So you’re a beginner to skateboarding, longboarding, rollerskating, rollerblading, or ice skating. Or you’ve earned some boarding experience and are now looking to get into tougher riding styles such as freeride or downhill skating.
Whether you’re new to skating or have been skating for a while, covering your noggin with a worthy brain bucket is important. According to the CDC, helmet use doesn’t offer 100% protection against concussions, but it might help prevent or minimize severe head and brain injuries.
Also Read: Best Big-head Skateboard Helmets
In this write-up, I guide you through choosing the best skate helmet for your riding style. This resource should help you educate yourself on helmet fitment and what to look for when buying one. I also included a list of the best lids for different skating disciplines.
Is a Helmet Required When Skateboarding?
Some skate parks and states require helmets, but many don’t. Some adults, especially folks who have been skating for a while and gotten much better, choose not to helmet up. They say that helmets are uncomfortable while others flat-out say that they make people look dorky or silly.
While helmets don’t guarantee 100% protection against concussions according to the CPSC, they definitely help minimize head injuries. If you believe your brain is a valuable asset and understand that falls happen a lot, you’ll want to wear a helmet more often.
When cruising around or doing low-impact skate stuff out on the street, you may not have to wear a helmet. But when practicing harder tricks in the parks such as skating 13-foot vert ramps, it’s strongly recommended that you wear a helmet. And we’re talking about a certified skate helmet here and not just any random hard hat that doesn’t do a thing when the worst happens.
A Detailed Guide on How to Pick Out a Skate Helmet
In this guide, I highlight everything that matters when it comes to choosing a good, safe skate helmet for your outdoor play sessions.
Fit and Comfort: the #1 Consideration When Buying A Skate Helmet
Different skate brands size their helmets somewhat differently, and a size L helmet from one brand may not fit the same way as a size L from a different company. The best way to size a skateboard helmet is to measure your head and work out the correct size per the helmet model’s size chart.
Tip: sometimes, a model’s size chart may be way off, and using it won’t give you a properly fitting helmet. To avoid having to return the product, rummage through customer reviews on Amazon and other locations on the web researching how the particular brain protector fits. You might get useful tips such as size down, it fits true to size, or order the next size up. Very useful information that you can’t find any other way.
Read this article to learn the best way to measure your noggin for helmet fitment.
How a Well-fitted Skateboard Helmet Fits
How a helmet sits on your head depends on its size versus your head size and also on the shape of your head. Most people in Asia have a more round head while people from North America tend to have round/oval head shapes. It’s recommended that the shape of the helmet aligns with that of the skater’s head.
Research around to know which brands offer more round helmets and which offer more rounded ones. Triple 8 helmets work for many people in the US because it’s designed for round/oval heads.
If you have a weird-shaped head, you might find that any helmet you put on causes pressure points while moving too easily when shoved. Keep looking until you find something that fits your head shape most comfortably even if that means returning or exchanging helmets.
And if you have a large round head, find an option that works great for big, round noggins. The S1 Mega Lifer fits most skaters with big round noggins better than most. To learn more about skateboard helmets that fit larger heads, read this post.
Helmets with an adjustable fit dial on the back also suit weird-shaped skating heads better than most.
Here’s how a skateboard helmet should fit
- The helmet says level on the head, fits snugly (not too tight not too loose), and won’t roll forward or backward. And under no circumstances should the helmet come off the head. Some research has found that one reason people suffer head/brain injuries is that the helmet rolled off at the worst possible moment.
- The top of your head and the top of the helmet shouldn’t touch. There should be some room up there.
- If the helmet shifts 1″+ sideways or front-to-back, that helmet is too big for you.
- If the helmet uses a fit adjustment knob on the rear, the mechanism should stay in place once you dial in the correct fit.
- The side straps should form the shape of the letter V with the ear sitting in the letter.
- Inserting two fingers between the chin and the chin strap should be met with some resistance.
Fit pads: If a helmet comes with fit adjustment pads, that’s great. And if these fit pads are removable and replaceable, that’s even better. In most cases, the lid arrives with the thinner set of pads already fitted. If you have a slightly smaller head, you can swap the thin pads in favor of the thicker fit pads.
Padding on the straps: Some helmets have pads on the chin, which makes for more comfortable use.
Ventilation Holes: In cool weather, a skateboard helmet with a lower number of air vents or smaller ventilation channels helps a bunch because it traps heat. But if you ride in the same helmet on a hot summer day, it literally becomes an efficient oven! And that’s where a better-ventilated helmet comes in.
Generally, though, skateboard helmets don’t offer excellent ventilation. At least, the air circulation isn’t as good as what a bike helmet offers.
If buying for a kid, a helmet with size adjustability is a great choice since the helmet offers a bit of room for the small head to expand into before a replacement is needed. Colors and graphics are other considerations to not forget when shopping for a child. Involve the kiddo in the color/graphic selection process maybe?
Skate Helmet Construction Method Used
There are two main construction methods when it comes to skateboard helmets namely:
The traditional method: Options in the budget territory are often made using the traditional construction method. In this technique, the hard outer shell and the protective EPP or EPS foam are manufactured separately and then brought together to form one solid system.
Helmets fashioned this way tend to be heavier and also don’t breathe very well. You may want to pay a little more to get a lighter, stronger, better-ventilated helmet.
In-mold helmet construction method: In this construction technique, the outer shell and the inner shock-absorbing EPS foam are manufactured as one complete piece so that they stay permanently joined. In-mold skate helmets breathe better and feel noticeably lighter on the head. To benefit from this superior method, be willing to pay a little more. Many top-end and mid-range options are created this way.
Skating Discipline: Will You Skateboard, Longboard, Rollerskate, Rollerblade, or Ice Skate?
Different kinds of skating disciplines exist, and while some people dedicate their free time to more than one skating sport, many pick one discipline and stick to it. Some skaters longboard and don’t skateboard at all while many skateboarders have no idea of how divey a longboard can be. Others only rollerblade or rollerskate while others only skate on the ice and don’t care about off-ice skating.
So, can you use the same skate helmet for all of these different skating disciplines? You can sure a skateboard helmet to ride a longboard. These are similar sports, and the same helmet can be safely used between the two different disciplines.
Can I Use a Skateboard Helmet for Ice Skating?
Yes, you can use a properly certified skateboard helmet for ice skating according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. You can use an ASTMF1492 or a Snell-N94-certified skateboard helmet. You can also use a bike helmet with any of the following certifications: ASTMF147, CPSC1203, Snell B-90, Snell B-95, and Snell N-94.
Another helmet you can use for ice skating is a short-track speed skating helmet made to the standards of the ASTMF1489. Finally, you can wear a snow sport helmet that meets at least one of the following standards: Snell RS-98, Snell S-98, or ASTM F2040. All these tests focus on how well the helmet would hold up to blows to the head, peripheral vision, and the integrity and strength of the retention system..
But Do You Really Need a Helmet Ice Skating?
If you’ve ever been to an ice rink, you sure did notice that most people skate without a helmet. And there’s a reason why so many ice skaters don’t wear a helmet. It’s how ice skaters fall. In ice skating, you’re way more likely to break an elbow, a wrist, a hip, or a tailbone than you’re to hit your head on the hard ice.
Admittedly, ice skate falls rarely result in head injuries, but if you take a really weird fall and your head strikes the hard icy surface, it could be a very bad injury. the mishap could easily send you to the Emergency Room.
However, if you’re a beginner in ice skating, wearing a helmet and pads can really boost your confidence on the ice. In fact, the vast majority of learn-to-ice-skate programs require beginners to wear a helmet during lessons.
Can I Use a Skateboard Helmet for Rollerskating
You definitely can use a properly certified skateboard helmet for rollerskating. One thing about rollerskates is that they’re prone to rolling backward if your balance isn’t where it needs to be. And when this happens, you’re likely to whack your noggin on the rink floor, pavement, or a skate park’s transition concrete, which can lead to a concussion. A certified skateboard helmet offers lots of coverage at the back of the head, which makes it a good choice for rollerskating falls.
Related: How to Choose a Rollerskate Brain Bucket
Rollerskate safety tip: Try to fall forward rather than backward because forward falls are that much easier to control. Besides, you won’t hit your head on the pavement or other surfaces, and you’re less likely to land on your tailbone.
Instead of going down onto your tailbone, try to fall on one butt cheek and make sure to sit on a large part of it to spread the impact out less painfully. Picking a cheek can literally save your tailbone. Also, consider wearing foam-padded shorts under your jeans or sweatpants to soak up the fall.
Another falling-safely tip for rollerskating: Consider wearing knee pads when rollerskating, especially if you’re a beginner to this discipline. Then, make sure to master the derby-style knee slide on those protective pads, and you’ll get back up with minimal injuries. And to prevent hitting your head, make sure to tuck in your chin while lowering your head.
To learn how to fall right while rollerskating, I suggest that you watch a rollerskating coach who’s nicknamed herself Dirty Deborah of the Dirty School of Skate. I find her explanations and demonstrations crystal clear and super helpful.
Can You Use a Skateboard Helmet for Rollerblading?
Rollerbladers fall forward or backward when they do, and bad things can happen if they fall backward. You can hit your melon or really hurt your tailbone unless you learn how to pick one cheek and fall on it consistently. So, yes, you can use a skateboard to minimize the impacts of rollerblade falls. Wear a dual-certified skateboard helmet because the rear edge of the helmet reaches farther down than other kinds of helmets.
Follow the safety tips I wrote out above when rollerblading, and you’ll fall more safely and hurt much less.
Know Whether It’s a Single-Impact or Multi-impact Skate Helmet
Some skateboard helmets are single-impact, which means that if you go down while wearing them and it’s not a soft fall, the helmet becomes unsafe for future use. But the majority of skate helmets are multi-use and the inner protective foam restores after a crash. You can take many small falls with this helmet without it becoming less adept at protecting your precious noggin.
Are single-impact skate helmets bad? Not really. And no, it doesn’t mean that you should replace the helmet every time you take even the smallest spill. But if you ever experience a massive spill wearing a single-use helmet, it’s best to just throw it away and get a new helmet for future skates.
Single-impact helmets normally come with an extremely thick protective foam that absorbs impact energy from big blows to the head. But this foam doesn’t bounce back to a status that guarantees safety and protection in future mishaps.
I’d go with a multi-impact helmet any day because the idea of purchasing a new helmet more frequently than I would like to doesn’t excite me haha.
Bike Helmet Vs. Skate Helmet: Can You Skate With Either?
There are distinct differences between a skate helmet and a bike helmet, and it’s important to learn about those differences. Below is a list of the differences between a skate helmet and a bike helmet.
Shape and surface smoothness: In terms of construction and shape, skate-style helmets have a round shape (usually the classic half-shell shape) and a smooth surface that makes it easy to slide off the ground during a fall.
The outer shell is made from plastic, thicker plastic than a bike helmet has. Also, many bike helmets, especially mountain bike helmets, have a rougher exterior. And while some have a round shape, many bike helmets have an oval outline instead of a round one.
Impact protection: A bike helmet provides protection against one huge impact and should be retired after the fact. Its really thick, impact-absorbing foam crashes into itself as a result of the shock and doesn’t regain its pre-crash structural integrity.
Most skate helmets are single-impact, but a few options such as the POC Receptor are multi-impact. Such options are made from non-deforming Super Expanded Polypropylene or Expanded Polypropylene instead of a crushable Expanded Polystyrene foam.
A multiple-impact skate helmet might sound like the most rational choice, but skate helmet safety standards require boarding helmets to be single-impact. Soft blows to a single-impact helmet shouldn’t necessarily cause you to replace it. However, if you see cracks or abrasions on or in the helmet post-crash, definitely replace the helmet.
Air vents: While some skate helmets are nicely vented and breathe better than most, bike helmets have more and bigger ventilation channels, which means they’re more comfortable to wear in warm weather. For this reason, be sure that the sweat-absorption liners of the skate helmet do the job well.
Safety certifications: A properly certified skateboard helmet wears the ASTMF1492 badge with price, and the best of them boast both the ASTMF1492 certification for skate safety and the CPSC 1203 bike standard. Such a helmet is referred to as a dual-certified skate helmet and can be used for both biking and skating.
Bike helmets are required to have at least one safety certification namely the CPSC 1203. Skateboard and bike helmets made for the European and UK markets meet a less stringent safety standard, the EN1078. To be clear, the UK has its own bike and skate safety standard called the BS EN1078:1997, and this standard is a derivative of the EU version.
Helmet requirement: Skateboarders aren’t required to wear a helmet outside of some parks and states. But cyclists are by law required to always wear a bike helmet that meets certain safety standards.
Best Quality Skateboard Helmet Brands
I try to not appear as if I’m endorsing certain brands while passionately bashing others, which is despicable behavior. But when it comes to skateboarding helmets, not all brands are created equal as far as safety. I won’t be able to tell which brand is the absolute best, but I’ll name a few that I and many skaters like.
Berns helmets fit nicely, and they’re some of the most lightweight and versatile skate helmets I’m aware of. You can use some Berns helmets for skating, skiing, and snowboarding. All you have to do is put in the right liner for the sport you want to do. For example, for snowboarding and skiing, remove the skating liner and add in an earmuff-equipped insert liner for toasty warm and super comfy skiing and snowboarding.
Other brands that skaters like include New York City’s very own Triple 8, Pro-Tec, OutdoorMaster, TSG, S1 Helmets, and a few others. And if you want a retro-styled bike helmet that also works great for skateboarding, Thousand Helmets are worth a look.
How Much Does a Good Quality Skate Helmet Cost?
If there’s one piece of skate gear that can be pretty tricky to buy, it’s helmets. I mean, there’s tons of sub-$50 dual-certified helmets, $100 ones, $150 MIPS/WaveCell/SPIN-equipped options, and $300+ full-face options such as the TSG Pass Downhill Helmet.
so what makes one skateboard helmet more expensive than other? Here’s a simple but 100% incontrovertible truth: as long as the helmet comes with the relevant certification stickers (ASTMF1492 and CPSC1203), it’s safe to use regardless of the price point it’s sold at. A $25 ASTMF1492 helmet is safe and a $100 dual-certified skateboard helmet is safe.
Is a MIPS-Equipped Skateboard Helmet More Protective?
What’s MIPS and how does it work? MIPS is an abbreviation for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, an anti-rotation impact technology. According to the inventors behind this helmet technology, it’s a science-based mechanism that adds an extra layer of protection against angular impacts.
MIPS official website states that heaps of studies have shown that the majority of impacts on the head are rotational rather than linear. And that the MIPS technology is best placed to counter these oblique impacts.
Theoretically, a MIPS helmet should be more protective than a regular dual-certified one, but there’s no uncontested evidence that this tech protects more than existing impact protection systems. That said, the Internet swarms with stories of skaters for whom this increasingly popular technology was literally a brain saver.
But there are also tons of anecdotes narrated by people whose brains didn’t get scrambled because a regular skateboard helmet stepped up to the plate.
So, MIPS might help boost safety a little, but any other safety-rated skate helmet should be protective enough. But hey, if you want that extra assurance from the fact that you’re better protected and you’re willing to pay the price difference, go ahead.
Alternatives to MIPS Technology: WaveCel and SPIN
MIPS, WaveCel, and SPIN have one thing in common: they all add an extra layer of protection against rotational impacts. WaveCel was developed by a respected brand known as Bontrager while POC, a high-quality helmet brand. I bet you’ve seen all kinds of streamlined, almost-zero-vents POC helmets at road bike races.
SPIN stands for Shearing Pad Inside, and POC says that this piece of helmet technology works similarly if not slightly better than MIPS as far as protection against oblique impacts. These two impact management systems operate by the exact same principle. They add a low-friction sliding layer between the skater’s/cyclist’s head and the helmet. It’s this added layer that distributes out angular forces from rotational crash energies.
As for WaveCel, this system is theoretically superior to both SPIN and MIPS. How is it better? Unlike these two which focus on angular shocks, WaveCel supposedly protects you from all kinds of impacts. WaveCel is a 1mm-thick honeycomb-like mechanism/layer in the shell of the helmet, and it does three things: it slides, bends, and crumples when subjected to shocks from different directions.
One disadvantage of WaveCel-equipped helmets is that they’re heavier than MIPS or SPIN-equipped ones. Also, WaveCel tends to interfere with the helmet’s airflow, which means such lids might not be super comfy. Small wonder some of the helmets that Bontrager sells actually have MIPS technology.
All three mechanisms are nice features and may be worth paying more money for. To learn more about the differences/similarities between WaveCel, SPIN, and MIPS, read this article.
How to Clean a Skateboard Helmet
If the helmet isn’t very dirty, use a damp soapy sponge to wipe off the dirt. But if there’s tons of dirt and grime hiding in the openings, get a toothbrush and get the filth out.
If the sweat pads are removable, take them out and clean them separately. And if they’re all worn out from constant use, replace them with new fit pads. Helmets such as Triple 8 come with removable pads dubbed SweatSaver Pads, and these are removable. But you can also wipe down the pads while they’re still on the helmet.
Then, use a damp cloth or sponge or microfiber to wipe down the helmet, and finally, let it air-dry. You don’t want to place the just-cleaned helmet near an artificial heat source such as a space heater or an open fire to make it dry out more quickly.
Dip the sponge in mild detergent and don’t use a harsh cleaner of any kind as this could weaken the helmet. Alternatively, wipe down the helmet with a good disinfectant spray. Be sure to follow the instructions to a tee.
Maybe you’re wondering whether it’s OK to fully submerge a skateboard helmet when cleaning it. Yes, you can submerge it because water won’t ruin it. If water could ruin a helmet, then sweat and rain would continually damage it.
6 Skate Helmet Maintenance Tips
1. Clean the outside and inside of your helmet regularly to keep it clean and smelling fresh.
2. Use warm water and mild detergent or a disinfectant spray when cleaning the helmet.
3. Avoid using any kind of strong or harsh cleaners.
4. Store helmets away from any heat source, whether natural (direct sunlight) or artificial (heat radiator).
5. You can soak a helmet in water to deep-clean it, but it’s best to use a damp soapy cloth to wipe off dirt and grime and a toothbrush or other similar object to clean hard-to-reach nooks and crannies as well as the straps.
6. Store the helmet in a cool, dry place. That place shouldn’t be the trunk of your car. If you have only one helmet, you sure can keep it on a shelf or put it in a bag (after drying it out completely) and store it in the closet. But if you have many helmets, consider investing in a good helmet rack.
10 Skate Helmet Safety Tips
1. Always check your helmet to make sure that the protective foam doesn’t have cracks.
2. If you take a low-impact fall and your lid doesn’t appear damaged or deeply dented, you certainly can go on using it.
3. Make sure that the helmet hugs the head nice and snug: there are no pressure points, nor does the helmet move too much sideways or front-to-back when worn. Try applying some down-upward or side-to-side force with your hand and see what happens.
Another helmet fitment tip: once you fasten the helmet using the chin straps, try getting a finger between your skin and the strap. If you can fit more than two fingers, that helmet might roll off the head when its protection is needed the most.
4. Make sure that every part of the helmet is present and working as it should: straps, the fit-adjustment dial on the back, straps, and adjusters. If either of these parts breaks off and there’s no way to replace it safely (talk to the manufacturer about this), discard that helmet.
5. Replace your helmet every few years, usually after5 years assuming no really hard fall happens during this period. The shell of the helmet and other parts are made from plastic, and this material becomes weaker with time. After 5 years, the lid may not have the same structural integrity that inspired a feeling of safety and confidence when it was new. Besides, newer skate helmets are more likely to be made using the latest helmet technology. Being newer often means the helmet might fit better or even provide better-quality protection.
6. Buying a secondhand skate helmet isn’t recommended because you’d not know for sure whether the person who was using it prior had ever crashed in it. It’d be hard to know whether the helmet could provide protection during the next bad fall.
7. Avoid putting stickers on the helmet unless you’re certain that the adhesive used to make it stick to the surface of the helmet won’t degrade the plastic. When in doubt, stay away from stickers.
8. Always make sure that the helmet you’re using has all of the safety certifications required for the specific skating sport you’re interested in.
9. When you fall, try keeping your hands off the rink floor so that other riders won’t skate over them. In the case of ice skating, imagine what could happen if someone’s steel blades glided over your fingers. That’s a terrifying thought, right?
10. Choose a brighter helmet color because such colors make it easier for motorists to spot you and be more careful. Colors such as green and yellow are easy to spot and therefore safer. Many riders like black rubber skate helmets, but black isn’t the most visible of the hues.
Skateboard Helmet FAQs
1. Are Bell Helmets Good for Skateboarding?
Bell helmets are fine for skateboarding, but be sure to check whether the model you’re interested in is certified to the relevant safety standards, the ASTMF1492 Skate Safety Standard.
2. Are MIPS Helmets Good for Skateboarding?
MIPS helmets are good for skateboarding if they’re indeed multi-impact, which some aren’t. The best MIPS skate helmets protect your head against the usual impacts that non-MIPS options protect against while supposedly also adding a layer of protection against angled impacts.
Anecdotal evidence from skaters and claims from the researchers behind the MIPS helmet technology suggest that MIPS helmets might be superior to non-MIPS ones, BUT no definitive peer-reviewed research so far supports these assertions.
One more thought: If MIPS skate helmets are the most protective, why do brands continue making non-MIPS helmets? Answer: properly certified non-MIPS skateboard helmets such as S1 and Triple 8 are good enough, but the promise of increased safety easily yanks money from people’s pockets, so why not passionately promote this new amazing technology?
3. What Helmet Does Tony Hawk Use for Skateboarding?
Tony Hawk has been seen wearing Triple 8 skate helmets on several occasions, especially when skating massive ramps or when trying to land an extremely complex skateboard trick. That’s because T8 helmets are great and highly protective, but it might also be because he had a partnership of sorts with this brand the last time I checked.
Just in case you don’t know, Tony Hawk was the first skateboarder to land the super complex 900 skateboard trick at the X Games in 1999 in San Francisco. Unfortunately, the skater suffered a serious injury in March 2022, and I’m not sure if and when he will make a comeback if at all. Thankfully, the mishap affected his leg and not his head.
4. Is There a Difference Between a Bike Helmet and a Skate Helmet?
Yes, there are differences between a skateboard helmet and a bike helmet. A bike helmet is designed to withstand one major impact such as hitting a tree head-first or crashing into a car while a skateboard helmet can and does take several smaller impacts. However, many skate helmets are single-impact, just like bike helmets, but some are multi-impact.
Also, some helmets are dual-certified for both bike use and skateboard use and can be used safely for both sports. A good example of a helmet that’s certified to both the US CPSC bike helmet standard part 1203 of the Code of Federal Regulations and the skateboard safety standard ASTMF1492 is the cool-looking Thousand Bike Helmet.
5. Can You Use a Bike Helmet for Skateboarding?
Yes, you can use a bike helmet for skateboarding if that helmet is dual-certified to both the CPSC 1203 bike safety standard and the skate safety standard ASTMF1492. Don’t use a CPSC-certified-only bike helmet for bike riding because bike helmets generally don’t go as far down at the back of the head as a skate-certified helmet does. Most skateboard falls happen around the back of the head, and regular bike helmets are designed to mostly protect the front and top of the head.
6. Are Skate Helmets Good for Water Sports?
No, skateboard helmets aren’t good/safe for water sports such as wakeboarding and kayaking. That’s because skate helmets aren’t designed to soften the kinds of blows that are likely to happen when engaging in water sports.
In a skateboard fall, you might hit your noggin on the sidewalk, but when kayaking, it’s a whole different scenario because you might collide head-on with a submerged rock. In fact, water sports helmets are certified to completely different and non-overlapping safety standards compared to skateboard helmets.
7. Can I Use a Skate Helmet for Skiing?
A ski helmet is constructed differently than a skateboard helmet. Some skiers have reported denting their helmets at places that sit lower than the lowest point on the back of a skate helmet. Aside from that, skate helmets lack ear pads and have air vents, which makes them uncomfortable to use when it’s freezing cold outdoors. That said, Bern, a helmet company, sells liner inserts with ear pads, making it possible to convert a skate helmet into a winter helmet when needed.
While some skiers wear a skate helmet, many don’t, so it’s best to get a proper ski helmet if you’re new to skiing and stay away from less protective helmets.
8. Can I use a Skateboard Helmet for Snowboarding?
Some snowboarders wanting to get into skateboarding remove the earmuffs from their snowboard helmet and use the lid for riding a skateboard, but is this a good idea? Snowboarding helmets look similar to skateboard helmets, but they’re different in that the former works great for snowing conditions since it’s a vent-free design with earmuffs and a liner designed to keep your head warm in cold weather.
If you’re OK with being extremely cold around the ears while snowboarding, you can wear a skate helmet. But it’s best to use a dedicated snowboard helmet for this winter sport.