Styles of Roller Skates

Written by hallie engel
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Styles of Roller Skates
Rollerblades are popular, but quad skates, with four wheels, are making a comeback. (rollerblade image by Judy Ben Joud from

Though many people love whizzing around on sleek rollerblades, which contain a single row of thin wheels, old-fashioned quad skates are still popular and come in many styles. Some are designed for artistic performances akin to Olympic figure skating and others are made to handle the demands of speed and extreme sports, while others are made for just taking a few laps around the gym or park.

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Artistic Skates

Artistic roller skating is similar to ice skating, with elaborate, stylised routines performed in glittery costumes to musical accompaniment. Competitors in this sport wear artistic quad skates that bear some resemblance to ice skates as well. The skates have four wheels and a boot, usually made of leather, which laces up over the ankle to provide protection and support during competition and practice. Artistic skates also have a stacked heel to lend the wearer extra height and allow her to perform spins using her toes. The wheels of artistic skates usually have a diameter of 55 to 65mm and a width of 30 to 31mm, according to the Roller Skates website. The narrow width of the wheels allows them to be more easily manoeuvred, and a round pad under the toe of the skate is used to brake. Wheel size also varies to accompany the needs of different styles of artistic skating, such as dance, singles or pairs.

Roller Derby Skates

Roller derby is a fast-paced, full-contact sport played by all-female teams. During derby competitions, called "bouts," players race around a circular track, trying to assist the scoring member of the team to pass those on the opposing side to gain points. The sport was popular in the 1970s and 1980s, but has experienced an international revival in recent years. Derby skaters typically wear skates with no heel and a track or jam skating boot to cradle and support their feet. The Women's Flat Track Derby Association says track boots "have more internal support, known as a counter, for going fast and turning left" and jam boots have less counter, which exposes more of the ankle and allows for more dramatic moves with increased freedom of movement.

Strap-On Skates

Strap-on skates are just what they sound like--skates that are placed over a pair of shoes. Some styles of strap-on skates are designed for growing children and can be extended and retracted to fit a variety of shoe sizes as feet grow or when the skates are passed on from one kid to another. The first versions of strap-on skates were made of metal and could only be adjusted for fit using a special skate key, according to the quad skates website. Plastic versions for children are available now, though they may not provide the quality necessary for skilled skating should kids become serious about the sport.

Sneaker Skates

Sneaker skates are essentially jogging shoes with roller skate wheels attached to the footbed by a metal plate. The usually provide little to no ankle coverage, but do have the comfort factor of sneakers, and the Quad Skates website says they are "fine for fitness skating or shuffling around the roller disco," though not strong enough for the rigours of competitive speed skating. Both roller skate and skateboarding shops might be able to make a pair of old shoes into sneaker skates by attaching the wheels and supporting materials, so inquire of local businesses to see what services they offer.

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