You're ready. It is time. You go online to buy your first pair of roller skates... It isn't long until you realize there are hundreds of option ranging from $30 to $2,000. What is the difference and which is ok for a beginner? Let's take a moment and address those questions.
Breaking Down the Parts
Roller Skates have a lot of parts. The quality and specs for each part will affect the skaters ease and quality of skating.
The boot holds the skater's foot to the plate. The two main specs for a boot are:
the heel to weight placement & agility.
the boot's stiffness for ankle support & agility
What we recommend: For most beginner skaters, we recommend starting with high-top boots with a heel. This will protect your ankle as you learn to skate and place your body weight more over the ball of your foot. The exception: There are some styles of skating that prefer low-top skate with a heel. So, if you are learning to skate for a specific genre, you may want to take a look at what people where in that style of skating. If you are learning to skate so you can join roller derby, for instance, you may want to get a low-top skate.
This is an often over-looked part of the skate, but it is very important. The bushing/cushion plays a big part in the movement of your trucks. Think of it as the power steering of your skates. Hard bushings make it hard to turn/edge. Super soft bushings can be squirrely. Most cheap skates come with hard bushings and should be replaced asap to make it easier to skate on curves. Typical specs:
Soft - for children, smaller people or someone who does mostly center-work & lots of spins
Medium - Good for most people. A nice balance.
Hard - Not great for much. Could be useful for people who skate VERY fast, on fairly straight paths or for extra tall/large people.
*Some brands have in-between hardness's
What we recommend: Upgrade your bushings asap if you can. If the skate cost less than $100, there is probably nothing that can be done. If you have a skate that was $100+, check the bushing. If it is black, white or grey, it is probably too hard and should be replaced. When replacing your bushings make sure you purchase a compatible set. They come in different sizes and shapes. New bushings typically cost less than $20 and make a HUGE difference.
The toe-stop, as the name suggests is part of the skate that can be used to stop. It can also be used to jump, avoid obstacles and spin. That said, some skaters don't use a toe-stop at all. They use something called a toe-plug. Typical Specs:
Adjustability: adjustable, not adjustable
Size: small, medium, large
Hardness: hard, medium, soft - will affect grip
What we recommend: If you think you will be in your skates for more than a year, get a pair that has an adjustable toe-stop. A medium sized, medium or soft, round stop is best. Most skates will come with a round, hard stop out of the box--it's not the end of the world, you'll be fine.
The plate is the metal part just below the boot that attaches to your wheels. Typical Specs:
Material: Nylon or Metal - Nylon is lighter, but flexes. Metal is heavier but stable.
King-pin angle: Beginners don't need to worry about this
Truck distance/placement: Beginners don't need to worry about this
What we recommend: Get metal if you can, but nylon will do for your first pair of skates. If you are just recreationally skating, it won't really matter but once you start learning tricks, the difference becomes more apparent.
Thing of skate wheels the same way you would think of car wheels. The wheel you skate on depends on the surface. Specs:
Diameter: big for the rough outdoors, smaller for agility/style
Hardness: soft for the rough outdoors &/or grip, harder for footwork and smooth inoor-floors
Rebound: high rebound for the outdoors & low for indoors
What we recommend: What ever comes with your skates is probably a great start. They are likely hybrid wheels that will work on smooth outdoor surfaces and on all indoor surfaces. Once you start skating more regularly and find your niche, you can get the proper wheels for the task.
This part is what allows your wheels to spin. At this stage, whatever comes in your wheels is probably just fine. You should just know what these are and how to take care of them. Avoid rolling through sand or water for best care. If they get rusty or dirty it will make it harder to roll. If they get in really bad condition they may stop rolling all together or blow out.
Comments on Common Skates:
Toy Skates: These are the affordable plastic skates you will find on Amazon for kids. They are great for getting children started, especially if you are unsure if they will stick to skating, but plan to upgrade to better quality skates in a few months once they start backward skating. Price Range: $30-80
Impala: This brand is known for having cute skates... that are not the best quality. They are good for adults who want to test out skating without making a big investment. If you start with an Impala & end up loving skating, plan to replace them within your first year. When looking at this brand, remember that adjustable toe stops are best. Price Range: $120-$300
Moxie: This brand makes a wide variety of skate and in lots of fun colors. Though many skaters get the Lolly, we DO NOT recommend that particular model for newer skaters as there is little ankle support. Rather, we would recommend their Rainbow Rider, or Panther*preferred. The Beach Bunny and Jungle are other acceptable options from this brand, but come in second place. Price Range: $180-$500
NOTE: This article is for Newbies & Beginners. If you have already spent time on your first pair of roller skates and are looking to upgrade, we may have different advice.
Still have questions?
Send Jackie a text at 714-443-1685 and let her know what level you are and what you are looking at. She will try to give you some tips.