FAQs: The Difference Between Roller Skates and Rollerblades
What’s the difference between roller skates and rollerblades? That’s a question that plenty of parents, and also plenty of interested children, tend to pose. And while the answer is obvious to someone who skates all the time, it’s not so simple for newcomers.
That’s especially true for newcomers that are eager to buy a pair of shoes on wheels at some point in the near future.
In this article, you will find out what roller skates and rollerblades are, as well as what makes them different. In addition, you’ll see which option is easier for you as a beginner.
Roller Skates 101
Interestingly, skating has a long and interesting history dating back all the way to the 18th century. In fact, it also influenced the creation of skateboards and, later on, rollerblades. And while those early roller skates did not have the sophistication of modern ones, the new models retained some of the original designs.
When you look at a typical roller skate, it will look like a regular shoe mounted on a truck. The wheels that go under the truck are arranged in a rectangular 2 X 2 configuration. To put that in layman’s terms, a so-called quad skate will have two wheels in the front and two in the back.
Due to the skates’ aesthetics, most of the modern youth tend to avoid buying them. After all, they don’t look anywhere near as slick and fast as rollerblades. However, they come with their own set of benefits.
What Makes Roller Skates Stand Out
On average, roller skates are incredibly easy to maneuver. Your entire weight is distributed evenly thanks to the wheel configuration, so you’re going to easily make turns and spin around. That’s an excellent trait to have, especially if you’re competing in a dance or a rollerskating race.
Furthermore, the placement of the wheels also allows you to make sharp turns with more stability. And thanks to the unique toe stop drag on the side of each shoe, you can also slow down and outright stop on a dime.
More importantly, roller skates tend to have broad wheels, which gives them resistance. You can quite literally move with precision in all directions with little to no issues.
Finally, there’s a plethora of designs. Generally speaking, roller skates from about 20, 30 or even 40 years ago were really not as engaging or interesting as rollerblades. Nowadays, however, you can get a pair in any design with vibrant colors and fancy wheels.
Overall, roller skates are a welcome addition for any buyer. Their biggest benefit, however, would have to be that your kids can use them to practice and learn skating. They’re the perfect jumping board onto the next option: rollerblades.
Broadly speaking, rollerblades (also known as inline skates) are really just another form of roller skates. They became prominent in the 1950s and have since then developed into quite a cultural phenomenon. In fact, they have been rising and falling in popularity even as late as 2020.
One thing that immediately sets rollerblades apart from roller skates is the design. When you look at them, you can immediately tell that they look like blades. Usually, they will contain anywhere between 2 and 5 wheels. However, unlike with roller skates, those wheels will all stand in a single line, one behind the other.
What Makes Rollerblades Stand Out
More often than not, if you ask a typical layman what makes rollerblades stand out, they will state that it’s their look. After all, most rollerblades are sporty, sleek, and aerodynamic. In addition, the wheels’ alignment makes them appear edgy and cool. To use an analogy, it’s like comparing a tricycle to a BMX mountain bike.
But there are also practical reasons behind people loving rollerblades. First and foremost, there’s the speed. Because the wheels all line up, they provide the rollerblader an excellent boost. If we were to compare them to anything, we could say that an average rollerblade is as fast as modern scooters.
Next, there’s the improved lateral leg movement. By rollerblading, you are actually training your legs and getting into shape.
Finally, there’s the terrain coverage. Comparing them to roller skates, the blades fare much better in rough conditions. For example, if you want to skate in an area where there are lots of concrete cracks, potholes, etc., then a four-wheel pair of quad skates just won’t do.
Instead, you will maneuver much better with a blade, as straight-line wheels roll more smoothly over uneven terrain than quads.
Distinguishing Roller Skates from Rollerblades
As you can see, inline skates and quads differ quite a bit. So, let’s go over each of the differences in more detail below. This list will be useful for any newcomers looking to buy a pair, since different skates serve different purposes.
We’ve touched on this above, but it bears repeating — the most basic difference between roller skates and rollerblades is in the wheels. More specifically, it has to do with:
• The number of wheels
• Their arrangement
• The way they’re attached to the boot
Regarding the first point, you’ll notice that rollerblades are a bit more flexible than quads. For instance, you’re not limited to having four wheels; your pair of boots can have two, three, four, or five, depending on the model. And it doesn’t even end there.
Depending on your taste, you can buy flat four-wheels or rockered ones, i.e. inline skates with wheels that have different diameters.
In terms of arrangement, the best way to compare the two is like comparing a rectangle to a flat line. The first design option provides you with lots of stability, but not enough speed. On the other hand, rollerblades can get you places fast, but they take a lot of getting used to.
Finally, there’s the attachment. Skates have adjustable trucks that help the skates move, turn, and keep things even, though they are not really part of the shoe itself. Conversely, rollerblades use a plastic or metal frame to house the wheels underneath the length of the foot of each boot.
And speaking of boots…
When discussing this segment, you need to think of skating boots in terms of comfort and flexibility, as well as support. In other words, you’ll need to consider how they feel when you wear them and how secure they are during fast skating sessions.
Generally speaking, quad skates are far more comfortable than average rollerblades, and that’s by design. Taking one look at a pair of skates, you might consider them to be more shoe-like than boot-like.
Usually, they are ankle-deep, like sneakers, which allows for more breathing room, hence more comfort. Of course, when comparing different types of quads, roller derby skates tend to have less comfort than recreational ones.
Of course, rollerblades are far from uncomfortable. They are definitely a bit more rigid than other types of skates, but that is very much by design. After all, a typical pair of blades has to endure going over gravel, cracks, concrete, and even offroad in some cases. For that reason, the boot section feels a tad stiff, since it has to hold the foot in place.
Just like with quads, there are degrees of comfort with rollerblade boots. Recreational models tend to offer quite a bit of flexibility, for instance. Inline speed skates, on the other hand, need to handle more demanding skating tasks, which is why they might not be the best choice for beginners.
Based on what was stated earlier in the article, you might think that roller skates offer more stability than inline ones, and you would be correct. Generally speaking, it’s easy to both slow-skate and fast-skate on quads, since they distribute the weight of the owner equally.
But more importantly, you can easily move about at a normal speed. That’s just not possible with most rollerblades, due to the positioning of the frame that houses the wheels.
However, quads are far from perfect in this regard. For example, more than a few pairs of quads will try to roll back or forward all on their own, without your input, which can result in you falling down and injuring yourself. In addition, any small obstruction like a pebble or a bottle cap can trip you and drop you onto the pavement.
Agility-wise, quads once again win out. The trucks that contain the wheels can move in all directions, which allows better maneuvering, as well as braking, pausing, slowing down, turning, twisting, and spinning.
On the other hand, the blade of the inline skate is too rigid for something like that. If you want to be an extreme skater, you won’t really care about flexibility, but if you aim to dance on roller skates, you’ll definitely want to pick quads.
The speed of the skate will depend on many factors, a major one being the size of the wheels. Generally speaking, a typical pair of quads has wheels that are between 47 mm and 70 mm in diameter. On the other hand, inline skates’ diameters range between 72 mm and 80 mm. In other words, by the mere virtue of size, rollerblades are faster than quads.
But that’s not the only reason. Due to their shape and the position of the wheels, rollerblades are incredibly aerodynamic. To put it simply, you will feel less air friction from a rollerblade with one row of wheels than you would with a quad with two rows.
Of course, that doesn’t mean quad skates are slow. In fact, they can be quite fast. However, if you aim for long-distance skating and require something durable, always go for inlines.
Quad skates have a rather simple braking system. Their brake is located in the front, under the toe section of the boot. It looks like a hard knob or a cylinder standing right next to the two front wheels.
In order to brake with quads, simply maneuver your big toe in a specific way and you’ve done it. It’s an easy method that anyone can learn, even the absolute beginners.
When you compare them to quads, inline skates are not that easy to brake. Their braking system is in the back, where the heel is, and learning how to master it takes time. Granted, certain beginner’s rollerblades actually come with front brakes, but those are temporary and you won’t find them on blades that professionals use.
What is your reason for buying roller skates, to begin with? That’s the question you will want to ask yourself before doing any research. After all, a rollerblade won’t be as effective as a quad in certain spaces but might thrive in others.
To oversimplify, most of the time you will want quads for indoor and blades for outdoor skating. As noted earlier, quads can maneuver easily, don’t have a steep learning curve, and provide a lot of balance and control.
As such, they are perfect for indoor events, such as quad skate roller hockey, roller derby scrimmage, and roller dancing. There are, of course, quads that are tailor-made for outdoor skating, but those are few and the majority of people simply opt for blades when skating outside.
Speaking of blades, they are almost exclusively an outdoor-only product. Their aerodynamic shape and strong exterior make them perfect for some urban exploring, skating in rural areas, or even exploring abandoned and decrepit areas of your hometown.
More importantly, they can endure long periods of time while they are used, so they’re perfect for long rides and decent mileage.
Which Option Will Make Skating Easier?
With all of the differences laid out, you might be wondering which option works best for an utter beginner. The answer might surprise you — both options can work for you.
In other words, you can start learning how to skate using quads and then easily apply the majority of those skills on the inlines. Really, it’s up to your own preferences and plans whether you go with roller skates or rollerblades.