By Lorne Milne
The first thing for a ‘newbie’ shopper to know is that the formal name is ‘Inline Skates’, & that Rollerblade is the name of a brand! They are by far the most famous as: they’ve been around since the emergence of the sport; they are an extremely popular brand known for how darn well they work & how tough they are (which is a reason they are the most popular brand for rental skates in North America).
Now having said that, the most important thing when you buy inline skates is that you buy the right ones that ‘fit’ you. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1.) Renting inline skates the first time & taking a lesson with a highly certified USSG/IISA Inline Skating Instructor (who is known for equipment expertise) is agreat idea! The instructor can advise you about how to select the right equipment for your foot! Often when you go to a big box store you’ll find young courteous salespeople that often have little experience or experience in using inline skates (a skateboarder can’t really tell you much about them other than what they’ve heard ‘third hand’ from other salesman);
2.) When it comes to buying your inline skates the most important thing is the boot fit!! The boot should be snug, holding the heel down & giving lateral support so your ankles don’t wobble. It shouldn’t cut off your circulation or cause pain!
3.) Inline Skates will break induring the first 10 uses or so,…so remember they may get sloppy (if you buy a loosely fitting skate) Please don’t buy them if they feel like bedroom slippers);
4.) Buckles & laces should be tightened upto give you the right support! Typically during a 2-3 hour inline skate session that you may have to re-adjust your skates 3-5 times. After the 1st 15 minutes of use, your foot may swell at little & they’ll feel tighter. Fifteen minutes later the swelling will likely go down & they will feel looser. Also after you’ve been in your blades for half an hour they will warm up (from body heat & flexing the boot) which will contribute to softening & loosening up the boot;
5.) Women tend to have narrower heels (with a relatively broader foot at the ball) & lower calf muscles. Women’s skates often have taken this into account. However sometimes men with skinnier feet will fit women’s skates better (& vice versa);
6.) Try on 6-12 pairs of skates when you buy! It’s common for consumers to try on lots of shoes when shoe shopping,…but amazing how many people ( who spend a lot more money on their blades) only try on 1-3 pairs. Do the research to find out what fits you best!
7.) Try on the most expensive skates in the shop first! If you start with the most expensive & work your way down in price it may happen that you find a cheaper boot fits you much better (that’s the one to buy). If you start with the cheaper boot sometimes people buy a more expensive boot than the boot that would perform better for them (in Perception Psychology it’s called the ‘Anchoring Effect’);
8.) Don’t buy it just because it the cheapest! There’s lot of inline skates sitting in people’s closets (rather than being used) because they were a poor fit, the owner wobbled about on them, had no control, & gave up!! Sports equipment should fit like a glove & work like it was engineered to be an extension of your body!
9.) The most important thing is the fit! I know I said it already, but you have to keep reminding yourself that it’s more important than the colour, the looks, & even the price!
10.)Small wheels are easier to learn on(& to do tricks on) because they lower your center of gravity & are more stable. Big wheels have higher top end rolling speeds & great over rougher surfaces, but they are not as fast off the starting line as smaller wheels (nor are they as good for hill climbing). However when you’re a newbie the shop can change your wheels for you (on that excellent fitting boot you bought!);
11.)Bearings are rated (usually ABEC 3, 5, 7,9). The higher the rating the smoother they roll (generally),..the more expensive they typically are. However a beginner will never notice the difference of a bearing rating (often neither will intermediate skaters,..but there are other factors regarding materials used, lubricants, how they are used, etc. that are involved). You can always upgrade your bearings next season when you’ve got your money’s worth out of the original ones!
12.)Heel brakes are important (especially for beginners)! Two often are better for beginners than 1. They only cost a few dollars more & in Vancouver ShopTask specializes in adapting heel brakes to any kind of skate (as does Larry’s Skate Shop in North Vancouver). If you only have 1 brake usually it should be on your dominant foot! No matter what any intermediate inline skater tells you, heel-braking is the most powerful, reliable & safe way to stop!
13.)Insoles (designed for inline skating) can dramatically improve a fit. They can give better arch support, shorten a foot, take up volume & give a snugger fit or remove an ache from a specific area. Be prepared to spend the $30-40 at the best Inline Skate Shop in your city for them to fit a pair to your skates!
14.)There is more to buying the right skates for a beginner than just this!The same thing applies to buying inline skates for advanced blading, free-style, or racing! Book a lesson with LM Bladeskool & learn more about it during your lesson!! If you’re having some confusion while buying your skates Lorne’s students can phone him for a free consult!
If you look in your closet, do you have 6+ pairs of running shoes (one pair for jogging, a pair for tennis, a pair for cross-training, a pair for the gym, a pair for walking, a pair for the garden, or that favourite old pair for hanging around)??? You’ll find it’s common for many advanced skaters to have a couple pair (maybe even 3) so that they have the ‘right skates for the right situation’. As a serious inline skating addict (with many blading specialties) I lost count at a dozen pairs that I have & use regularly!
Happy Inline Skate Shopping !
Lorne Milne's Blade Blog
Buying the Right ‘Roller-Blades’
By Lorne Milne