Differences Between Rollerskating and Rollerblading

Rollerskates vs. Rollerblades, what’s the difference? Quite a few performance and design aspects distinguish rollerskates from rollerblades. In this post, I describe the differences between roller skating and rollerblading. I also explain the differences between roller skates and rollerblades.

By the way, roller skates are also known as quad skates while rollerblades are also known as inline skates.  And below’s a summary of the differences between rollerblades and roller skates.

Also Read: Best Roller Skates for All Styles and Budgets

Compared to roller skates, rollerblades have taller, more supportive boots. The wheels on rollerblades stay in line (one behind the other) while the wheels on roller skates have a 2 x 2 arrangement, 2 wheels at the front, and 2 wheels at the rear. Also, rollerblades have taller, thinner wheels. Both skates are relatively easy to learn on, but beginner skaters might find roller skates somewhat more stable initially due to them having wider wheels. Instead of having a frame that runs back to front, roller skates have two trucks positioned horizontally to each other. Finally, roller skates have ONLY 4 wheels on each skate while rollerblades can have anywhere between 2 and 6 on each skate. And the wheels on rollerblades tend to extend beyond the boot while that’s not the case for roller skates.

Learn more about the differences between inline skates and roller skates a little further down the page.

What Is a Roller Skate?

A rollerskate is basically a boot mounted on two skateboard-like trucks that support a set of four wheels. These skates look like typical shoes or everyday lifestyle boots. Think of roller skates as a kind of wheeled regular shoe.

These boots have smooth wheels that roll under trucks that work pretty much like skateboard trucks. But what came first, skateboards or roller skates?

Roller skates emerged on the outdoor scene years before the first skateboards did. In fact, skateboard technology borrowed one critical fundamental idea from roller skates — the trucks. The earliest skateboards ever put together relied on trucks obtained from old, broken roller skates.

On a quad skate, the wheels are arranged in a rectangular configuration with two wheels on the front and two wheels on the back. That is, roller skates have a 2 x 2 wheel placement.

What Is a Rollerblade?

A rollerblade is also, technically, a rollerskate. Also known as an inline skate, a rollerblade is a type of skate consisting of a boot with lots of ankle support. An inline skate boot sits on a frame onto which multiple wheels attach.

But the wheels aren’t positioned the way they’re on a roller skate. On a rollerblade, the wheels (typically 4 wheels on beginner skates and 3 wheels on pro-level skates) stay in a straight line under a frame made from aluminum or tough plastic. The wheels in this arrangement line up one after the another, like 1,2,3…

Rollerblades feature 2-6 wheels on each skate. But the vast majority of inline skates on the market today are like roller skates in the sense that they have 4 wheels on each skate. Three-wheeled rollerblades are referred to as triskates.

How’s a Rollerskate Different Than a Rollerblade?

There’s a few differences exist between a rollerblade and a roller skate. And because I can’t list out all the differences in a single paragraph, I’ll cover each difference in a separate subsection. So, let’s roll.

1. Wheel Arrangement, Number, and Attachment

Number of wheels: A rollerskate always comes with 4 wheels as opposed to 2, 3,4, 5, or even 6 wheels on a rollerblade. But the number of wheels on each skate type isn’t the only noticeable difference.

Wheel arrangement: The wheels on a roller skate are organized into a sort of rectangular shape. In contrast, the wheels on an inline skate stand one beside the other, forming a straight line under the frame.

How the wheels attach to the boot: Rollerskates have two skateboard-like trucks, each of which mounts two wheels. On rollerblades, the wheels don’t attach to trucks. Instead, the wheels mount through axles onto a metal or plastic frame that runs parallel to the boot. Each roller skate boasts 2 trucks while each inline skate has one frame.

Look at the pictures below to learn how the wheels on quad skates are aligned vs. how the wheels are arranged on rollerblades.

a pair of inline skates
This is how an inline skate looks like

quadskates or rollerskates
This is what rollerskates/quad skates look like

2. Boot Type and Flexibility

The boot on most roller skates looks like the upper of a regular shoe, but on some skates, it looks like a typical boot. While this boot provides some support to the ankle it’s not as stiff and supportive as a rollerblade boot. The boot on rollerblades is taller, stiffer, and more supportive compared to a roller skate boot.

How soft or stiff a boot on a roller skate or rollerblade feels depends on the purpose of the skate and the material used. Beginner boots on beginner rollerblades tend to be softer and not as supportive and stiff as a freestyle/freeride skate boot.

You need tons of support when rolling over stubborn gravel or pebbles and when jumping over obstacles on the roadway or sidewalk. That’s why freestyle skates have a hard-shell boot that provides lots of foot and ankle support. This support also comes in handy when you’re performing complex rollerblading tricks/stunts.

Generally, beginner boots offer more comfort and less support while pro-level boots on both skates tend to prioritize performance while sacrificing a certain amount of comfort. Speed roller skates and speed inline skates provide tons of stiff support to the ankles, but they don’t offer an awful lot of comfort.

If you’re a beginner, get boots with lots of thick padding inside the boot. That’s what increased comfort looks like. But if you’ve been skating for a while, it’s time to ditch the soft boot for a hard boot and really start pushing your limits.

Roller skate boot stiffness tip: If you’re looking to do artistic roller skating, get a boot with a stiff, high-top boot. With a boot like this, your ankles won’t roll at the joints when you’re doing jumps. And if you have ankles that aren’t very strong, a decent amount of stiffness helps.

If you’re wanting to join a roller derby team, get skates with a low-cut boot. Such a boot gives your ankles less support but more flexibility and ankle mobility for “pumping.” But if you’re looking to do park skating and jam skating, get boots

3. Speed: What Skate Travels Faster?

Rollerblades have larger wheels than rollerskates, that’s why they’re remarkably faster. And because they go faster and you get to travel longer distances, you end up exercising more compared to roller skates.

Also Read: How Fast Can One Go on Rollerblades?

If burning excess body fat through long-distance skating s what you’re skating is about, definitely get inline skates. Well, roller skates can also be pretty fast. But quad skate wheels are significantly smaller than inline skate wheels, so they’re just not as fast.

Outdoor roller skate wheels have a diameter of 65mm-70mm vs 80mm-100mm for outdoor rollerblade wheels. Indoor roller skates won’t do much for you if you bring them outside for long-distance skates.

4. Inlines Are Mostly Used Outdoors vs. Mostly Indoors for Quad Skates

Typically, people get into quads for indoor skating, like on a roller rink floor. Have you ever watched folks roller dancing around an arena on wheels? If you’d cared to look, you’d have noticed they wore roller skates rather than inline skates. But I’m not saying you can’t dance on rollerblades. You can actually dance and spin on rollerblades.

Another place you get to see roller skates is in a roller rink when players are doing a roller derby scrimmage. Quad skates are also used for playing roller hockey, also known as quad skate roller hockey.

When roller skating outdoors, stick to 65m-70mm wheels. Use any wheels smaller than that, and you’ll trip over cracks and pebbles the whole time.

In contrast, most people use inline skates mostly for outdoor skating. Indoor use still happens like in rinks during rink hockey/inline skate roller hockey. But interest in rink hockey has been waning since 2013.

Before 2020, inline skating was mostly a teenage girl’s pastime. But some ice skaters have always turned to inline skating when the winter ice skating season ends. In fact, rollerblading works pretty much the same way as ice skating as far as technique and skating form. But everything changed in 2020, and everyone everywhere these days seems to be rollerblading.

5. Stability and Maneuverability

Roller skates have wider wheels compared to rollerblades. The average width of roller skate wheels is 30-42mm versus a standard width of just 24mm for rollerblade wheels. Consequently, roller skates are somewhat more stable than rollerblades, at least for beginner skaters initially.

If you’ve never skated before, you’d probably find it easier to stand and balance on roller skates than on inline skates. Also, quads feel more stable when you’re skating slowly on a smooth surface such as on high-quality asphalt and smooth sidewalks.

But take care as roller skates are always trying to roll backward or forward without warning. You might end up taking a sudden fall, which can’t be much fun.

Also, roller skates aren’t as great as inline skates when it comes to rolling over obstacles such as small rocks. You’re more likely to smash your head on the pavement when you trip on a pebble with quad skates than while blading.

Roller Skates Are Nimbler Than Rollerblades

Roller skates sit on trucks, and these trucks have urethane bushings, which is why they’re noticeably more agile than rollerblades. You lean to one side and turn your skates similar to how you turn on a skateboard.

You get more maneuverability out of a rollerskate than you get from an inline skate. Also, making sharp turns feels much easier with quads than with rollerblades. That’s why quad skates are the better choice for roller dancing.

However, some rollerblades such as freeride/freestyle and slalom inline skates can be extremely nimble and easy to maneuver, and they navigate twists and turns beautifully.

On inline skates, the frame flexes less than the trucks on quad skates. For this reason, rollerblades can be harder to maneuver in general.

6. The Braking System and Ease of Stopping

Ah, stopping. You need to stop at some point, even when you’ve been flying around at speed. Stopping on roller skates seems a little easier than on inline skates. Roller skates have their braking system situated on the front, and the brake looks like a knob. To stop on a rollerskate, drag your toe a certain way and that’s it. Here’s how to stop when roller skating.

In contrast, the braking system on an inline skate is on the back. Usually, beginner rollerblades come with a rubber heel brake. But you won’t see brakes on speed skates and most urban inline skates.

Stopping on inline skates isn’t the hardest thing in the world, but there’s a bit of a learning curve. And if the skate has an awkward heel brake placement, you’ll struggle to come to a smooth stop. However, once you master blading and can travel insanely fast while still retaining tons of control, you can even remove the brake. Learn how to come to a stop on rollerblades.

7. Recognition As a Sport At the Olympics

While Roller Derby isn’t an Olympics sport yet, inline skating (specifically speed skating) gained this all-important status in 2018. Roller Derby is mostly a US-based roller skating sport, which is partly why it’s yet to earn a spot at the Olympics. But this doesn’t make it less of a fun activity, right?

What’s Easier Rollerskating vs. Rollerblading?

Kids and adult beginners often find roller skates somewhat easier to balance and learn on compared to inline skates initially. This is because roller skate wheels have a greater surface area in contact with the ground while rollerblade wheels are taller (less stable) and thinner (faster). Not only are roller skates somewhat more stable than rollerblades, but they’re slower, two aspects that beginner skaters might find super attractive.

However, it’s easy to roll backward unexpectedly on quad skates and land on your bottom. Or roll forward suddenly and hurt your face. Rollerblades don’t do this, and while they might feel a tad more unstable at first, the stride is more efficient, and the glide down the sidewalk feels sure and stable.

In the end, both skating disciplines are pretty easy to learn and finally master. Most people can learn to rollerskate or rollerblade forward in one hour tops. And if you’re adamant enough, you might learn skating backward on either skate type in about 3-4 hours. 

Rollerblades Are Heavier and their Frames Flex Less

Rollerblades are heavier and have wheels arranged centrally under a frame rather than side-by-side. And the frame doesn’t flex that much. At least, the frame doesn’t flex much on anything that’s not a beginner skate.

The extra weight of rollerblades becomes part of the overall workout. Also, turning and stopping feels a little more difficult. All these reasons combined can make skating on rollerblades feel harder than skating on quads.

So, stop wondering, “Should I get rollerblades or rollerskates?” You can start with either skate type. The degree of your commitment makes a huge difference as to how soon you’ll perfect skating on either type.

If you’re an outdoorsy soul and have been wanting to start skating, I suggest that you get one of these rollerblades for beginners.  What if you’d rather jam or dance indoors? Buy rollerskates instead. And if you’re looking to do 3-hour skates, definitely get rollerblades with tall, soft wheels.

Have wide feet and have been wondering if there’s a pair of rollerskates that’s wide enough for your boaty feet? Here’s a post that might point you in the right direction: Best rollerskates for wide feet.

And if you’re a girl or adult but can’t decide what the best inline skates for women are, follow this link. What if you’ve been meaning to gift your little lovely tyke a good pair of kids’ skates? Check out these decent rollerblades for kids.

Do You Lose More Weight Rollerblading or Rollerskating?

Yes, you can lose weight roller skating or rollerblading. But how many calories can you lose rollerblading? And how many calories can you burn roller skating? Science has an answer to that question.

Studies find that rollerskating for 60 minutes per session can help a person who weighs 143 lbs burn 330 calories. And if that person puts in a little more effort and rollerskates at 10 mph for 60 minutes, they could lose up to 600 calories.

Rollerskating is a great path to better living because it amounts to a complete aerobic workout. Every muscle of the body gets busy as you roll down sidewalks and roadways. That’s why the American Heart Association recommends rollerskating as a good aerobic fitness sport.

And according to Harvard Health, rollerblading burns almost as many calories as running. It’s a great way to build your core strength. If a 125-pound person rolls around for half an hour, they’ll burn about 210 calories vs. 240 calories they’d burn running 12-minute miles for 30 minutes.

Rollerblading vs. Rollerskating: Conclusion

Both rollerskating and rollerblading are fun-filled activities. But while they’re similar in some ways, there are a few differences.

Roller skates have 4 wheels arranged side-by-side and mounted onto skateboard-like trucks. While inline skates have 2-6 wheels arranged in-line and mounted onto a plastic or metal frame.

Mostly, rollerskates are indoor skates while inline skates are mostly for outdoor skating. If you’d like to check out a few good outdoor rollerblades, read this post: Best Rollerblades for Outdoors.

Learning on roller skates can feel easier for a beginner because the wheels are wider. But while inline skates may not feel super-stable initially, blading begins to feel easier and more exciting as you improve.

Remember to wear adequate protection whether skating on rollerblades or roller skates. But do you need a helmet rollerskating? Yes, you do, so wear a certified rollerskate helmet. Here’s how to measure your head for a helmet if you’ve not learned how to do that yet.

And don’t forget to put on decent knee pads for rollerskating alongside good elbow pads and wrist guards. Whichever skate you end up choosing, practice, practice, practice. And have fun.