Too many starting skaters keep asking what the best inline skates are instead of asking more specific questions. Here’s a more focused question to ask: What is the best inline skate for beginners? Or, What’s the best inline skate for slalom skating, or for aggressive inline skating, or for speed skating, or for inline figure skating?
Because there are so many different types of inline skates. Each type of rollerblade is designed to help you skate in a certain style. But which is the right skate for your skating style?
In this post, I describe 11 different types of skates for indoor and outdoor rollerblading and what each skate does best to help you decide easier.
A List of 11 Different Types of Inline Skates
- Urban inline skates
- Aggressive inline skates
- Recreational inline skates
- Fitness inline skates
- Speed inline skates
- Rough-road inline skates
- Forest trail inline skates
- Outdoor inline skates
- Inline hockey skates
- Slalom inline skates
- Inline figure skates
Let’s now dive in and see what each skate type and style is like.
1. Urban Inline Skates/Freestyle Skates
Do you know why it’s called freestyle or freeride inline skating? It’s because it’s pretty much a free skating style (duh), free of obstacles.
I bet you’ve seen some guy or girl rolling around deserted city streets, jumping over low walls, or riding down stairs out front of empty city buildings. What those folks are doing is urban skating or freestyle inline skating.
For the most part, there are no obstacles to tackle. And while you can jump around a bit and do tricks, the focus is on just cruising around and enjoying yourself.
Think of the freeride inline skate as a jack of all trades and a master of none. This skate features a shorter frame and 80mm-ish wheels with a round profile for increased maneuverability. You want to be able to dodge people and cars and everything else in between.
Most people think that urban/freestyle inline skates don’t have brakes. Well, that’s not always true. Actually, most urban skates come with brakes in the package, but most city skaters for some reason choose not to attach the brakes.
Because who wants to look like an absolute beginner in an urban environment where everybody is trying to look cool? Nobody — that’s who.
Urban/Freestyle Are a Hybrid Between Recreational and Aggressive Skates
Urban skates sit somewhere between aggressive inline skates and freestyle skates, and they’re a pretty recent arrival on the inline blading scene.
Inline skate manufacturers these days are making a kind of a compromise aggressive skate that skates obstacle-packed parks while also letting you venture out beyond the park. So, this skate lets you play in skate parks as well as have fun conquering found ledges, rails, curbs, and stairs on the streets.
It comes with larger wheels compared to aggressive skates, usually 80mm-100mm wheels. But the boot has the usual grinding groove found on traditional aggressive inline skates. Think of it as a modified aggressive skate.
3. Aggressive Inline Skates
Have you seen those daring guys and girls who keep gliding and skating danger-packed ledges, quarter pipes, and rails at the park? I’m talking of the kind who keep landing tricks and jumps that seems to have taken forever to master yet they do it almost effortlessly? Those are aggressive inline skaters.
They’re called aggressive skates because what else would you call all the treacherous grinds and drops and jumps they keep doing? If you’ve ever tried doing quarter pipe, you know how challenging and terrifying it gets.
Aggressive inline skates aren’t like other skates. The boots of these skates are made from super-sturdy and abrasion-resistant plastic. And the soles have a flat hard plate designed to take abuse during demanding grinds. No other type of rollerblade takes and outlasts as much abuse as an aggressive skate.
Usually, these skates use small aggressive inline skate wheels with a square-shaped profile. Some who skate aggro may favor bullet-profile wheels, but things can quickly literally spin out of control in case you miss the edge when landing a jump or trick.
3 Types of Aggressive Inline Skates
- Soft-shell aggressive inline skates
- Hard-shell aggressive inline skates
- Skeletal-shell aggressive inline skates
Here are brief descriptions of these skates
1. Soft-shell Aggressive Inline Skates (Comfortable and Versatile)
This kind features a soft outer shell paired up with a hard-plated sole, and it’s designed to give you lots of control, support, and flexibility.
You get to feel your skate more keenly and to connect with it. But while you can do moderate jumps with this type, stay away from scary stair-sets and big jumps.
Like all other aggressive skates, this one uses anti-rocker wheels. That means the two middle wheels are smaller than the two wheels at the end of the frame, one at the front and the other at the back.
The small wheels are 35mm-45mm in diameter compared to the bigger skate end wheels with a diameter of 54mm-64mm. Some skaters use larger wheels, as large as 80mm wheels on their aggressive skates. But wheels that tall can exceedingly diminish stability.
What Do the Small Middle Wheels Do?
By the way, what are the two small wheels in the middle of an aggressive inline skate for? These wheels are usually very hard (80A-90A), and they expand the skate’s tricks and grinding area. The small, hard wheels also come in handy in terms of guiding your grinds.
These small wheels naturally don’t come into contact with the skating surface. And because they’re super-hard, they don’t catch on rails and whatnot.
And, you never want to have larger wheels on either side of the rail-grinding groove as these would get in the way, causing you to crash.
This skate’s boot looks like the kind of boot you’d expect to see on a beginner rollerblade. And this skate is more comfortable than its siblings. But it’s the least stiff and therefore the least supportive of all three inline skate types.
2. Hard-shell aggressive inline skates (Super-supportive)
This is the opposite of the soft-shell aggressive inline skate — it features a very hard shell that houses and sturdily supports a removable liner.
This is the most protective and supportive of the three siblings. It’s the quintessential aggressive inline skate, one that lives to take heavy, constant abuse.
Most affordable and beginner aggressive skates feature this boot style. But some top-end aggro skates come with this boot construction.
Like its soft boot counterpart, the hard-shell aggressive rollerblade uses 4 wheels. And the middle two wheels are smaller than the rest.
3. Skeletal-shell aggressive inline skates
This skate brings together the support, flex, and a bit of the comfort of the soft-shelled aggressive skate and the protective capabilities of the hard-shelled skate. The skeletal-shell skate is what to obtain when you want to enjoy the best of both worlds to speak.
The skate is the newest invention as far as aggressive inline skate styles. This construction strives to lower the overall weight of the skate while providing adequate hard-shell support and soft-boot maneuverability.
Most of these skates come with a foot wrap as opposed to a removable liner or a soft boot. If you look at a skater playing in this skate, it looks like they’re wearing some sneaker inside a tough outer shell.
Actually, certain styles of the skeletal-shell type skate allow you to use your own shoe. Take a look at the image below to understand what I mean.
One difference between the skeletal-shell skate and its siblings is that this one typically comes with two wheels instead of four. The groove is there, but there are no small wheels on either side of the grinding area.
3. Recreation Inline Skates (Focus on Comfort and Fun)
What are recreational inline skates? These are what most people are talking about when they’re talking about inline skates. That’s because recreational rollerblades are the most common skates on the market today.
These skates are what you want to buy if you’re a starting skater and can’t seem to decide what to choose from a sea of skates. All of which claim to be good and affordable.
They’re pretty basic inline skates for doing pretty basic inline skating. These are what you need when the urge to leave the house and roll around your neighborhood with your dog. Or when you want to have a little fun on some local bike path. Or for learning beginner inline skating tricks on your garage floor.
Recreation skates usually come with stopping brakes for safety. They’re all about comfort and moderate support to the skater, which is why they’re a softboot style inline skate.
The boot flexes considerably, and the mesh and textile on the sotboot breathe well for even more comfort. Having mesh and textile on the softboot as well as relatively small wheels (usually 80mm wheels) also makes them considerably light.
The back of the boot features a hard plastic cuff built into the skate mainly to provide ankle support. But advanced inline skaters may not find recreational skates supportive enough.
These skates come with basic closure systems such as traditional laces combined with a power strap around the ankle and buckle at the top. Others may use a double-buckle closure. Other kinds of closure found on these skates are speed laces, but it’s rare to see a BOA closure system on these boots.
4. Fitness Inline Skates (Help You Get in Shape)
As a beginner, I didn’t know that there was any difference between recreational skates and fitness inline skates. Most of the reviews I read seemed to mix things up, presenting them as one and the same product.
I almost bought a monstrous-fast fitness skate thinking I was ordering a beginner-friendly pair of rec skates. How wrong I was! Luckily, my husband guided me away from it and I ended up buying the Rollerblade Women’s Recreational Inline Skate which I still have.
So, what are fitness inline skates? Fitness inline skates derived their descriptive name from the fact that they were invented to help ice hockey players train for fitness. Today, fitness inline skates are used by everyone else for the same reason, that is, fitness. Fitness inline skates are similar to recreational inline skates in many respects.
These two skate types offer pretty much similar features. But you can generally expect better-quality components on fitness skates because they’re more performance-focused than rec skates. Expect better stock wheels (stock wheels, huh?), bearings, liner, and boot material. In most cases, fitness skates are even more comfortable than recreational ones
Recreation vs. Fitness Inline Skates
Looking at a recreational inline skate placed beside a fitness inline skate can have you thinking you’re looking at identical skates. But there are differences between recreational skates and fitness skates.
First off, fitness skates tend to be pricier than rec skates, because more performance and endurance are demanded of them. Also, fitness skates have larger wheels with a more rounded or elliptical lip profile/shape for speed.
In addition, fitness skates are taller than their recreational counterparts, and they offer more cuff support. Even though both skate types typically have brakes, fitness skates are a high-performance skate that rolls remarkably faster for longer distances.
If the main reason you’re getting into rollerblading is to chisel away flabby muscles and trim that body to something adorable, definitely buy fitness inline skates. Well, they’re not exactly meant for beginners, but you can certainly upgrade to them after you’ve mastered the basics of inline skating.
Think of fitness inline skates as or advanced recreational inline skates that help greatly in the weight loss department.
5. Speed Inline Skates (Racing Skates for Performance and Speed)
What are speed inline skates? Speed inline skates are a type of inline skate that’s optimized for race-level performance and speed. They’re like turbo-charged fitness inline skates with extremely big wheels, and the boot has a really low cuff height for maximum power transfer. Speed skates have the lightest weight of any type of inline skate. Having tall, slim wheels, a thin-ish low-cut softboot with a carbon fiber-reinforced cuff, and ultra-light carbon/aluminum frames make these skates extremely light and fast.
Recreational and fitness skates typically have aluminum frames and sometimes plastic frames, but speed skates usually come with very lightweight carbon fiber frames/aluminum frames.
Since speed skates manically focus on speed and performance, the frame is really long. And the front wheel and heel wheels always stick out beyond the end of the frame. The boot looks like a regular shoe, and it’s a soft boot with a really tight fit. This boot cares less about comfort and more about speed and ankle articulation.
Speed Skate Frames, Wheels, and Bearings
But while the frame is always the longest it can possibly be, it’s designed to have a relatively low center of gravity. And the result is that you now have a stake that offers a considerable amount of stability while not sacrificing much speed or performance. But because the frame is quite long, turns can feel really hard on speed skates.
For that reason, speed skates aren’t the kind of rollerblade you want for cruising around high-traffic city streets. The extremely good speed usually comes at the expense of maneuverability. It’s relatively harder to stop fast on these skates. Also, bobbing and weaving in and out of automobiles and people can be extremely challenging on these skates.
The wheels stand tall, usually measuring between 90mm and 125mm in diameter. As for wheel shape, speed skating wheels have the so-called bullet profile or elliptical lip profile. Usually, the frame accommodates 3 x 125mm wheels or 4 x 110mm wheels, and some frames even have 5 wheels on each skate.
The 4 x 110mm wheel configuration seems to be the most common setup, though. With wheels that big, you have long-distance inline skates that take you where no other skate ever goes.
This wheel profile focuses on reducing roll resistance and refining the wheel’s edging capabilities, but stability suffers a little bit. Throw in very high-quality bearings that rate really high on the ABEC scale or ILQ scale, and you get high-precision bearings and wheels that roll like a demon flying from hell. Oh, and remember speed skates, unlike regular inline skates, have no brakes.
Typically, the bearings you get on these wheels are ABEC 7/ILQ 7 or higher. And they’re often ceramic bearings, titanium bearings, or Swiss bearings. Of course, quality goes hand in hand with price, and the best-performing and fastest skate bearings are always the priciest you can find.
Lest I forget, speed skates normally use open bearings/serviceable bearings. Not only do open bearings experience less roll resistance, they’re also easier to maintain. Related: How to Maintain Inline Skate Bearings
6. Rough-rough/Off-road Inline Skates
What if the roads where you’re at are pretty crappy but you still want to go -out and see the outdoors every once in a while? No worries, all you need to do is find the best bad-road inline skates in your budget’s range. Good rough-surface rollerblades are like speed skates in many respects, but there are a few differences.
Like speed skates, off-road skates have extremely large wheels, but the wheels are rather soft (think 80A-80A durometer wheels), much softer than speed skate wheels. And while the wheels may have the same bullet profile, speed skate wheels roll a little faster because they are harder. And everything else being equal, harder wheels are faster than softer wheels because they experience less roll resistance.
Softer wheels offer very smooth rides when you’re skating on rough, bumpy surfaces. But there’s a downside to softer wheels — they’re not as durable as harder wheels. Rough asphalt and Barcelona pavement tiles chew up soft wheels pretty quickly.
Both Have High-Quality, Low-resistance Bearings
The bearings need to have a high rating on the ABEC scale or ILQ rating scale for speed optimization. Also, in both skates, the bearings usually have removable protective shields that make them have less roll resistance while staying fully serviceable and durable.
As for the boot, rough-road boots typically have properly fitting hard-boots that provide tons of ankle support, maximizing power transfer. But the boot isn’t as low as in the case of speed skates. The boot on speed skates has a pretty low cuff, and that translates into massive power transfer to each stride while allowing for increased ankle mobility.
Speed Skates vs. Rough-road Skates: Frames and Wheels
And when it comes to the frame, both skates have light aluminum or carbon frames. But the frames on speed skates are typically longer than on off-road rollerblades. Since longer frames often means more speed, that’s one of the reasons speed skates are faster than regular off-road skates. But a shorter frame on bad-road inline skates also means they’re better at turns/more maneuverable.
Also, both skates have 3-4 large wheels. But rough road skates tend to be triskates, that is, they’re three-wheeled in most cases. And yes, neither of these skates is meant for beginners. They roll insanely fast, and neither have brakes. Are you ready to fly rather than rollerblade? Are you more interested in covering long distances at speed? Go for either of these skates.
Both speed skates and rough-road skates are super fast, but speed skates are faster while off-road rollerblades are more maneuverable because they have shorter frames. Both focus on speed and performance, but road-road skates are kinder when skating bad roads and bumpy surfaces. Neither of these skates are a good option as a first or beginner rollerblade because they’re very fast and less stable.
7. Forest Trail Inline Skates
What if you’d like to be able to skate on relatively rough forest trails? Well, some companies such as Powerslide have designed forest-trail inline skates that look like the regular rough-road rollerblades except the wheels are much bigger and fatter.
These are probably the best off-road skates ever made, and they even come with pneumatic tires. I’m talking about large inflatable rubber tires that scorn at all the roughness out in the wild. But as you might expect, these skating SUVs are pretty expensive.
These skates have a long wheelbase/frame, and that helps make them more stable at speed. But keep in mind that doing turns on these skates can be a little challenging. Maneuverability takes an even bigger dip when it comes to XC skates (see below).
Most forest skating SUVs have 125mm wheels. But some two-wheeled models have 150mm wheels, and these are mostly used for cross-country inline racing.
So, if you like seeing nature and connecting with it from time to time, start ponying up for one of those badass rough-trail rollerblades from Powerslide.
8. Outdoor Inline Skates
Outdoor inline skates aren’t a specific kind of skate. They’re basically any kind of skate that can be used outdoors. Outdoor hockey skates, aggressive, urban, rough-road, off-road/forest trail skates, recreational skates, fitness skates, and racing inline skates are all outdoor skates.
Related: Best Inline Skates for Outdoor Use
But in the strictest sense of the word, outdoor skates are rollerblades with relatively bigger wheels than indoor skates. And while outdoor skates generally have soft wheels, those wheels are harder than indoor skate wheels.
Most skates in this broad category have 80mm-100mm wheels, and in terms of wheel durometer, it’s in the 78A-85A.
9. Freestyle Slalom Inline Skates
Freestyle slalom inline skating entails performing all kinds of twisty and snaky turns and tricks along a straight cone-marked course. For competitive freestyle slalom skating, the cones are usually 20 in number and distanced at 31″ from each other. Other cone-distancing styles include 20″ and 47″ apart.
So, you’re moving really fast, and you’re weaving your speedy, snaky curves around these plastic cones while also performing various slalom skating tricks. Some of the tricks slalom skaters perform include fish, half lemon, lemon, snake, double-cross, criss-cross, and more.
You need skates that are designed to offer the crazy amount of ankle support and agility that this inline rollerblading discipline requires. The boots are for the most part hard and highly supportive so that your ankles can retain their integrity as you making those lightning-fast arcs around the cones.
Freestyle Slalom Skate Frames and Cuff
The frames are usually shorter than in most skates to make the skate more responsive. Also, slalom skate frames often have the rockered configuration to boost agility. Usually, the frames are made out of very light and stiff aluminum to improve skating precision.
In terms of rockering configuration, freestyle slalom skates almost always have a full-rocker configuration/banana rocker configuration. What’s a full-rocker configuration? A full-rocker configuration is a wheel/inline skate frame setup that always keeps 2 wheels in contact with the ground, allowing the skater to make swift turns. The downside to a full-rocker setup is that it makes balancing a bit harder.
The boot’s cuff isn’t too high that it completely kills mobility. These are mostly low-volume boots that are designed pretty tight, and they’re optimized to provide fast responses to the instructions your body and feet give them.
What Rockering Do Freestyle Slalom Skates Have?
Also, the banana rocker makes it really hard to stay in control of your skating at very high speeds. Another situation where banana-rockering a chassis is when doing power slides. One common way to set up the full rocker is to have one smaller wheel out front, two bigger wheels in the middle, and one smaller wheel at the back.
In most cases, slalom skaters have the 76mm/80mm/80mm/76mm wheel configuration. Also, this is the configuration many inline hockey players and goalies prefer. As you can see in the 76/80/80/76 below, the banana rocker configuration effectively converts a slalom skate into an ice skate.
Right Wheel Diameter for Freestyle Slalom?
As for wheel size, the diameter ranges between 76mm-80mm, but super-skilled slalom skaters can even use bigger wheels. Excellent skaters can even use 90mm wheels.
And whether the wheels are smaller or bigger, they need to be extremely maneuverable. They need to have the right profile, and the most common wheel shape for slalom skating is the bullet profile. The best slalom wheels have a very narrow contact patch that gives you extremely precise turning capabilities.
The wheels are moderately hard, usually ranging between 80A-88A in terms of durometer. Most slalom skates tend to have a durometer of 84-85A, though. They’re hard enough to give you speed but not too hard that you’ll keep slipping out when skating.
Note: Freestyle slalom skates are pretty similar to urban/street skates as far as design. Both skates feature a hardboot for good ankle support and a relatively short and light frame for added maneuverability for really tight, turny situations.
Who Makes the Best Slalom Skates?
And if you’re wondering who makes the best inline skates for slalom skating, it’s Powerslide, Rollerblade, and Seba. I think Seba skates are some of the finest slalom skates ever designed. Maybe that’s because the founder of Seba was a medal-winning slalom skater who decided freestyle slalom skates needed better-performing rollerblades.
10. Inline Hockey Skates
Of course, inline hocket skates are designed for playing inline hockey. In terms of design and construction, they’re pretty similar to ice hockey skates. Actually, the main difference between these two kinds of inline skates is that inline skates use wheels while ice hockey skates use blades. Related: Good Beginner Ice Skates
This fast-paced hockey game can either be played indoors or outdoors on a skating surface made using plasticky, interlinking tiles. Usually, indoor inline hockey rinks are floored using these smooth tiles. To play on an indoor skating surface, you need hockey skates with really soft wheels, somewhere in the 72A-76A.
If you’re a lighter indoor hockey player or a young player, definitely go with softer inline wheels and vice versa. Any inline skate wheels harder than 76A aren’t good for indoor inline hockey. Soft wheels grip smooth sports courts extremely well, which means you won’t keep slipping around. As for wheel size, the recommended diameter for indoor inline skates is 72mm to 76mm.
But playing inline hockey outside is a different beast altogether. You need bigger, harder wheels (82A-84A) for outdoor hockey played on rough asphalt or concrete. You need wheels that are able to take abuse while offering quick turning ability.
The frame in both indoor and outdoor inline hockey skates is relatively short for increased maneuverability. And the wheels feature a round-tipped profile so that you can turn fast without slipping. Related: Best Inline Skate Wheels for Asphalt
On the whole, inline hockey skates are designed to power quick movements and turns while keeping you stable. That’s why their wheels typically have high-performance bearings with a high ABEC rating/ILQ bearing rating, usually a rating of 7-9.
Player Inline Hockey vs. Goalie Hockey Skate
There are two basic types of inline hockey skates namely player hockey skate and goalie hockey skate. Now, these skates look almost the same, but player skates have larger wheels and have higher cuffs than goalie skates. That means player hockey skates are somewhat heavier and restrict movement a little more.
Goalie skates have much lower cuffs that allow lots of ankle articulation, giving the goalie tons of agility. Another feature that differentiates goalie skates from regular player skates is that the former boasts toe guards and highly protective toes.
Another difference between a goalie and player skate is that a goalie-type skate usually has a 5-wheel setup while the latter has a 4-wheel setup. With the 5-wheel configuration, the front has 3 front wheels while the fourth wheel gets removed. That wheel is taken off so that the goalie can strap their hockey leg pads, keeping them out of the way.
Also, goalie skates have a shorter tongue compared to player skates. That’s because a goal needs less protection around the tongue because they wear highly protective leg pads.
But there’s one common similarity between these two skate types. Both tend to have hi-lo chassis setups for more agility. In the hi-lo system, the frame has smaller wheels out front while the back end wheels are bigger. That’s a great way for getting a little more power transfer out of each stride.
11.Inline Figure Skates
Ice figure skaters need to train on and off the ice. Skate makers got creative and designed a kind of skate that worked more or less like an ice skate. And they called it an inline figure skate, a kind of an off-ice training figure skate.
Inline figure skating has become a thing. It’s even recognized by the International Roller Sports Federation as a type of artistic roller skating, one done using rollerblades rather than roller skates. Related: Difference between Inline Skates and Roller Skates
Thanks to the FIRS, inline figure skating freestyle competitions have now become an integral part of the championships this entity organizes.
The inline figure skate typically has 3 or 4 wheels set up in the banana rocker configuration. The wheel-set is positioned to function as an ice skate blade. The typical ice skate blade has a portion of the blade touching the ice while the rest of the blade stays up.
Inline Figure Skates vs. Regular Inline Skates
One big difference between inline figure skates and regular inline skates is that inline figure skates have their frame attached to an ice skate boot instead of a hard boot/softboot. The ice boot connects to the inline frame at the heel and at the front. Another difference is that inline figure skates have their braking system at the front, pretty much like artistic roller skates.
So, if you’ve ever wondered if it’s possible to dance on inline skates, the answer is yes you can.
Wrapping It All Up
The skating world offers at least 11 different types of inline skates, and choosing the best skate for the job isn’t always straightforward. Each rollerblade is designed to do a particular thing extremely well, and it’s best that you use each skate type for the activity it’s best suited for.
If you’re planning on buying skates that let you see your city while jumping stairs, picnic tables, low stone walls, and other objects while rolling around smoothly and safely, get street inline skates/urban skates/freestyle skates/freeride skates.
For speed and long-distance inline skating, get speed skates, and for long-distance skating on relatively rough surfaces, get off-road skates. And if you want to do is do big gaps, jumps, grinds, and tricks, get aggressive inline skates.
And if fitness and comfort are the most important decision factors for you, get a decent pair of fitness inline skates. If you’re only interested in cruising around in comfy, reasonably supportive skates or have been pondering getting into rollerblading for the first time, get recreational skates.
For indoor inline hockey, get soft indoor inline skates, and for outdoor hockey, buy outdoor roller hockey skates. And if planning on skating on relatively smooth/hard outdoor surfaces such as asphalt and concrete, get outdoor inline skates. But for the roughest forest roads and forest trails, use skates with pneumatic tires.
And ff course, you need to get freestyle slalom skates for freestyle slalom inline skating. Last but not least, if you’re more artistic and would like to dance on rink floors using blade-less ice skates, get a decent pair of inline figure skates.
One more thing. Gear up properly before strapping on whatever skate you end up choosing and hitting the trail, road, or park. Wear good inline skating protective pads and a certified helmet for inline skating.