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Are rollerblades or roller skates better?

If you’re thinking of learning to skate, you might be wondering whether you should buy rollerblades or traditional quad roller skates. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, so it isn’t as simple as saying one option is better than the other. 

Rollerblades have all their wheels configured in a line, making them fast and responsive, and better on rough terrain. Roller skates have two pairs of side-by-side wheels that offer a more stable base for beginners and make them ideal for skating at rinks, skateparks and on other smooth surfaces. 

What are rollerblades?

Rollerblades — or inline skates — feature three to five wheels lined up one behind the other. This configuration can make them more difficult for new skaters to balance on, though the longer wheelbase has some advantages when balancing forward and backward. Once you’ve learned how to use them, however, rollerblades are quick and responsive. 

What’s great about rollerblades when learning to skate is that you’re unlikely to clip the wheels on one skate into the wheels on the other skate and trip yourself over, which is a much more common experience when learning to roller skate. Expect to pay anywhere from $50-$300 for a pair of rollerblades. 

What you’ll love about rollerblades

  • Rollerblades have larger wheels than roller skates, making them faster and better suited to activities where speed is essential, like roller hockey. 
  • The large wheels also offer a smoother ride over rough surfaces, so roller blades are a better choice than roller skates for skating on sidewalks and trails with some bumps and cracks. 
  • Although you might find yourself wobbling side-to-side, the long vertical wheelbase on rollerblades makes you less likely to fall over forwards or backwards compared to roller skates. 
  • Rollerblades are great for weaving and are highly responsive to lateral leg movements due to the tall boots. 

What you should consider about rollerblades

  • Most beginner skaters feel less stable when using rollerblades compared to roller skates.
  • It can be tricky to make tight turns and intricate maneuvers while maintaining stability while wearing rollerblades. 

Top rollerblades

Epic Skates Engage 3-Wheel Inline Speed Skates

If you’ve decided that rollerblades are the right choice, you still need to find your perfect pair. For serious skaters, the Epic Skates Engage 3-Wheel Inline Speed Skates are an excellent choice. Their extra-large wheels means you can go fast and you get a smooth ride over bumps and cracks in the sidewalk. 

Rollerblade Advantage Pro XT Inline Skates

Rollerblade Advantage Pro XT Inline Skates are an excellent mid-range choice for skaters of all levels. They’re durable and supportive with a rear brake to make stopping easier. 

LIKU Professional Inline Skates

LIKU Professional Inline Skates have thick, durable outer shells but with ventilation holes so your feet don’t overheat. They offer a nice balance between speed and stability. 

Xino Sports Kids Inline Skates

If you’re buying rollerblades for a child, we love the Xino Sports Kids Inline Skates, which are size adjustable and have fun light-up wheels.

What are roller skates?

Roller skates feature two pairs of wheels side-by-side, each pair on its own axel — or “truck” — like on a car or a skateboard. Roller skates were around long before rollerblades, so they’re sometimes considered old fashioned or uncool, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Roller skates are often used for park skating on half-pipes and ramps and for roller derby, and you can’t get much cooler than that. 

Roller skates — also known as quad skates — offer a wide wheelbase that feels stable, though it’s still likely you’ll fall when you’re learning. Roller skates are relatively inexpensive with basic models costing from $20-$60, though more expensive offerings can cost $200 or more.

What you’ll love about roller skates

  • The short wheelbase and moving trucks on roller skates make them highly maneuverable while remaining stable, which is perfect for roller derby and artistic roller skating (such as roller dancing). 
  • The front stopper on roller skates makes it easy for skaters to slow down and stop. 
  • As long as you’re on a smooth surface, you can make extremely tight turns when wearing roller skates. 
  • The side-by-side wheels tend to make new skaters feel more stable. 
  • You can find roller skates in a wide range of colors, patterns and designs. 

What you should consider about roller skates

  • Due to their smaller wheels and shorter wheelbase, roller skates don’t perform so well on rough or uneven surfaces. They’re great at a roller rink or skatepark, but not so good on cracked or bumpy sidewalks.
  • You can’t pick up quite as much speed on an average pair of roller skates compared to an average pair of rollerblades. 

Top roller skates

Impala Quad Skates

Impala Quad Skates are an excellent higher-end choice that come in a range of fun designs, including holographic silver, black glitter and floral print. They’re well made and suitable for a range of skate-based activities.

Riedell Skates Quad Roller Speed Skates

Riedell Skates Quad Roller Speed Skates are the ideal option for skaters with a need for speed. They’re quicker than average roller skates and offer a smooth ride.

Roller Derby Roller Star Women's Roller Skates

Roller Derby Roller Star Skates are affordable skates designed with the needs of roller derby players in mind. That said, they’re versatile enough for general street skating and even park skating. 

Crazy Skates Rocket Roller Skates

Crazy Skates Rocket Roller Skates are perfect for kids who want to get into roller skating or who have grown out of their old skates. They’re reasonably priced but perform well. 

Should I get rollerblades or roller skates? 

There’s no definitive answer as to whether you should buy rollerblades or roller skates. If you’re just starting out, you may find you feel more stable on quad skates, but it’s perfectly fine to learn to skate on rollerblades, too.

In fact, some people find them easier. If you’re looking to get into roller derby, then opt for roller skates over roller blades, as they’ll give you more maneuverability and stability when checking or being checked. For pure speed, however, rollerblades are your best bet. They’re also better for slightly uneven terrain.

Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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