Freeride vs Recreational Inline Skates – What’s The Difference?

Difference Between Freeride and Recreational Inline Skates

Inline skates are a great way to stay fit and have fun. They have come a long way from the 80s, and now, there are all sorts of skates available for every kind of activity, from extreme sports to regular recreational skating. But what is the difference between freeride and recreational inline skates?

Well, even the most seasoned skaters may not quite understand the difference between fitness skates, recreational skates, and freestyle skates. And to add to the confusion, there is also another type of skate similar to freestyle known as freeride skates.

So, all these skates; what are they for, what is the difference between them, or how do you even know which one’s the best for you?

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between the two and which one is right for you. We will also take a look at the main types of inline skates and the main uses for each of them.

Freeride Skates vs Recreational Skates: Overview

Freeride Skates vs Recreational Skates Overview

Let’s start by saying that both freeride skates and recreational skates can be used for skating around the neighborhood and town.

In most cases, though, recreational inline skates are designed for comfort and therefore, cannot be upgraded, whereas freeride skates are generally meant for performance skating.

Freeride skates generally feature harder wheels and harder boot construction that can be upgraded. That means with freeride skates, you can get from four wheels to three bigger wheels. Perhaps that’s one of the differences between freeride and Recreational skates.

So, what about the difference between freestyle and freeride skates?

Well, these two options may appear to be quite similar at a glance and can be used for the same thing. However, unless you’re planning to perform slalom, you might want to choose freeride skates instead of freestyle skates- although you could possibly do just fine with either.

Freeride vs Recreational Skates: What’s the Biggest Difference

Freeride vs Recreational Skates What's the Biggest Difference

Recreational skates (just like fitness skates) are mostly designed for comfort. They’re often used for skating up/down level surfaces, which makes them great for amateurs and slalom skaters.

Meanwhile, freeride skates/freestyle skates are meant for just about the same style of skating. It’s just that they’re a bit tougher and are relatively more performance-focused. In other words, they are more maneuverable and can be used for performing tricks, a few jumps, etc.

In fact, most of the enthusiastic skaters you see whizzing around on Instagram will hardly use fitness or recreational skates. That’s because they need something sturdier that can adapt to their moves and still allow for better control. Hence, they go for freeride/freestyle skates.

That, in summary, is the main difference between freeride and recreational skates.

Freeride and freestyle skates are designed for skaters who wish to take their skating experience to the next level. Recreational skates are especially popular among beginner kids, whereas freeride/freestyle skates are popular among adults and experienced skaters.

If you’re just getting started, you could actually go for either, although most experts strongly recommend that you use freeride when starting off, because they can be upgraded later, whereas recreational are usually stuck with what they arrive with.

Freeride or freestyle skates may be slightly more expensive, though not necessarily. Also, they might be somewhat squidgy and harder because their boots and overall constructions are sturdier to enhance performance, allowing you to transfer more of your stroke power to the wheels.

So, given the right wheel size and setup, freeride skates can definitely go faster than recreational ones. And with their added maneuverability, you can also perform tricks and jumps and skate on more surfaces much better than you would with recreational skates.

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Freeride Skates vs Recreational Skates: What Are They Made For?

Freeride Skates vs Recreational Skates What Are They Made For

Freeride and freestyle: These ones are great for those who would like to skate fast around town or city, do freestyle slalom with the cones on the ground, or jump off things while skating. Freestyle in particular may be more suitable for skate dancing and stylish salmon, whereas freeride, as the name suggests may be more suitable for a little more personal expression and skating longer distances.

Recreational and fitness skates: It’s just like it sounds; fitness and recreation. These skates can be great if you’re planning for regular skating around the neighborhood park or walkway probably to stay in shape or just have fun. They are designed with comfort in mind and will keep you in that active stand throughout your skating session.

Freeride/Freestyle vs Recreational Skates: Boot Construction

FreerideFreestyle vs Recreational Skates Boot Construction

As you might have guessed, there are some notable differences in boot structure, wheel frames, and the kind of wheels used. Basically, as we had noted earlier, freeride skates are performance-focused whereas recreational skates, though made to work great, tend to focus more on comfort.

Compared to recreational skating, freeride skates provides better control and more power transfer from your foot to the surface. In fact, freestyle skates take this effect a notch higher, but only a small difference that beginners will hardly notice. Fitness skates, more like recreational ones, also provide enough power transfer, although not as much as with sturdier freeride models.

Freeride skates are mostly designed with fairly stronger, sturdier materials, and since there’s less “give”, there’s greater power transmission to the wheel movements on the ground. Some of that push is transmitted to the cushioning and bending parts of the boots to keep the whole thing comfortable.

Freeride vs Recreational: Upgradability

Freeride vs Recreational Upgradability

Freeride skates are developed with a greater capability of being improved in functionality compared to recreational models. Look, if you choose to go with recreational skates, then that’s pretty much the kind of inline skate you’ll have to use for as long as you have it.

It is not usually that easy to upgrade or customize or even change parts on recreational skates, and this is especially true for things such as wheels and wheel frames.

However, as for the freeride skates, you can easily upgrade or change various components. This might be particularly helpful when you figure out the best components for your skates sometime later in the future. For instance, with freeride skates, you can move from 4 medium-wheel size to 3 larger wheels.

The best part about using three bigger wheels is that you’ll be able to cruise at greater speed and enjoy some pretty good maneuverability. This is something you might want to deal with once you get accustomed to skating. Clearly, you’ve got options with freeride/freestyle skating.

What’s The Best for Beginner Skaters: Recreational or Freeride?

What's The Best for Beginner Skaters Recreational or Freeride

Now you might want to keep this part if you are not a novice. But what if you are just getting started in inline skating? Which one should you get, freeride or recreational? Well, the good news is that it’s easy to say no to some inline skate types when you’re just starting out.

First, you will want to steer clear of aggressive skates because those ones are mostly designed for performing tricks and doing stunts such as sliding down stair poles or going up/down ramps. But of course, if you want to start this type of skating, you can always go for it.

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Secondly, you don’t want speed skates since they are nuts. Look, speed skates are mostly left for seasoned people and skate lunatics who can go really fast, quite uncomfortably, and with little-no-support on the ankles. At this point, you’re simply left with the ones we are talking about.

So, recreational or freeride inline skate?

Well, generally speaking, you can do just fine with either. It depends on what you want to achieve with your skates. If all you want to do is skate around the park, then you may be better off with some of the soft-boot recreational or fitness skates on the market.

These ones are comfortable enough and sometimes they feel like a warm blanket wrapped over your foot and ankle.

Moreover, recreational skates are typically equipped with brakes (that protrude at the back), and with a design that looks pretty much the same as the ones you can buy for younger kids. This makes them perfect for whizzing up and down to burn calories while enjoying yourself.

That said, many skaters suggest that you buy a full-on freeride inline skate instead. This is because these options are a tad more like an ideal skate, in that the boots are almost always supportive and hard enough, allowing you to move with more power greater maneuverability, and so on.

They are more like an advanced version of recreational skates, but also great for starters. So, if you want comfort, we’d recommend recreational. If you’re more into performance, then freeride all the way.

Different Types of Inline Skates

Different Types of Inline Skates

It’s easy to assume that inline skating or rollerblading is as simple as wearing a pair of skates and then whizzing around. While that is true, there’s more to inline skates than just that.

There are several different skates available including fitness, recreational, aggressive, roller hockey, and urban inline skates. Each type of skate is designed to help skaters skate in a certain style. So, keep reading to find out which inline skate best matches your style.

Recreational Skates

Recreational inline skate is the most popular type of inline skating. It’s great for anyone who wants to get out and experience everything that inline skating has to offer. In fact, this is the closest you’ll get to the previously said “wearing skates and whizzing around.”

You can count on recreational skates for basic fitness, a quick skate around the neighborhood, or even a trip down the local bike route. Recreational options are probably the most likely option, of course, unless you require a specific sort of skate.

Plus, recreational skates are available in a range of models, from different manufacturers, and for skaters of different skill levels. Although these skates may differ in terms of materials, features, and closure systems, most of them will come with soft boot structures, reinforced with mesh and cotton and with strong plastic cuffs in the rear part for added stability.

The use of soft boot construction means that you’ll have a more comfortable skating experience as the skates are both lighter and breathable- unlike back in the days when inline skates were made of hard, uncomfortable plastic shells. No wonder this construction was eventually abandoned in favor of the previously stated soft boot type.

Modern recreational skates will also include a variety of closure mechanisms. Some of the features found in recreational models include power-assisted lacing systems, standard lacing, and ratchet buckles to enhance wearability.

Fitness Inline Skates

The inline skates you see today were originally designed for ice hockey players for fitness purposes. Nowadays, fitness skates are particularly developed for people who want to use their skates to get in shape, probably by skating regularly.

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Technically speaking, fitness skates are more like higher-performance recreational skates. The designs are nearly identical in both cases, with slight differences, geared toward people who love skating longer distances.

The wheel size, bearings, and overall weight of the skates tend to differ between fitness and recreational models. And in order to provide the much-needed speed for longer skates, fitness skates will generally feature faster bearings and bigger wheels.

Roller Hockey Inline Skates

Roller Hockey skates, as the name suggests, are made for hockey. In fact, roller hockey is one of the fastest-growing skating sports for people of all ages and therefore it has gained massive popularity over the years.

However, this comes as no surprise given that the popularity or success of inline skates is credited to 2 hockey players, who had a great desire to practice ice hockey when ice was not widely available. Roller hockey has now blossomed into a sport for people across all genders and ages on a global scale.

Put simply, roller hockey is a high-energy, fast-paced sport that involves less equipment and has more action compared to ice hockey. In most cases, local indoor roller rinks include roller hockey leagues for all skill levels.

Roller hockey skates are designed just about the same as ice hockey skates. Boots are built with reinforced material, (which is leather in this case) and strong stitching. There are others that are enhanced with materials such as plastic or carbon fiber.

And since the fit and feel is pretty much the same, there’s a seamless transition for ice hockey players looking to practice ice hockey skating. Moreover, most roller hockey frames are built with airplane-grade aluminum to ensure durability without adding too much weight.

Racing Inline Skates

Racing Inline Skates

Racing skates provide the best of both worlds for serious skaters looking for fitness and competition. In fact, with the presence of modern inline skating technology, racing skates are arguably the fastest type of skates available. They are designed purposely for racers.

As such, they may not be the best option for you if you’re interested in doing simple strolls around the neighborhood. They are generally very lightweight, featuring bearings with high ranks on the ABEC scale or Swiss, Ceramic, or Titanium.

Racing skates also come with a maximum of 5 wheels on the chases with a lower cuff. These skates don’t have brakes and the boots are designed much like regular shoes with softer boots enhanced with carbon fibre.

The wheels are usually very big in diameter to ensure better acceleration and more speed. A racing skate’s frame is also made of light materials such as carbon fibre or aluminum to lessen the overall weight of the boot for better skating performance.

As far as racing skates go, the bottom line is that these kinds of skates are built for speed and nothing else. Smooth, lightweight, and very efficient, the sole purpose of these inline skates is to get whizz through places faster than any other model.

Aggressive Inline Skates

Ever seen those adventurous skaters who go gliding and skating along scary ledges and incredible ramps and rails at the local state park? Yes, those who go landing stunts and leaps that seem to have taken forever to learn, but they’re doing it rather effortlessly? Well, those are aggressive skates.

So if the term “inline skates” makes you think of sick tricks and nasty jumps, you might want to check and try out aggressive skates. You can use them to achieve some freestyle slalom and fun anywhere you are allowed to skate. Some of them come with specially slotted frames for sliding on rails and ledges. Sometimes they come without the middle two wheels fitted for more versatility.

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As such, aggressive inline skates can come with a very distinct construction. The boot part of it is made from durable and abrasion-resistant plastic material. Some aggressive skaters prefer bullet-profile wheels, but keep in mind that things can spin out of control really fast if you miss the edge or rail after landing a jump or stunt.

Some may even feature a square-shaped profile and the soles may include flat hard plates designed to withstand abrasions when skating on tough terrains. In fact, no other style of rollerblade can take and outlast as much abuse as aggressive skates.

Urban Skates or Street Skates

Urban skating has become more and more popular over recent years as one of the newer skating styles. Also known as street skates, urban skates are a cross between aggressive and recreational. They offer the look and feel of aggressive skates but with the functionality of recreational ones for extended skating excursions.

Urban skates come with wheels and a bearing setup similar to that of a recreational skate (wheels 82mm or bigger). The boot construction is designed to withstand jumps, tricks, and everything else you may throw at it while skating around the neighborhood.

To help with faster and easier cornering, urban skate frames are reduced or rather shortened, giving you the speed of larger wheels yet the ease of cornering associated with shorter frames.

It’s also good to note that these skates are mostly sold without a brake, although the brake system is usually included in the box and is simple to install.

Bottom Line

Bottom Line

There are many different types of inline skates available in the skating world, and selecting the right skate for the job isn’t always easy. Each type is designed to perform one thing exceptionally well, and it is best to utilize each skate type for the activity it is meant for.

If you’re looking for something that allows you to whizz around the city while jumping stairs and other items as you roll around safely and smoothly, then you may be better off with freeride skates/freestyle skates/urban skates, or street inline skates.

If you’re more interested in speed and long-distance skating, then speed skates are a great recommendation, especially for relatively rough surfaces. Aggressive skate meanwhile will serve you best if you’re looking to do nasty tricks, big jumps, grinds, and so on.

However, if comfort and fitness are your top priorities, invest in a good set of fitness inline skates. Recreational skates may be a great option if you’re just interested in moving around in comfy, fairly supportive skates.

Get soft indoor inline skates for inside inline hockey and outdoor roller hockey skates for outdoor inline hockey. Get outdoor inline skates if you plan on skating on generally hard/smooth outside surfaces like asphalt or concrete.

However, for the most difficult forest roads and trails, go for skates with pneumatic tires. If you’re planning for freestyle slalom skating, then freestyle slalom skates are the way to go.

One last thing. Before strapping on your skates and hitting the trail, road, or park, make sure you’re adequately equipped. Wear quality protective pads and necessary gear for inline skating.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

A bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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