Buying Skates. A first-time buyer's guide.
How do I buy the right skates? Which skates should I choose? What are the best skates to buy for my needs? What's the difference between rollerblades and inline skates?…Quad skates and roller-skates? …and why is everyone always going on about being 'aggressive' …can't everyone just be nice?
If you are new to skating then you're probably asking some of these questions. This buying guide will provide you with the advice you need to get the right skates for you. As you may have figured; there are a few different types of skating. Our website breaks them down into 4 different categories, each clearly labelled in the main menu:
Aggressive Skate - For tricks and stunts
Freeskate / Powerblade - For city-skating, maneuverability and slalom
Rollerblades - For leisure, the park or the seafront
Quad / Roller Skate - Old-school 4x4 wheel formation
Which category should you be looking in and which skates are the best for you? There's nothing worse than wishy-washy advice so read on to find out all you need if you are a first time buyer or simply don't know where to start. 'Which skates are best' is up to the individual's opinion so instead of giving you a top 5 skates or top 10 skates we've listed some of the most popular brands and models for each category of skate to make that final decision a bit easier…
These are used for stunts on ramps, in skateparks and on the streets. Skip this part if you just want to skate for leisure or recreation!
An aggressive skate is built predominantly around the idea that it will be used for a lot of 'grind' tricks (sliding along rails and ledges). Grinding wears down your skates so parts are easily replaceable. Many of the models come with anti-rocker wheels. This is where the two middle wheels are smaller than the outer wheels and don't touch the ground. This makes many grind tricks easier because there is extra space to grind. Aggressive skates also have soul plates (yes 'soul'… that's not a spelling mistake!). Soul plates are also replaceable and used to do grind tricks on. An aggressive boot is built with rigid ankle support and a boot that is designed to take high impact. Some of the boots are made from plastic, some are made from Carbon Fibre (more expensive) a few are made from soft materials (a 'soft boot' or 'semi soft-boot'). Many models are now made with a hard boot which has a 'skin' over the top. This gives the the support of a hard boot but allows the skate manufacturer to give the skate a more unique look as if it were a soft boot. Aggressive skates typically have smaller, harder wheels than other skates. Aggressive skate wheels are usually between 55mm and 60mm. A smaller wheel gets in the way less on many tricks and also allows a low centre of gravity for more stability. They are not so good for skating from A to B though! We also sell almost all our aggressive skates as a boot only version. This is where we remove the wheels and frames (the part which holds the wheels on) so that the experienced customer can choose their own wheels, frames and bearings (the bearings are located inside the wheels).
Top aggressive skates to look out for:
- For the beginner have a look at the Razor Cult Street skates. Low price and solid construction make this the most popular entry level model aggressive skate that we stock. We also find that many light users who want to try some tricks but also want to skate recreationally like the range of K2 Fatty skates.
- For Junior sizes the Razor Genesys Junior is our best selling aggressive skate. They extend from size uk2-uk5 to account for growth in kids. Also popular is the USD Transformer skates which have two size extendable versions to cover an even greater size range.
- For a solid mid price range skate have a look at SSM skates and Valo skates. These models are our most popular all round aggressive skates.
- For a high-end skate you might want to consider going for Carbon Fiber. Carbon Fiber skates are more expensive than plastic but offer a very rigid, very light, non-deteriorating material. The USD Carbon range (Carbon 2, Carbon 3, Carbon 4 etc) are our most popular high end Carbon Fiber skates. Valo also make a Carbon Fiber model called the Valo Light.
- If you are looking for convenience as well as performance you might like the Xsjado skates. Xsjado (pronounced Shadow) have two general models: The original Xsjado and the Xsjado 2.0. Available in various variations of colour. The 2.0 is the lighter, more modern version. The unique selling point of the Xsjados is the removable shoe which straps into the 'skeleton' of the skate making it easy to just whip your skates off and go walkies without bringing a spare pair of trainers with you!
Freeskate and Powerblade
Freeskates and Powerblades have enough support for the odd trick and tight turns while still using a large wheels for speed. You can still use them for leisure or fitness but they are a little heavier and a little more expensive than regular recreational inline skates.
Although Freeskates and Powerblades are very similar, let's split these two up:
Also known as Freestyle Skates. These type of skates use the shortest wheelbase possible for tight turns and almost always 8x 80mm wheels. They are built with more rigid support and durability than regular Fitness/fun/recreational skates. Freeskates or 'freestyle skates' are commonly associated with skating in built up city areas and also with Slalom skating (cutting cones!). They are also often used by the more advanced recreational skater.
Freestyle brands which have gained much reputability include French skate brand Seba which is very popular with slalom skaters, Rollerblade's freestyle range, K2 and Powerslide who have cornered the high end of the market with their Carbon Fiber options. Apart from the odd exception; almost all these skates are unisex so the fitment is designed for both men's and women's feet. This is mainly because Freestyle skates tend to use an outer 'shell' for support and durability and it's too difficult to change the shape of the mould to anatomically meet the requirements of a gender-specific shaped foot.
Top Freestyle skates to look out for:
-Watch out for the Seba FR range (Seba FR1, Seba FRX) especially if you are into the idea of slalom. The FR range tend to be the most popular for their reasonable price and hard, supportive shell
-Rollerblade's main offering is the Rollerblade Twister which was the original Freestyle skate. It's been running for years (with added updates) and is the most iconic freestyle skate, loved worldwide.
-Powerslides S4 and Hardcore Evo skate are critically acclaimed for their light weight and close fit. The Hardcore Evo is the most popular high-end skate as it's made of Carbon Fiber for the ultimate rigidity and weight reduction.
-K2's best offering is the Il Capo skate. Skaters love this skate for unmatched comfort, light weight and good looks. This skate seems to suit the advanced recreational skater or city-commuter the best.
Powerblades are similar in construction to Freestyle skates but are more associated with doing the odd stunt (limited grind-tricks and gaps). The term Powerblading is actually specific to the brand Kizer who created a frame that could house 80mm wheels but also be attached on any Aggressive Skating boot thus opening up a huge market of Aggressive boots for the Freeskater or Powerblader to choose from. Many argue that Powerblading is just Freeskating rebranded however since the Powerblade revolution hit in 2011 there's been many online videos showing skaters using Powerblades in ways that had not been previously seen on Freestyle skates.
Powerblades are usually customised by the skater, although we do have some in-house set-ups which we've created which you can buy from stock. You'd usually choose an aggressive skating boot in it's 'boot-only' form (so without frames or wheels) and then choose some Powerblading frames and wheels to fit on it. This essentially gives you the choice of ANY aggressive skate on the market as we do all our skates as a boot-only version. The Kizer Powerblading frames are 'UFS compatible' which means they will fit on any good aggressive skate brand that has been manufactured since around 2004 (all the aggressive skates we do!)
Top Powerblading skates to look out for:
- This is very subjective. You can pretty much buy ANY boot-only aggressive skate from our range as your boot. Have a look at some of the Powerblade frames which already have wheels attached to save you some money and the hassle of trying to pick the different parts. Our most popular frame set up is the Kizer Advance Loco Edition which comes with ABEC 5 bearings and Hyper Concrete wheels which are widely considered as some of the best wheels for Powerblading due to their hardness, durability and speed (and the fact you can get them in LOADS of colours!)
We've chosen the generic term 'Rollerblades' to describe our range of standard recreational skates, used for leisure or fitness. Available in Mens, Womens and kids models.
These are the skates to buy if you want to go skating along the seafront, in the park or even just up and down your driveway. Maybe you could take the kids to your local roller disco or skating club. These skates are what you may describe as just regular, recreational skates for people that simply want to skate for leisure. Some people will use these skates for fitness as skating in general offers such great cardiovascular, anaerobic and aerobic exercise.
Fitness skates, recreational skates, inline skates, rollerblades… whatever you want to call them, all these terms mean very much the same thing! Most adult skates in this category come with large wheels sized between 76mm and 90mm although if you are new to skating we would recommend sticking to 84mm and below in the interest of better balance. Adult skates almost always come in separate Mens and Womens models with the better brands basing their fitment around the specific anatomy and shape or a man's or a woman's foot. The kids skates are very similar in construction to the adults (with slightly smaller wheels) and they are mostly all extendable so they have a longer life when your kids inevitably grow. Most extend in length by simply adjusting the toecap to a longer length and usually extend by 4 or 5 sizes per model. There are actually very few reputable skate brands out there. For recreational skates you can pretty much pin it down to K2, Rollerblade, Bladerunner and Powerslide (and Roces make some good junior skates!). You will have to spend at least £65 to get a decent, functional adult skate and around £50 for the kids. Anything lower in price than this (like in catalogue stores and the sports shops) is a waste of your money as the materials will not allow you to skate with ease. Watch out for sports shop chains who claim to have skates at 70% off by finding loopholes in trading standards laws (simply retailing a certain model at 'full price' at just one of their branches for the shortest legal amount of time required).
The price of skates goes up with the specification, so the more you spend the better you get (ie more comfort, aluminium frames for control, better bearings for more glide, closer fit etc). There's really no need as a beginner skater to ever spend any more than £180 on these type of skates.
Top Fitness, leisure and recreational skates to look out for:
- If you are looking for adult skates the three main brands to look for are K2, Rollerblade and Powerslide. They all offer supreme quality, comfort and performance. They range from around £80-£180 going up in price as they go up in specification. Spending more will get you better comfort, better fit, better materials, better wheels, bearings and possibly other snazzy features like the BOA tightening wheel on some K2's. Regardless of which model you go for they all function very well as a recreational skate.
- For budget skates we'd recommend you look no further than Bladerunner skates. They outperform every other brand in the low price range and are the sister company to Rollerblade (who started the inline skate movement). Although some may find that they offer a less ergonomic fit and rigidity than a higher priced skate they do a fantastic job with proper polyurethane wheels and precision bearings and are ideal for the unsure first-timer or those with a limited budget.
- Junior skates are best judged by how much growing room you will get out of the skate. All of our kids skates are size extendable so have a careful look at the size ranges of various models and buy the skate which will give you the best economy over a period of time. Bladerunner make very popular junior skates and retail at some of the lowest prices, also take a look at the K2 kids range which offer a great fit across the range and some of which come with a pad set included (wrist, knee and elbow guards).
Quad / Roller Skate
Quad skates is the preferred term for old style 4x4 roller skates.
There's many different reasons why you may want to ride on quad skates. Maybe for sentimental value because you had them when you were a kid, or maybe you want to throw yourself into your local rollerdisco or even just rock the retro vibe in the park! Quad skates can sometimes have better grip than inline skates because there is more surface area of the wheels touching the ground, although they won't hold their speed as well as an inline skate because generally the wheels are smaller (so they need to rotate more times to achieve a certain distance). Many people feel more stable in quad skates. In actual fact inline skates are often more stable because they usually have a longer wheel-base from front to back for more stability. Generally if you are going to lose your balance you will fall backwards or forwards (not topple over sideways like many seem to think... plus you have two legs so you can't 'topple'!). Regardless of these physics; if you feel more stable in your mind on quad skates then that will certainly affect your confidence and performance when you are out skating which, after all, is the only thing that really matters! In terms of 'products available', the Quad skate market isn't huge, in fact there's quite a few brands just making the same thing when it comes to the hard plastic skates; a basic polyurethane shell with a liner and wheels. We've figured out the best value and quality versions for you so you don't have to trawl through all the different brands. You may be familiar with the Classic Bauer Turbo skates. These are no longer in production however there is very close replacements (keep reading). You can also buy the soft style rollerboots which are heavily associated with 70's disco. Generally their performance isn't as good as the plastic shell skates we stock but they are still good for skating around indoors (ie a Roller Disco!). Other styles of quad skates we sell are artistic skates which are white leather with a raised heel designed for dance and Roller Derby skates (used for Roller Derby of course). Both of these styles can still be used for regular recreational use if you wish.
Top Quad Skates to look out for:
- For all round outdoor and indoor use our most popular model is the Ventro pro skates for their robust design and reasonable price. If you want something more luxurious then the Supreme Turbo skate offers a similar product with upgraded components. The Supreme Turbo takes off where the classic Bauer Turbo skate left off. In fact, it's the same mould with a more comfortable liner and better wheels than the Bauer Turbo used to have. They've re-labelled the sizes since the old Bauer Turbo skates so they now fit accurate to size.
-For soft fabric disco skates have a look at the range of Rio Roller skates and Rookie skates, all available at affordable prices.
-For Kids quad skates pay particular attention to the Orion skates ad well as the SFR Storm and the SFR Miami from Stateside. All models are available in Girls and Boys colours specifically. We've found these to be the best value size adjustable kids quad skates available.