People roller stake and rollerblade for exercise, to compete in different team events, or simply because it’s fun.

However, when you’re getting started, it can be difficult to decide whether to pick up roller skates or rollerblades.

Learning the differences between the two activities can help you make a more informed choice.

Wheel Positioning

Wheel positioning is the most obvious but most important difference between roller skates and rollerblades. Roller skates have four wheels, arranged in two parallel lines.

Two wheels are at the top half of the skate, and two wheels are at the back of the skate.

Rollerblades are sometimes referred to as inline skates because the wheels on a rollerblade are all in one straight light, with one wheel positioned directly behind the next.

Rollerblades can have either three or four wheels.

Most people start with four wheels before transitioning to three wheels for added speed and maneuverability.

Rollerblades vs Roller Skates

Toe Stop

Aside from a different wheel configuration, most roller skates also have a toe stop at the front of the skate.

This feature often makes roller skates a bit easier for beginners, as it can act as a built-in brake, and it can also be used to push off and gain momentum.

Rollerblades don’t have a toe stop because the wheels on a rollerblade extend past the toe, whereas the wheels on a roller skate are arranged closer to the middle of the foot, with two wheels under the ball of the foot instead of the toe.

roller skate toe stop

Stability

Both roller skates and rollerblades offer stability in different ways. The way the wheels are positioned on a roller skate makes the skate feel more stable, and you’re much less likely to tip to one side or the other.

The wider wheelbase can also make you feel more stable if you’re standing still.

However, since rollerblade wheels often extend past the toe and heel, they also offer a good deal of stability and can make you feel less like you’re going to fall forward or backward.

Roller skates are often a great idea for kids, as they can help build confidence since they’re more stable initially.

However, if you plan to rollerblade at any point, it’s often best to start with rollerblades.

Switching from roller skates to rollerblades can be a hard transition, and starting with rollerblades will often train your body into better balance and form right from the start.

couple on rollerblades

Maneuverability

Roller skates are often used for fun activities such as dances, roller derbies, or performing tricks.

This is because the wide, short wheelbase makes roller skates very maneuverable. They’re a great choice for spins or quick, sharp turns.

Rollerblades, on the other hand, don’t allow for movements that are quite as sharp and they’re not good for tight spins, but they’re great for curves or any tricks that require speed.

Many types of inline skates are particularly designed for performing freestyle skating, which features intricate tricks.

roller skates on dance floor

Ankle Support

Roller skates offer more initial ankle support since they’re more stable when standing and you’re much less likely to twist your ankle tipping to one side or the other while skating.

However, rollerblade boots generally come up higher on the ankle, offering more ankle support overall.

You can also use either hard or soft rollerblade boots, and hard boots offer a great deal of support.

Soft boots, on the other hand, provide a good balance between ankle support and flexibility.

white rollerblade

Smoothness and Versatility

Rollerblade wheels are generally a bit harder, thicker, and more durable. This means they can be used on a variety of surfaces, including indoors, on a ramp, on the pavement, or even on urban structures such as railings, which are often used for tricks.

The wider wheels also make for a smoother ride.

Roller skates can also be used indoors or outdoors, but they’re much more suited to indoor use. When they’re used on pavement, roller skates can be very bumpy.

They may not stand up to rough surfaces, either, and you may need to replace the wheels or skates more frequently.

Rollerblading vs Roller Skating

Speed

Propelling yourself forward while on rollerblades is a much more efficient movement than propelling yourself on roller skates.

Because of how the wheels are shaped and positioned, rollerblades are also much smoother and faster.

All of this combined means that rollerblades are much faster overall than roller skates.

wearing rollerblades on pavement

Distance

Either rollerblades or roller skates can be used for quickly traveling to work, the store, or even taking a longer journey.

However, rollerblades are used for traveling or commuting much more often than roller skates. This is because rollerblades are faster and simply take less effort to propel.

If you want to try a skating race, marathon, or you want to join a group skate, it’s often best to look into rollerblades.

tying white roller skates

Exertion

If you want to try roller skating or rollerblading in order to exercise, both options are good choices.

Roller skates often won’t allow you to travel long distances or skate for long periods of time.

However, because they take more work to propel, they can help you exert yourself and burn a fair amount of calories in a relatively short time.

Rollerblades, on the other hand, often allow you to exercise for a longer period of time, as they take less bodily exertion to propel.

But because they’re easier to propel and take less exertion, you may need to rollerblade for longer in order to get an equal amount of exercise to what you might get if you were roller skating.

Sports

Sometimes, roller skates or rollerblades can be used interchangeably in sports, but some sports call for a particular skating style.

If you want to race, for example, you should definitely learn to skate on rollerblades. Rollerblades are also a good choice if you want to do slalom.

If you want to play roller derby, on the other hand, it’s better to learn to maneuver on roller skates.

Most competitive trick competitions utilize ramps, railings, or other urban props, so rollerblades tend to be a better choice, but if you want to perform tricks, whether to use roller skates or rollerblades often comes down to personal preference.

rollerblade racing

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