Inline skating is an effective way to get and stay in shape while having fun at the same time. Besides recreational skating outdoors, inline skaters can participate in a variety of activities including speed skating and hockey. When choosing your inline skates, take into account which type of skating you’ll be doing. Will you be skating around a nearby lake or on a boardwalk? Taking laps at the local rink? Maybe you’ll be meeting up with friends for a game of hockey or testing your speed limits. Different types of skating call for different inline skates, and Pronto’s Inline Skate Buying Guide will help you find the right wheels for your personal style of skating.
This is where to start if you’re beginning inline skating. Recreational inline skates are easy to use, fun and a great way to get in shape. Be sure the inline skates you choose have brakes, and remember that wheels can be swapped out to increase speed as your skill improves.
If you want to go fast, look for inline skates with five wheels. If you’re going stunt skating, choose aggressive inline skates with smaller wheels. Beginners should avoid speed and aggressive skates as their lack of brakes may pose a safety issue.
Inline hockey skates are made of leather, leather composites or nylon and almost always lace up for a better fit. Look for ankle straps for added stability and plan to experiment with wheel sizes to find your ideal balance of speed and control.
Larger, harder wheels are faster, while smaller, softer wheels offer more control and consistent performance on rough surfaces. Hardness is measured in durometers and larger numbers mean harder wheels. When you’re shopping for inline skates, check the range of wheel sizes the skates can accommodate to make sure you’re getting enough flexibility for changing wheels.
A separate lining and snug fit are critical in boot selection. Match your shoe size to your boot size and make sure you can lean forward for balance. Laces will make the boot fit better. Children’s inline skates should be sized to their current shoe size for proper control. Women’s inline skates are narrower, so women with wide feet may be more comfortable with men’s inline skates.
Annular Bearing Engineer Council, a professional organization that rates the tolerances of the bearings used in inline skates.
A feature on some inline skates that allows brake pads to be set at different distances from the ground. This can reduce the quick braking that occurs when worn pads are replaced with new ones that have full thickness.
A type of inline skate with smaller wheels and a lower cuff designed for trick skating.
A rubber or synthetic attachment on the back of inline skates that stops the skater when heels are tilted backwards. Brake pads wear down with use and need to be replaced periodically.
The upper section of an inline skate shell.
A unit for measuring a substance’s hardness. There are two types of scales: A and D. Inline skate wheels are measured on the A scale, which is for softer plastics. The higher the number, the harder the wheels.
Longer inline skates with a fifth wheel and larger overall wheel sizes that provide higher speeds on smooth surfaces but offer less control.
Often called recreational, cross-training or fitness skates, these are the most popular inline skates and the best choice for most inline skaters regardless of age, frequency or intensity of skating. Recreational inline skates are both comfortable and easy to maneuver, and they can be used on a wide variety of terrain. They’re also the best inline skates for beginners, as they offer more control than speed skates and safety options such as brakes, which specialized inline skates often lack. Some of these inline skates even come with a system that allows you to adjust the height of the brake pads, which helps to reduce the change in feel that new brake pads often create.
Inline skates built for speed skating are longer and have an additional fifth wheel, which makes them much faster than recreational inline skates. Choose them only if you’re experienced as they lack brakes and may pose a safety issue for novice skaters.
Skates made for aggressive skaters, or those interested in doing stunts on ramps or railings, are built for control rather than speed. They come in two categories: street and competition. These inline skates have small wheels that make them easy to control and allow for quicker turns. They also have more ankle support and a wider frame than other types of inline skates.
If playing hockey is your intention, look for lightweight, inline hockey skates. Hockey skates are usually made of leather, leather composites or nylon, and they lace up for a tighter fit. Some inline hockey skates include an ankle strap for greater support and stability. Wheel sizes vary on inline hockey skates, and it takes some experience to find the wheel size that offers the best mix of speed and control.
Inline skate wheels are made of polyurethane. Larger wheels go faster, which is something to consider if you’re a beginner and concerned about control. Smaller wheels make it easier to maneuver but reduce the speed of inline skates.
In general, recreational skates have wheels that are either 72mm or 76mm. These larger wheels are good for uneven ground, as their size delivers superior shock absorption. Higher-end inline skates have a wheel diameter of 80mm. These wheels travel faster than the 72mm and 76mm skates, so you should start with the recreational size until you’re accustomed to inline skating. When you’re shopping for inline skates, take into account the maximum wheel size that the skate can hold. Wheels are interchangeable, and you may want to swap the original wheels for larger ones as your skill progresses.
The hardness of the wheels, which is measured in durometers, is also an important factor when choosing inline skates. Higher numbers indicate harder inline skate wheels.
Soft wheels are best for beginners because they absorb shocks and provide consistent performance on a variety of terrain. Beginners should generally look for a hardness of 78a or 80a. However, if you’re a heavy beginner, you should look for inline skates with harder wheels, as soft wheels will wear down more quickly. Hard wheels are a better choice for advanced riders and those who want to go fast on smooth surfaces. These types of skaters should choose a wheel hardness of 85a. For intermediate skaters who will be skating on varied ground, 82a is the best choice.
Bearings are responsible for how smoothly the wheels spin. Some experts recommend skates with an Annular Bearing Engineer Council (ABEC) rating; the higher the rating, the greater the precision. Critics argue that this rating is unrelated to inline skates and should only be a consideration if you plan on skating professionally. The loose design of inline skates reduces the need for extremely tight bearing tolerances, but inline skates with a high rating are more efficient so you’ll reach higher speeds with less effort.
Inline skates are sized the same way as sneakers; if you’re a 9 ½ in your Nike’s, you’re a 9 ½ in your skates. You want snug when it comes to your inline skate boots. They should be tight on your foot and lower ankles, with enough freedom for you to be able to lean forward. Look for a liner that can be removed from the shell, and keep in mind that the thicker the liner is, the more cushioning your foot will have. Soft inline skate boots have recently become available. These boots can be more comfortable but they offer less control.
If you’re just starting out with inline skates, the shell should come up a few inches above your ankle for extra support. Although buckles may seem easier for securing your inline skates, laces will offer a better fit.
The boots on women’s inline skates are designed with a woman’s build in mind; the cuff is lower and the skate is narrower. If you’re a woman with a wide foot, you may prefer wider men’s skates. For kids, choose inline skates that are the right size rather than getting large skates that the child can grow into. Inline skates that are too large are difficult to control.
Keep in mind that you’ll also need additional safety equipment. A helmet is the minimum, but you should also wear knee and elbow pads as well as wrist guards. These will protect your body from the beginning stages of inline skating (which may involve a few tumbles) as well as unforeseen accidents down the road.
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