A Brief Overview of Inline Skates
You, or even people you know, may think that inline skating is simply strapping on a pair of skates and taking off. While this vague description is true, inline skating is in much more than that. Inline skates are offered in a number of different types, each with its own purpose. Among the different types of skates that you will come across are: recreational, fitness, roller hockey, and aggressive. For your convenience, here is a photo that points out the universal skate characteristics:
While the photo above may be of a recreational skate, the boot, wheels, and frame are essential traits of any skate, regardless of its type. The brake pictured on this skate is optional, meaning that it can be removed if desired. Brakes are typically only found on recreational and fitness skates. It is uncommon to find a brake on a roller hockey or aggressive skate. You may already know the skate type that is correct for you, but if you do not, the first question you must ask yourself to determine the skate type that is best for you is: What kind of inline skating will I be doing most? To help you answer this question, review the following sections that describe each of the inline skate types. Once you have done so, you should be able to determine the most appropriate skate type for you.
Recreational Inline Skates
The most popular type of inline skate is the recreational inline skate. Designed for anyone looking to simply go out and enjoy all that inline skating offers. This description itself is the closest you will get to the previously described, "strap on skates and take off." Recreational skates can be used for a quick skate around the neighborhood, a stroll down the local bike trail, or basic fitness. Unless you are in need of a specific skate type, a recreational skate is going to be the most likely selection for you. Recreational skates are offered in a variety of models, from a number of manufacturers, and for all level skaters. Skate materials, closure systems, and features will vary from skate to skate. Recreational skates will typically have a soft boot construction. This type of boot is constructed of reinforced mesh and cloth with hard plastic cuffs in the back for support. Soft boot construction allows for a more comfortable skate that is also lighter and more breathable. Back in the day, inline skates were constructed of uncomfortable, hard plastic shells. Over the years, this construction was abandoned in favor of the previously described soft boot style. Recreational skates will also feature a number of different closure systems. Standard lacing, ratchet buckles, and power assisted (quick lace) systems are some of the options you will see on recreational skates.
Fitness Inline Skates
Modern inline skates were originally designed for fitness training for ice hockey players, by ice hockey players. Today, fitness skates are designed specifically for those individuals who seek to utilize their skates for getting in shape, or skating very frequently. In a nutshell, fitness skates are high performance recreational skates. Their design is similar in practically every aspect, with the exception being that it is geared towards individuals who skate longer distances. Variances between recreational and fitness skates exist in the bearings, wheel size, and overall weight. Fitness skates will typically have faster bearings and larger wheels to generate speed for lengthy skates. Additionally, skate weight is lower for this same reason. Fitness skate boots will likely be more comfortable due to liner construction, as well as circulate air better via ventilation differences. Fitness skates offer numerous advantages when it comes to exercise, most notably, it is not boring! Skating is a fast-paced, exciting activity that offers a lot more than your treadmill or yoga ball will. Furthermore, fitness skating is a low impact activity that will generate little wear-and-tear on your joints and bones. Also, fitness skating can burn as many calories as running. The list of benefits is long, but the bottom line is that inline skating is a great fitness activity. If you plan on using your skates to get in shape via long, fast skating adventures, then fitness skates are likely the best option for you.
Roller Hockey Inline Skates
At the risk of pointing out the obvious, Roller Hockey skates are designed for…wait for it…hockey. Roller Hockey is one of the fastest growing sports for people of all ages and as a result, roller hockey skates have become immensely popular. This however isn't a huge surprise when you factor in that the popularity of inline skates is attributed to two hockey players. Their desire to train for ice hockey when ice was not readily available has evolved into a sport for all ages and genders a global level. Roller hockey is a fast paced, high energy game that requires less equipment with more action than ice hockey! Most local indoor roller rinks offer roller hockey leagues for every one. The design of roller hockey skates is very similar to ice hockey skates. Boots are made with reinforced leather and stitching, with some using additional material such as carbon fiber or plastic to enhance the boot. The fit and feel is also similar to an ice hockey skate, so the transition for ice hockey players is practically seamless. Most roller hockey frames are made of airplane grade aluminum that provides increased durability and a lower weight.
One unique feature that is found on roller hockey skates exists in the wheel setup. This unique setup is commonly referred to as a "High-Lo" setup and requires the back two wheels to use a larger diameter wheel than the front two. The purpose behind this design is to put a hockey player in the leaning forward position naturally, in-turn providing increased maneuverability and speed. Additionally, it gives the skater the acceleration of small wheels and speed of larger wheels. Roller hockey skates usually come with bearings designed for speed and acceleration, so if they are ABEC rated, they will be on the higher end of the scale. All roller hockey stakes use a standard lacing system for closure. Typically, this closure system will utilize hockey laces that are also found on ice hockey skates. This form of closure system is used to ensure a tight and comfortable fit, which is essential for roller hockey players who are routinely accelerating and turning. Keep in mind that roller hockey skates, like ice hockey skates, require a break-in period. During this break-in period roller hockey skates will be stiff and uncomfortable. Do not let this be a deterrent from using them as the more you use them, the faster they will break-in and the better they will feel. The design of roller hockey skates is to provide superior maneuverability, quick acceleration and high speed, strong ankle support, and a lightweight skate to constant skating and quick turning. If you're interested in playing roller hockey, or you are an ice hockey player interested in a way to train during the off-season, this is the skate type that you will want to select.
Racing Inline Skates
For the serious skater who is looking for competition and fitness, racing skates offer the best of both worlds. Racing skates are the fastest skates available due to the use of advanced inline skating technology. The purpose of their design is simple: Go Fast! If you're interested in a simple stroll around the neighborhood this isn't the option for you. Racing skates are very lightweight, have bearings ranked highly on the ABEC rating scale, or they are Titanium, Ceramic, or Swiss. They also utilize a maximum of five wheels chassis setup and no brake. Boots design is much like a shoe with a soft boot reinforced with carbon fiber. Additionally, the cuff is lower because a taller boot means more weight. Wheels are typically very large in diameter to give the racer more speed and better acceleration. Also, the frame of a racing is made of either carbon fiber or aluminum to further reduce the skate weight and increase skating performance. When it comes to racing skates, the bottom line is that they designed for speed and nothing else. They are very efficient, lightweight, and smooth, with the sole purpose of getting the skater from point A to point B faster than anyone else.
Urban Skates/Street Skates
In recent years, a new skate type has gained in popularity. Urban skates, also referred to as Street skates, are essentially a hybrid of Recreational and Aggressive style skates. Skates found in this category offer the look and feel of an Aggressive style skate with the functionality for longer skating ventures, like a Recreational skate. Urban skates feature a wheel and bearing setup like one you would expect to find on a recreational skate (wheels 82mm or larger), but a boot design that can withstand tricks, jumps, and whatever other type of beating you want to throw at it while you're skating down the street.
Video Tutorial: Different Types of Inline Skates