizes, and my normal shoe size is a size 10.

Many people also find that the shape of skate boots is different between different manufacturers.  For example, some people find that they get a better fit from Salomon skates, whilst others prefer the fit of K2 skates.  This is another reason it's good to go to a real shop and spend time trying on lots of different skates from different manufacturers.

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