Ever since James Plimpton came up with the first set in 1863, roller skates for women have been responsible for “rinkomania” – the desire to use skates inside and out of rinks for purposes ranging from recreation to workouts and serious sport. This is not surprising if you consider that the skates have moved from being boots on wheels to being state-of-art sporting gear capable of allowing women to move at 10kmph. These days you can choose to use such speed to burn upwards of 600 calories per hour or win exciting prizes in roller derby or roller hockey, Of course, such achievements require practice, and practice demands a good pair of roller skates.
Quite annoyingly, the increasing sophistication of the womens skates’ market has led to a mushrooming of technical terms like durometer, core, profile and so on. Failing to get the right combination can well reduce your dreams of speed to a week in hospital with sprained/broken limbs. Furthermore, there are some vital points that pertain to women skaters. To address these, we have decided to provide a simple but comprehensive guide to buying skates that will enable you to start your journey towards skating greatness sans injury.
Top 3 women’s roller skates 2016
Based on your own specific needs, you can go ahead and decide which roller skates for ladies are suitable for you. That said, it is unavoidable that some types of skates would be more popular than others, and among these, some products would rank as “best”. While we shall go over the means of deciding what is “best” later in this guide, let us first take a look at three products that have become all-time favorites in the roller skate for adults market.
Riedell Skates Dart Roller Skate
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Complementing the stable plate are ABEC 5 wheel bearings that led many users to recommend these for speed skating. Equally commended were the handmade padded shoe design that allowed users unmatched comfort regardless of whether they were refereeing roller derby or taking part in jam skating events. When considered along with the decent toe grips and compact and low design, these make these Riedell skates ideal for anyone interested in indoor skating.
Wide feet: K2 Skate Women’s Alexis Boa Inline Skates
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Again unlike the competition, K2 has provided users with the Boa strap closure system that users found to be easier to use compared to ordinary strap systems. Combined with the fact that the excellent padding provides adequate protection against sparains and abrasions, these allow the user to achieve good outdoor skating speeds without worrying about durability or the health of her legs.
Ladies size 6 to 10: Rollerblade Women’s Zetrablade 80 Skate
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Speaking of overall construction, we find the Zetrablade having enhanced padding for ensuring user comfort. Coupled with a simple strap-opening system and overall focus on stability, these prove to be enough to inspire most users to rise from the level of beginners to that of professionals.
Type of Roller Skates
The image we have in mind when we speak of roller skates is of a shoe placed on a metal pedestal with four wheels attached, two one each side. This is broadly true, but there are nuances that every woman skater should be aware of. Considering these, we can divide womens roller skates into the following categories –
1. Indoor Skates – As the name suggests, indoor skates are meant to be used in rinks, gyms and indoor racing/cycling tracks that support skates. Since indoor areas are typically hard, slippery and devoid of unevenness, these skates are meant to glide over smooth surfaces. As such, a majority of them have very hard wheels.
- Good for playing indoor skate sports and practising artistic routines.
- Hard wheels do not wear out easily.
- Narrow wheels and body make manoeuvring easy.
- High boots for good control.
- Cannot be used on uneven or sticky surfaces
- Wheels often not replaceable
2. Outdoor skates – Outdoor 4 wheel roller skates are meant to provide greater surface grip. This allows skaters to move over rough, uneven and pothole-filled surfaces with ease. As such, they come with softer wheels that minimize vibrations and thus allow users to focus on their technique.
- Good for outdoor workouts and races
- Bounce and lateral movement minimized by special design.
- Can be used indoors for rough or sticky surfaces
- Soft wheels tend to wear out faster
- Cannot be used in ordinary skating rinks
3. Inline skates – Inline skates are direct successors of the older designs of roller blades for women – they come with two or three wheels aligned in a single row. These create a “blade” below the shoe that allows the user to achieve many of the moves that are otherwise restricted to roller blades. They are further divided into –
- Racing Skates – Meant for those participating in competitions or otherwise racing with their friends, racing skates have very tight shoes that reduce the gaps between the woman’s foot and the shoe. This prevents wind resistance from slowing her down during the race. Further, many skates come with replaceable wheels to allow users to move from outdoor to indoor and back again without difficulty.
- Hockey Skates – These are simple in line roller skates that are more durable than ordinary ones so as to withstand rough playing conditions.
- Recreational/Workout Skates – Overlapping with outdoor roller skates in their utility, these skates provide comfort for the woman who prefers skates to shoes or cycles when traversing moderately long distances. Further, the shoes of roller skates for women are high to ensure adequate support for the lower limb. Unlike the above two variants, the wheels of these skates are generally not replaceable.
- Ideal for a range of skating sports and events.
- Wheels generally replaceable (recreational skates an exception)
- Narrow wheelbase allows good manoeuvrability
- Requires greater balance and skill to operate.
4. Derby Skates – Having started out in the 1930s as a niche sport, roller derby is now a very popular game among young women. Derby skating requires special skates that can handle the speed and durability requirements of the sport.
- Durable exterior capable of taking heavy abuse.
- Designed to achieve fast speeds quickly and maintain them.
- Lighter than ordinary skates to reduce burden on legs
- Quick and rapid change of direction allowed
- Costly compared to other variants.
5. Speed skates – Including both women outdoor roller skates and the more common indoor variant, speed skates are meant for users who wish to move rapidly and smoothly over a variety of surfaces. They are popular because of their versatility in terms of the range of terrains and uses they can be put to.
- Can be used for racing, recreational skating and skate-dancing
- Good speed for most purposes.
- Low cut shoes allow for comfort and freedom for the ankles.
- Decent manoeuvrability at high speed.
- Cheaper variants may not be very durable.
Tips on roller skates video
How to select the Best Roller Skates for Women
It is never possible to cover all the great women’s roller skates without turning the guide into a tome. Hence, should you find the above to be at variance with your needs or otherwise unavailable, you can use the criteria we chose when deciding which roller skates to review. These criteria are –
Durometer – Perhaps the simplest differentiator, durometer is a measure of the hardness of the wheels. It is generally measured in “a” units and the higher the durometer, the harder the surface of the wheel. While most 4 wheel roller blades are classified as outdoor or indoor by the manufacturer, the real measure of a product’s applicability depends on the durometer. A good rule of thumb would be –
- 73-85a – These wheels are soft and are ideal for outdoor skating since the soft wheels provide better grip on uneven surfaces. However, they may also be used on sticky or soft surfaces like mats, etc. when skating indoors.
- 85-103a – Meant for indoor skating, these wheels assume a hard, slippery and even surface. They can also be used outdoors if the surface is extremely smooth eg. in outdoor skating rinks.
Note that while outdoor rollers with durometer less than 85a can be used indoors, indoor skates with higher durometer cannot be used outdoors except in very special conditions. However, outdoor skates when used indoors would slow you down by gripping the surface unneccesarily.
ABEC Rating – ABEC is an acronym for Annual Bearing Engineers’ Committee. ABEC determines the quality of the bearings and gives a rating. The higher the rating, the better the bearings are supposed to be. Many manufacturers provide ABEC ratings for the bearings used in their wheels and this can be a good (but unverifiable) measure to decide how smooth and durable the bearings would be.
Shoes – As noted above, shoes come in high or low variants. High shoes provide better control while lower ones are useful for recreational purposes and certain sports. Again, some shoes come with padding while others don’t. Finally, we saw above that many women skaters praised the Boa strap system while criticizing others. In fact, there are a number of strapping/lacing systems and each has its pros and cons. You should keep all of these points in mind when deciding which shoe would be ideal for you.
Chassis – The chassis sits between the shoe and the wheels and is essential to ensuring control, durability and stability of the roller blades for women. Nylon chassis are popular among users on a budget or who are into recreational skating. Professionals and those taking serious interest in jam (dance) sessions or sports need to have an aluminium chassis to provide them with insurance against the wear and tear involved.
Profile – Profile refers to both the height of the skates and the overall width. Compact skates are ideal for most users as they provide good manoeuvrability and are generally lighter. However, some sports and events may demand specific profiles and you may have to check with the organizers before putting in your name. Furthermore, since a large number of women skaters take part in jam/artistic dance competitions, it is advisable to go for compact, low profile shoes in order to maintain sufficient balance while performing complex dance steps.
Size – As far as women skaters are concerned, unpadded shoes tend to conform to your normal shoe sizes. If the shoe is padded, it is advisable to buy skates that are 0.5 to 1 size higher than what your everyday shoes.
Price – Experts suggest that for beginners and recreational users, the price should not exceed $150. Professionals on the other hand will not be able to find good aluminium-chassis skates below this amount and for them, the budget can be anywhere between $199 to $500. Some extremely specialized skates might even exceed $500.
As we saw above while discussing how to buy great roller skates for women, the choice of skates depends on a large extent on the predilections of the user. Further, women skaters often prefer to have padded shoes and may need to obtain low profile ones for certain activities like dancing, artistic routines, etc. Beyond these, however, there are a number of points like durometer, ABEC rating, etc. which apply to all skaters regardless of gender, and which we saw being incorporated into the top products in the market. To wind up then, we may say that whether you decide to go for one of the top products in the market or prepare your own list of ideal candidates, it is always ideal to choose your raison d’etre for skating and your budget and then go in for the best skates based on the criteria above. We hope that with this procedure and the information we’ve provided, you will be able to obtain a pair of roller skates that would prove to be a long-lasting and satisfactory companion regardless of your skating style.