The best roller skates for starting a cool new hobby


As we were all searching for safe activities to keep us entertained or active throughout the pandemic, roller skating emerged as an extremely popular choice. So popular, in fact, that skates were on backorder, out of stock, and generally hard to come by.

Skating is a relatively safe way to get outside and move in a fun way. Roller skating posts exploded on TikTok and Instagram, which drew new people into the existing community. And while classic roller skates were difficult to pin down during the earlier days of the pandemic, they’re now more readily available if you’re looking to join the craze — or grab a new pair after wearing down your OG pair of pandemic skates.

What is the difference between quad skates and inline skates?

There are two main categories of roller skates: quad skates and inline skates. The two types of roller skates look different and each is better for different aspects of skating.

Quad roller skates are the ones with four wheels, two on each side of your foot, and a toe stop. They’re the ones you’d typically rent at a skating rink — they’re roller derby skates, or the classic skates you probably wore as a kid. They’re great for beginners because they provide better balance, thanks to the two-by-two wheel arrangement, and more grip.

You can also use the toe stopper to help with turns and tricks. Most are made of rubber or plastic. Quad skates are also more customizable as the trucks, wheels, and toe stops are more easily replaceable. If you want to get really fun with it, you can swap out your wheels with some that light up.

Quad roller skates have a toe stopper, which means you lean your foot forward to brake or slow down your skating, a comforting feature for someone brand-new to skating. Quad skates are better for tricks, dancing, and roller derby.

Inline skates are commonly called rollerblades and they look more like hockey skates. While these skates also have four wheels, the wheels are all lined up in a row. These skates are easier for people who also ice skate because the wheel configuration is similar to the ice skate blade. They resemble the feeling of being on ice skates, but ya know, on solid ground.

Inline skates are better for speed and nimble maneuvering because of the straight-line wheel configuration. If you want to skate fast or go long distances, inline skates are the better option. And just because they are a little tougher to balance on if you’re standing still, don’t be put off by rollerblades if you’re a beginner. They’re honestly pretty easy to get the hang of.

Inline skates have a backstop instead of a toe stop — usually only on the right skate — so you have to lift your toes up and put weight in your heel to slow down or stop. This makes it a bit harder to stop on rollerblades than quad skates. While you can’t swap out many parts of inline skates, you can replace the wheels if they wear down or you want something more flashy.

No matter which kind of skates you buy, make sure to wear protective gear like knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, and a helmet.

What kind of wheels do I need for indoor vs. outdoor skating?

Depending on whether you want to skate inside or outside, you’ll want to pay attention to the durometer — or hardness — of your skates’ wheels. The average durometer ratings for skate wheels range between 72A and 102A. The lower the number, the softer the roller skate wheel is.

If you’re buying outdoor roller skates, you’re going to want softer wheels with a lower durometer because they’ll be grippier, allowing you to have more control as you skate on uneven ground outside. They’ll also absorb more shock. For example, urethane wheels make good choices for outdoors since they’re built to last and have a good grip

But if the surface is smooth – like indoors at a roller rink – harder wheels with a higher durometer will allow you to go faster.

Anything around 78A to 82A will be suitable for both indoor and outdoor use in case you’re not sure where you’re going to be skating.

Can you use outdoor roller skates at an indoor skating rink?

It depends on the rink — some have different policies and rules. That’s why it’s best, if you do use your skates outside and at an indoor rink, to check to make sure they allow outdoor skates. Some rinks do not because your softer wheels might contain debris that could scratch up their flooring.

Is roller skate sizing the same as shoe sizing?

Generally, you’ll probably be safe opting for your regular shoe size when buying a pair of roller skates. If you’re in between sizes, sizing down might be your best bet, but be sure to check sizing charts for specific pairs of roller skates because not all are true to size.

Whether you opt for quad roller skates or inline skates, you want them to have a tight fit because if they’re too loose, you could be left vulnerable to a rolled ankle. If your roller skates are loose, wear multiple pairs of thick socks to fill them out. Regardless of how they fit, we recommend wearing taller socks to avoid any uncomfortable rubbing on your ankles if you have roller skates with a high-top boot, at least as you break the skates in.

While some roller skates might only display either women’s or men’s sizing, just check a size conversion chart to see if there’s a pair that will actually fit your feet.

What to consider when choosing roller skates

When picking out roller skates, there are a few things you want to consider:

Wheels: you’ll want to pay attention to wheels, as noted above, because some wheels are better for roller rinks than others, while others are better for outdoor skating. Wheel size is also a factor because smaller wheels have more agility, while larger wheels are better for longer distances, making them good for outdoor skating.

Plates: Plates are what the boot of your roller skate attaches to. They can be made of lighter material, like nylon, or more durable material, like metal. Metal tends to be heavier, though, which might make it not as good of a choice for beginners.

Toe tops: These can be adjustable or non-adjustable. The advantage of adjustable ones is that they allow you to set them how you want if you’re working on different skills, like dance.

Boot height: High cuff books offer more ankle support, which makes them ideal if you’re worried about spraining your ankle or want extra ankle stability. However, lower-cut boots are better choices for people who want to dance or do tricks.

Material: Vinyl is a popular material for rollerblades, but it might wear out faster or be stiffer than leather or suede.

Fit: You want to make sure your boot fits securely on your foot because if there’s too much room, it increases the chances that you could hurt yourself or roll your ankle.