Roller Skates vs. Rollerblades – Which Should You Get?

Roller skates vs. rollerblades

Are you into skating? Well, if you are then you’ve probably heard about roller skates and rollerblades. They are both types of roller skates, but they’re also different in their own ways.

For instance, some roller skates feature components that can support users up to 100 pounds, while roller blades are typically designed for lighter people that weigh less than 100 pounds.

They’re both popular and quite similar, but still, there exist some differences that make them ideal for different situations. They come in different sizes, shapes, and styles. And you might get confused about what kind of skate to get, especially if you’re doing this for the first time.

So, in this article, we’ll take a look at how roller skates and rollerblades compare to each other and explore key details that set these two styles of skating apart. In case you’re in a hurry and hard-pressed for time, here’s a quick overview to help determine what suits you best. Read on!

Roller Skates or Rollerblades: Which Should You Get?

Roller Skates or Rollerblades: Which Should You Get?

Rollerblades are generally designed to travel faster and therefore they’re often preferred for longer distances. While it’s possible to travel long distances on a roller skate, you may find yourself struggling to keep up more than you would if you were using rollerblades.

Roller skates can be easier, especially for young kids, and might feel more stable at first, although rollerblades can be great overall for someone looking for how to skate outdoors.

In fact, roller skates are considered perfect for indoor skating (and perhaps that’s why they are mostly preferred for roller derby) whereas roller blades are commonly found in roller hockey.

While both roller skates and rollerblades may be employed for artistic skating, inline skates are preferred for such tricks since they are more agile and maneuverable.

That’s a really simple rundown and may not include every detail to help make a more informed decision. So, below, we’ve covered a bunch of topics about roller skates and rollerblades. Take a look!

Roller Skates Versus Rollerblades: What’s the Difference?

Roller Skates Versus Rollerblades: What's the Difference?
Beautiful girl posing on a vintage roller skates in red swimsuit in the skate park on a warm summer evening. Rollers quads derby.

So, what differences can you expect in terms of feel when skating with either of them? Based on the differences between the boots and the wheels and the general construction of the skates, what are the key aspects of choosing between rollerblades and roller skates and why does it matter?

Roller Skates

Although most roller skates do not have longer, sturdier boot-like inlines, your ankle will likely feel more stable because they typically feature a wider wheelbase. They provide left-right support, whereas rollerblades do not, allowing your ankle to wobble from side to side easily. Also, on roller skates, you may be able to stand up straighter without feeling so shaky.

If you’re a beginner and looking to learn how to skate, the toe stop featured in roller skates can be a great way to start with. You may walk around on it for a while and even use it for pushing off when you first skate. This way, you’ll find it easier to get used to the early skating moves.

Note that roller skating boots come in a variety of styles (as there are also many different styles of rollerblades). However, there are two common types of roller skates: one with a raised heel and one with a flat, sneaker-style heel.

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For instance, if you were to use the higher heel, your feet would be pointing down, which slightly changes the posture of your body. That means you’ll be leaning forward just a little bit, which may relieve the sensation of going backward and make tripping over on your bum less likely. It also makes squatting low easier.

Quick Note: Lifestyle skates are usually less supportive in the boot than roller derby skates.


To begin, rollerblades are a sort of inline skate. As a result, the terms rollerblades and inline skates are often used interchangeably. In this case, we’re categorizing inline skates as inline speed skates, which are not the same as rollerblades or quad skates. But more on that later.

Technically speaking, roller blades are a type of roller skate with a single axle that runs down the length of the boot. There are 3-5 wheels that are inserted into the skate plate and attached with a long axle nut. You will find that most rollerblades are designed with a high-top hard boot and a brake on the rear part of one skate (mostly the right skate).

Remember that Rollerblade is a company that was founded in the 1980s by two Minnesota brothers, Brennan Olsen and Scot. Inline roller skates and rollerblades have become exceptionally popular with the general public over the last few decades.

Inline Skates

Inline skates basically come with taller boots, which means more ankle support. Soft boots (as opposed to hard shells) are usually more comfortable. Therefore, recreational skates mostly come with soft boots, and some can be as comfy as the most comfortable footwear you own.

It turns out that the more “serious” the skate is, the less comfortable it is- as the skate designer is usually less focused on how the user feels and puts more emphasis on how they perform.

Of course, those who feel comfortable on skates do well, but at the top, people will go to great lengths and perhaps tolerate some discomfort to shave a few seconds or moments or whatever off whatever they’re looking up to win.

However, leisure skates, for example, can be far more comfortable than a comparable set of freestyle skates. This may affect your enjoyment so if you’re certain you’re going to stick with recreational, maybe, for the time being, then it’s definitely something worth considering.

Also, keep in mind that inline skates are available with three or four wheels. You might want to get the four-wheeled ones if you’re just getting started. Three-wheeled skates can reach higher speeds with greater maneuverability, and perhaps that’s why they’re on market, but they are lifted higher off the ground and may be more difficult for beginners.

Although not impossible, four roller skate wheels are often recommended for starters than there wheels. Nonetheless, if you’re still going to pursue this inline skating style, and you’re more interested in freestyle choices than just recreational skating, you can always consider having a pair so you can be switching to three wheels at times.

Different Styles of Roller Skating

Different Styles of Roller Skating
Low Angle Shot of Roller Skating Girl Riding on Tropical Beach Promenade at Sunset. Slow Motion Video Recorded at 120fps

One key factor to consider when purchasing a pair of roller skates is the style of skating you want to do. Are you looking for something for indoor skating indoors, maybe at your local rink or skating outdoors in the neighborhood?

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Whatever you choose- be it roller skates or rollerblades- make sure you get the right pair for the kind of roller sport you are planning to undertake.

In the next section, we’ll go through some of the most common roller sports and the skates that are often used for each. Most people will often use rollerblades, quad skates, or inline skates, and inline skates, so we’ve included the most common for each.

Roller Derby

This is one of the most common roller skating sports. During competitions, all players use or rather wear quad skates specially designed for the sport.

So, if you’re planning on playing roller derby, you’ll need a pair of quad roller skates with specially made roller derby wheels, which should be wider and better suited for the sport.

Speed Roller Skating

When it comes to speed roller skating, skaters mostly prefer to wear inline speed skates. Before inline skates, people used to perform inline skates with quad skates.

One good thing about inline speed skates is that they’re somewhat quicker than quads (or even rollerblades), probably due to the height and overall thinness of the skate wheels.

In most cases, serious speed roller skating is done on inline skates, although there’s still a small contingent of skaters who compete on low-top quad roller skates.

There are no one-speed skates in rollerblading events, but you can always do so at the rink during races or with your buddies outside. Popular brands of inline speed skates include VNLA, K2, Bont, and Luigino.

Artistic Roller Skating

In most cases, artistic roller skating is performed on high-top quad roller skates. Some skaters, however, are now doing artistic roller skating on special artistic rollerblades or inline skates. But generally, skaters in this sport often use quads. The most popular skates for artistic skating are made by Sure-Grip and Riedell.

One thing you’re likely to realize about artistic roller skating is that it resembles figure skating in the Olympics, which is done on ice skates. In fact, the only difference is that the spins and jumps are performed on roller skates instead of skis.

Roller Hockey

Roller Hockey is yet another popular skating style, especially among young children. And you can do it as well. Most serious players in this sport, however, utilize roller hockey skates.

There are now skates designed specifically for the activity. Bauer, Tour, and Mission are among the well-known manufacturers of hockey skates for this type of roller inline skate.

Skating Jam

Jam skating, in a simple way of saying, is more of a cross between dance, breakdance, and gymnastics being done on roller skates. The majority of jam skating is performed on low-top quad roller skates; VNLA is known for manufacturing some of the most popular jam skates.

Shuffle and Rhythm Skating

The majority of old-school shuffle and rhythm competitors wear high-top quad roller skates with specially designed dance skate wheels for easy sliding and spinning.

So, Should You Roller Skates or Rollerblades?

So, Should You Roller Skates or Rollerblades?

Well, you’re in luck because we’re going to be talking about YOU from now on. What do you enjoy doing in life? What can be the most enjoyable? Or where would you get the most fun?

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This is where you get to know which skate matches you best. Of course, if you’re planning to buy a skate for someone else you can always consult with them first. And if that doesn’t work, you can guess.

First, What Age Are You?

If you’re doing one for a young kid, then either option can do the trick. That said, roller skates are often considered ideal for very young children since they provide greater stability. As such, most small children find them easy to use. Plus they don’t really move that fast.

Fisher Price skates for kids, for example, used to come in roller skates. All you need to do is just push them along like small shoes. Inline skates may also be used by young children; their initial balance may be a little more difficult to master, but once they do, they can easily whizz about without issues.

The good thing about inline skates is that the skate can be bent so that you can easily turn it right and left in a way that allows your legs to work out independently through trial and error.

With roller skates, meanwhile, you just need to figure out how to lean on the truck- which can be quite challenging to perfect. Roller skates are not always the easiest to use either. Outdoor skating with rollerblades might be simpler for older children and teens because they can go faster.

Remember when it comes to young children, what their peers are doing is really important, so try to find out and purchase those styles of skates. Don’t just assume; do some research on the exact brand and kind of skate. And if you’re an adult shopping for children, it’s good to avoid imposing your preferences so that they can make the most out of their skating sessions.

Otherwise, if you’re buying one for yourself, what matters most is what you’re looking to get out of your skates.

Are You Interested In Personal Fitness

With good determination and a fair enough habit, either of these can possibly help with personal fitness. Speed rollerblades may however allow for relative ease for outdoor skating making them a somewhat better pick for “getting fit”.

This is simply because you can skate greater distances over outside terrain more effectively. Otherwise, most marathon skaters prefer to use inlines.

Or Are You Simply Into Having Fun?

If so, then it is satisfactory. Roller blades or skates; either way, you will have fun. If you reside in a city that offers an evening or weekend skate (like New York, London, or Copenhagen), you should absolutely consider joining one of these if you’re even somewhat interested in recreational skating.

They’re a lot of fun, with hundreds of other skaters, blasting music, and everyone having a great time doing something that most people don’t get to do. There’s even a sense of community. Arrive without skates to observe what everyone else is wearing and see if it influences your selection whether it’s roller skates or rollerblades or even inline skates.

Do You Enjoy Team Sports?

Do You Enjoy Team Sports?

If you enjoy team sports, then roller hockey (which features blades) and roller derby (which is popular among women although there are men’s teams as well) may be for you.

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In other words, it all depends on the sport you think boosts you the most. And once you get started, you’ll enjoy whatever sport you choose.

Do You Want To Race/Go Fast?

Well, if you want to go faster, then inline skates can be a great recommendation mainly because it is fast and can help over greater distances as compared to roller skating. Speed skating is possible because skates have substantially bigger, tougher wheels.

However, if you’re a newbie reading this, don’t rush out and buy speed skates. Well, you can go ahead and jump in, but be prepared to climb a lot more mountains. You might be acclimated to the notion of diving in headfirst, but you’re more likely to get hurt – that is, smashed face through the floor.

This is because your hasn’t processed the movement-related neural connections yet. It’s like going to the gym and lifting the biggest weight; you’ll either be unable to do it right away or will end up damaging your muscles. If you’re a novice, you’ll be wise to start with freestyle or recreational skates.

Are You Into Art/Artistic Flair?

This is fairly well balanced between both roller skates and rollerblades. Roller skates are utilized for artistic and synchronized skating, so choose those if that’s your thing. You can skate on both (around the small cones found in parks across the world, for example, London’s Hyde Park), but this is likely to be more successful on inline skates due to maneuverability.

Do You Want To Do Tricks

As it happens, you can do stunts or tricks on either. But because of their maneuverability, inline skaters often dominate the ramps (though roller skates can do them as well). Inline skates have a broader choice of “aggressive skates” made expressly for that purpose.

Inline skating basically combines a variety of artistic maneuvers and creative flare that people enjoy and enjoy. However, spectacular maneuvers can also be performed on roller skates.

Bottom Line

Bottom Line

Which is easier to learn? Rollerblading or roller skating?

Well, here’s a straight answer; if you practiced either when you were younger, then it’s likely to be the easiest to get along with. Going faster on rollerblades is easier in general, though.

The design and size of the rollerblade wheels explain why they’re often used by downhill skaters, speed skaters, and nearly everyone who takes up outdoor skating.

To continue skating, you’ll probably want to improve your speed, and inline skating allows you to do just that. However, you can achieve similar speeds (albeit not quite as fast) and maintain a solid pace on roller skates, and they may just work better with your style.

If you’re just starting off and are rather worried about slipping over, you can slip over on both equally as easily. There are arguments both ways: it may be easier to slip backward on roller skates since the wheel does not reach far enough beyond the boot to avoid this.

On rollerblades, meanwhile, it can be tough to maintain balance at first since the narrow wheelbase provides little ankle support- just like what you get with some modern high boots.

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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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