Roller Skates - Buying Advice
Welcome to our roller skates, or quad skates as they are also known, buyer's guide. If you are new to skating you should find everything you need to get started on your roller skate adventure. In our buyer’s guide, we will answer the most common questions and explain the different type of roller skates available to help you make the right decisions when buying your roller skates.
What is the Difference Between Roller Skates and Rollerblades?
The simplest answer is rollerblade wheels are arrange in a line and roller skates wheels are 2 x 2. Which is cooler will divide opinion but, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already made up your mind.
What Type of Roller Skates Do I Need?
99% of the roller skates we stock are ideal for general use, perfect for skating around your local park, going for a cruise or jam with your friends or dancing at the roller disco.
Which Roller Skates are Suitable for Outdoor Use?
Almost all the skates we sell are suitable for outdoor use as they all come with soft grippy wheels, perfect for the outside as well as indoor use too. Generally, the only skates not ideal for outdoor use are Roller derby skates as they come with harder wheels designed for speed on only smooth surfaces.
Roller Skate Compenents
Every skate needs one or you wouldn't have anywhere to put your foot. The upper boot can be made out of a whole range of materials from leather and suede to plastic or acrylic. Different materials will provide varying levels of support, comfort and durability. Inside the upper boot there is also a lining which can also vary in material and thicknesses.
The majority of roller skates use laces for closure and generally have eyelets right to the top of the boot, allowing you to adjust the tightness to suit your skating style. Some skates will also have a power strap at the top or across the ankle which provides an extra boost to lock your feet in. Finally on some plastic kids skates you will have adjustable buckles which are easy for children to use, and provide a really strong hold.
The plates are mounted to the bottom of each boot where the hangers connect. Plates are usually made from metal, like aluminium or magnesium, but can also be made from nylon. Metal plates are stronger and more durable while nylon plates are lighter and absorb a bit more shock.
This is where your wheels attach. There are two hangars attached to each plate which allow you to turn as they work with your weight and bushings to lean side to side. Hangars are typically made from metal although some skates may use plastic hangers with aluminium axles.
Bushings sit in-between your plates and hangars and are crucial to the turning process. Bushings vary in hardness, with softer bushings being easier to turn with and harder bushings requiring more effort to turn. Depending on your skating style you may prefer harder or softer bushings but typically lighter skaters or children will be more suited to a softer bushing while bigger skaters, or those who prefer more stability, will want a harder bushing.
Wheels: Wheels can vary massively in terms of size, hardness and colour.
- Wheel Diameter
The diameter of a quad wheel usually varies between 57mm and 65mm. Larger wheels provides a higher top speed and are smoother over rougher ground while smaller wheels accelerate faster and are more stable.
- Wheel Hardness
Wheel hardness can range anywhere between 76a and 101a. Softer wheels provide a smoother ride and more grip, which is suitable for skating outdoors but can be used indoors too. Harder wheels are faster and tend to only be used indoors or on very smooth surfaces such as at the skatepark.
Found inside the wheel (one each side), bearings allows your wheels to spin. Bearings are available in a range of speeds to suit different levels of skaters and basic sets start at around £20, with average sets ranging between £30 and £50. Some of the best bearings can be as much as £300 for a set of 16
Toe stops are found on the front of roller skates and are used for stopping or pushing off. Toe stops will either be fixed or adjustable, with the latter allowing you to raise or lower your stopper depending on your preference and style. Some skaters choose to remove their toe stops and replace them with jam plugs, these allow more freedom of movement but you need to be an experienced skater to use them.
Types of Roller Skates
We have divided roller skates into four categories to help you decide which roller skates suit you best; Retro, Vintage, Hard Shell and Kids Skates
Figure Style Skates
These skates are know by different names, but they are most commonly referred to as vintage skates or figure style roller skates. Their stand out feature is the raised heel but they are also all a very similar shape. The upper boots on figure style skates are available in a huge range of colours and finishes, so there is a style out there for everyone.
We have sold roller skates for over 30 years and have seen the many ups and downs in their figure style skate popularity. However, in recent years, there has been a roller skating boom and these vintage style skates seem to be at the forefront of this renewed popularity with brands like Moxi and Impala leading the trend and creating beautiful new skates.
Vintage Style Upper Boot
This classic shape is similar to what you see on figure ice skates. The boot comes up high over the ankle which helps with support and makes them great for all types of skating.
The raised heel is a key feature but isn't just for style, it also helps with balance as it directs the riders weight slightly forwards making you less likely to fall backwards.
These skates come in a huge range of colours and finishes with most being made from leather, vinyl or PVC and many are fully synthetic and vegan friendly.
This may not be an official name for this style of skates, but their design and look would definitely be closed as retro. The stand out feature of retro skates is the trainer style upper boot that comes in a wide range of designs and is usually super comfortable. Retro skates are suited for people who are just looking to take it easy and have some fun, they are good for a bit of light exercise/cruising and are perfect for dancing at the roller disco. They do offer a little less support than figure style skates, so can't be pushed to quite the same limits.
Trainer Style Upper Boot: The uppers on retro skates tend to look like trainers and the cuffs sit at a mid height and usually come up to just above the ankle. They also tend to have a wider fit in the toe area. This style gets extra points for comfort but you lose a little on support.
Retro skates have a flat foot base or a very minimal heel which this leads to increased comfort as the sole of your foot sits in a more relaxed position.
There are a huge range of styles with different materials ranging from simple brown suede to wild shiny pinks and patent finishes.
Hard Shell Skates
Hard shell roller skates are a bit of a rarity nowadays so unfortunately there is very little choice. The most famous hard shell skate has to be the Bauer Turbo and most old school skaters will know of this legendary boot... not a year goes by without someone asking us if we can still get hold of them but sadly they went out of production a long time ago. If you are lucky enough to have a pair, be careful as most now suffer from degradation and the plastic will fall apart when used.
Thankfully there are still some hard shell skates on the market so let’s take a look at what makes them different from the other soft boot skates.
Hard Shell: No surprises here, these skates feature a hard shell/upper. The plastic boot can take a lot more impact than a soft shell and offers more protection to the foot. The plastic cuff also provides really good support which is better for taller or heavier skaters.
The liners on these skates are separate from the boot and are always well padded and comfortable. A plus point here is that the liners can also be replaced when they get worn out.
Hard shell skates tend to be available in larger sizes than other roller skates, which makes them a good choice for those with larger feet.
What are the Best Roller Skates for Kids?
The most important thing is getting the size right, you don't want a skate that they will grow out of in five minutes but, at the same time, you don't want to go for something too big that will make it harder for them to learn and properly enjoy skating.
We can split kids roller skates into two main categories, adjustable and fixed sized.
As the name suggests, these skates are a fixed, single size and are usually a smaller version of an adult skate, meaning you can get an adult quality skate for your child which is great. The downside of fixed skates is that room for growth can be a problem and, although all skates fit differently, we suggest buying one size up. This will allow space for growth and you can always pad the skate out using an extra innersole and some thick socks. If you go too big the child's foot will move around in the skate, making it hard to control.
For younger kids, or children giving roller skating a first try, adjustable sized roller skates are an excellent choice. Adjustable skates can be extended as your child's foot grows and they tend to come in size ranges of 4 so for example a UK 12 to 2 or UK 3 to 6. Adjustable skates will have either an adjuster button or a spinning dial that allows the toe cap to move forward creating more length and width inside. They are simple but very clever, with the advantage they provide being the child always has a skate that fits well to their foot. Adjustable skates are available in a variety of styles from figure skates to plastic shells. Some of the plastic skates may not look so nice but they provide great support for children and are comfortable inside thanks to their soft liners.
A point to note is that all kids skates can be upgraded with better wheels and bearings once your child has learnt the basics. These parts can also be transferred to their next pair of skates too.
Shorter Wheel Base
Easier for kids to use and designed to work with the smaller boot
When pushed in allows the toe cap to be pulled forward which extends the liner inside too.
Some kids skates will come with a smaller wheel making them a little slower and easier to learn on.