Roller skates vs. inline skates: what’s the difference?

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Roller skates have four wheels in a rectangular pattern while roller blades have three to five wheels in a single row. Roller skates are seen as more recreational while blades are more serious sporting equipment. Roller skates have round stoppers on the front while blades have rectangular stoppers on the back. Both are good aerobic exercise tools and have different histories.

The biggest difference between roller skates and roller skates is the way the wheels are aligned on each. Both are essentially shoes that allow users to roll. Roller skates generally have four wheels arranged in a rectangular pattern, with two in front and two in the back, like they would be in a car. Blades, on the other hand, have three to five wheels arranged in a single row in a way that often resembles an ice skate. Also, there tend to be differences when it comes to why people choose one over the other. In many cases skates are seen more as a recreational tool, while blades can be seen as more serious sporting equipment. Skiers and ice skaters may use roller skates as a means of training and exercise in the warmer months, for example, but roller skates would not provide the same experience.

Wheel alignment and basic styling

In most cases, roller skates are essentially shoes with four wheels attached in two rows to the sole. Some skates have a stylized look, but are traditionally constructed much like a regular athletic shoe. They may have ankle support, but are typically made of cloth. Most tie with regular shoelaces.

Roller skates, which may also be called “inline skates,” tend to be constructed differently. Here the wheels are generally aligned in the center of the foot, from heel to toe, in a straight line. The shoe itself is also often much sturdier, often making use of plastic clips and attachments. Roller skates often look like downhill ski boots more than shoes, and intense ankle supports and stability aids usually come standard.

Balance and stop

Skaters generally don’t have to think much about balance, as the shoes are more or less stable on their own. Learning to roll may take some practice, but in many cases even children can quickly start skating thanks to the stable wheel alignment. The same isn’t usually true with blades. Balancing on a single line of wheels often requires great agility and a degree of skill.

Another difference between roller skates and roller skates is the stoppers and braking mechanisms. Roller skate caps tend to be round and are placed on the front of the shoe at the toe. Using them requires skaters to lift their heels and angle their toes forward to stop. The blade stops are rectangular and are usually located at the rear of the skate near the heel. To stop on skates, the wearer simply needs to do the opposite action to that required on skates, which is to lift their toes and angle their heel into the ground until the stopper touches the surface.

However, not all roller blades have caps. This is especially true for models designed for serious athletes. In these cases the wearer simply has to stop himself, usually by wedging the feet together and slowing down naturally, as one would do on ice skates.
Primary goals
Both skates and blades are often used for recreation, but skates are often seen as more casual — meaning they’re often just used for fun — while blades are more often used by people looking for a more serious workout. Aligning the wheels in line usually allows for higher speeds, and the type of movement needed for balance often also promotes the use of many different muscle groups. Sometimes people go rollerblading along the running paths or bike paths as a way to get exercise and cover a lot of distance. Skates are most common in indoor skating rinks or skateparks, or they can be worn on sidewalks as a pleasant way to get from place to place. Both types are considered by many experts to be good aerobic exercise tools, although the intensity tends to vary widely.

Roller skates and roller skates also have different histories. Skates were very popular with children in the 1970s and were a cultural phenomenon in alternative areas such as ice rinks and roller dermas for the more extreme. They were first patented in 1760 in Europe, and today’s shape was first devised in 1863.
Roller skates were first developed from roller skate design in the 1980s, primarily as a replacement training method for ice skating. They became popular in the 1980s and 1990s with the marketing of the Rollerblade® brand of inline skates. Roller blades have helped increase the popularity of roller hockey, freestyle slalom and speed skating.

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