Roller skates can seem a bit complicated when you start looking over the manufacturer specifications, sales brochures, and reviews, but they don’t have to be. If you know the terms and what each component does, then choosing your next pair of skates can be a simple process. There are five basic elements that make up a pair of roller skates. Everything else is just cosmetics, design, and performance.
This article covers the basics, but has been written to help you select the roller skates that fit you best. When you are ready for more advanced terms or specifics about a component, just click any one of the article titles below, and it will take you to a more in depth explanation of that component.
If you have any questions that aren’t covered here, or you need any additional help or advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us (link to contact form / person).
Whether you are a first time skater, an old pro returning to the newer technologies available, or parents looking to surprise someone with a new pair of skates, this guide will help you get off to a good start. Don’t let the descriptions get you confused. Every pair of roller skates is just wheels that strap on your feet. The details are a bit more involved, but that’s all explained later. There is also a link to each component that explains it in more detail.
That is everything that makes a pair of roller skates. So, let’s take a look at each of these five components, and have a quick overview of what each does. This way you’ll know not only what components you’re looking at, but also what is and is not likely to be in your price range. We’re going to take this from the ground up, just like the list above, so take notes or bookmark (link) this page so you can come back to it.
Step One: Wheels
Wheels are basically about durometer (hardness) and shape (size). Hard wheels are faster and typically for indoor skating. Soft wheels are slower and usually for outdoor skating or indoor beginners. Shape basically means size. Narrow small wheels are easier to steer, and are best for beginners or skaters who make lots of fancy turns. Wider wheels are more difficult to control, but offer more surface area and are great for stability in high speed turns.
Step Two: Bearings
Wheel bearings put the roll in your skates. High performance bearings will roll longer, making them ‘feel’ faster. In scientific terms, less energy (push) is required to go farther. Additionally they last longer and offer a higher degree of safety due to their reduced chance of mechanical failure.
Step Three: Trucks
The truck on a roller skate is the ‘T’ shaped piece that bolts onto the plate. It is also the most complex part of the skate. The wheels are attached to it, and when leaning left or right, the truck twists in that direction to accommodate the turn. Single action trucks have only one cushion (shock absorber) and typically sit at a 45 degree angle. They are best for speed skating. Double action trucks are usually at a 10 degree angle, and have two cushions. They are easier to control, and are the most common type (most people skate on these).
Skate trucks are made from either aluminum or a composite of nylon and fiberglass. In most cases aluminum is more expensive, and generally lighter and stronger than nylon.
Step Four: Plates
Plates are what everything except the wheels and wheel bearings attaches to. They are basically just a piece of metal for everything to attach to. The boots go on the top, with the trucks on the bottom, and the wheels and bearings attached to the trucks. The most noticeable difference in plate designs is whether they have a stop (the big rubber brake).
Like skate trucks, plates are also made from either aluminum or nylon and fiberglass, with aluminum typically being the better material.
Step Five: Boots
Boot is essentially the ‘shoe’. It is the part that actually goes on your feet. The material of the boot will be leather or synthetic (vinyl). Leather is more comfortable and durable, while vinyl will cost less. Tall boots will generally be for more traditional or artistic skating styles, while low boots will be for speed or track skating.
In summary, there are many different roller skates to choose from. The one that is best for you will be a combination of your skill level, design preferences, and of course budget. By knowing what each piece does, you’ll be better prepared to select a combination suited to your own personal needs. Have fun, and don’t forget to