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In-line Skating FAQ: Guide to Buying Inline Skates (3.1)

( Part1 - Part2 - Part3 - Part4 - Part5 - Part6 - Part7 - Part8 - Part9 - Part10 - Part11 - Part12 - Part13 - Part14 - Part15 - Part16 - Part17 - Part18 - Part19 - Part20 )
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Posted-By: auto-faq
Archive-name: sports/skating/inline-faq/part8

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
   _r.s.s.inline FAQ: Marketplace - Guide to Buying Inline Skates_
   [LINK] -->
   (last changed Friday, 13-Sep-96 13:13:30 MDT)
What This Guide Is

   This guide is meant to provide you with an organized approach to skate
   shopping. It is intended for those readers with little or no knowledge
   of in-line skates. This guide is not review-oriented and any specific
   skate products or brands shown or mentioned is only for use as
   examples. (See part 3.3 of the FAQ for skate reviews.)
   As with all purchases, read the fine print before buying. Make sure
   you can return the merchandise if it is found to be broken, defective
   or otherwise unsatisfactory after you purchase it.
   Warning: this guide may be offensive to salespeople (aka
   "salesdroids") who pretend they know something about inline skates
   when they sell them in stores. If you're not one of those fakers, then
   don't worry about it. If your store is providing really good service
   (free wheel rotation for your customers, calling them up about wheel
   specials, replacing a lost spacer for free, etc.) I don't think a few
   words from the internet is going to disuade people from giving you
   their business. If anything, you have the chance to show that not only
   are you NOT a salesdroid, but that you are actually skate savvy.
   If you really want to thank me for writing this article, do me a favor
   and wear your helmet. Wear your helmet, your knee pads, and skate
   under control. Learn to brake. Be courteous to pedestrians, bikers and
   other skaters. Oh, and if you can help us get this article published,
   that'd be nice too 8-) We're looking to make this into a small booklet
   or something for shoppers to carry with them as a reference.
   -Tony Chen,
   208 W. 8th Ave., Tallahassee FL 32303, (904) 224-0230
Table of Contents:

    1. Before you go to the store
          + Decide your skating needs
               o What type of skating will I want to do?
               o What's most important to me?
          + Deciding on your price range
               o The Crummy Skate Threshold
               o Remember you'll also need safety gear
               o Mail order versus local stores
               o Some mail-order shops
          + Learn the terminology
               o Wheel terms
                    # Diameter
                    # Maximum wheel size
                    # Durometer
                    # Rockering
               o Bearings and ABEC ratings
               o Braking systems
    2. At the store
          + Bring the right socks
          + Ignore the sales hype
          + Trying on skates
          + Things to look for
               o Liner fit
               o Closure systems
               o Shell design
               o Wheels and other stuff
    3. After you buy
          + Testing out your skates
    4. Here's a checklist for you to print out to take to the store.
Before You Go To The Store

   Okay, so you've heard about "rollerblades", you've seen the ads,
   you've watched rollerhockey on TV, you see skaters on the streets and
   on the sidewalks, and now you want a piece of the action too. Where do
   I go? What kind of skate should I buy? How much will it cost me?
   What's the best skate out there?
   While this guide doesn't pretend to be the final word on all skate
   shopping issues, hopefully it'll help shed some light on those
   questions and how to go about choosing the proper skates.
   Shopping for in-line skates is much like shopping for a car. Your best
   bet is to go armed with information and to know what each skate
   feature means for you and your skating. Don't listen to the hype. Use
   your brain. About 99.5% of the salespeople in stores I've come across
   know less than I do about the skates they're selling. Many times I
   pose as an uninformed shopper and ask the standard questions. Almost
   always the answers are rehashed phrases from manufacturers' brochures.
   They throw out buzzwords like "durometer", "ABEC", and "ABT" to sound
   like they actually know something. Don't be thrown off. Just show them
   a printout of this guide, and tell them Tony said they're full of
  Decide Your Needs
   If you go into the store without a clear goal in mind, you could
   easily end up getting something you don't want. Salespeople love it
   when you do this. It's like grocery shopping while you're hungry - you
   tend to buy everything that looks appealing. So before you put a
   single big toe inside the store, answer these two questions first:
    1. _What type of skating will I want to do?_
       You can do all sorts of things on skates: figure skating, hockey,
       ramps, stair riding, hills (both up and down), speed skating,
       commuting to work or classes, and on and on. The thing to decide
       here is mainly between these types of skates: multi-purpose,
       hockey, or speed.
       _Multi-purpose skates_
       Most of you will probably be looking at multi-purpose skates.
       These are sometimes labeled by the manufacturers as
       "cross-training/fitness" and "recreational". Translation: "costs
       more" and "costs less", respectively.
       Another type of multi-purpose skate that has become very popular
       is the "aggressive" or "street" skates which are specifically
       designed for grinds, railslides, and other common skating tricks.
       These skates usually come with grind plates (plastic or metal
       covers that go on the runners), smaller harder wheels, and rugged
       Multi-purpose skates comprise the large majority of the inline
       skating market. These skates are usually made of plastic with a
       foam liner inside. Some have all laces, some all buckles, and some
       have combinations of both. A typical example is the 1994
       Rollerblade Macroblades Equipes (EQ):
       RB Equipes image
       _Hockey skates_
       Hockey Inline Skates are usually made of stitched leather and/or
       ballistic nylon, like those you see ice hockey players wear. Very
       few, if any, use a foam liner (although of course many players use
       recreational skates for hockey). Hockey skates will tend to be
       great on the rink, but won't stand up as well to shocks and
       abrasion from outdoor surfaces. Hockey skates will use laces, with
       some models having an additional velcro strap at the ankle. Some
       models also have toe or side plates to protect the leather when
       you fall.
       In the past, hockey skates were almost always slightly modified
       recreational skates. Today, there are dozens of models by most of
       the big names from ice hockey to choose from: Bauer, CCM, Koho,
       etc. You'll see two kinds of models: production skates with both
       boot and frame, and component skates.
       The production models are typically revamped or modified
       recreational skates, (i.e., plastic boot, foam liner, and plastic
       frame). The component skates usually have a boot from one company
       plus a frame by another manufacturer like Labeda or Sure-Grip. The
       component hockey frames are usually made of some aluminium alloy
       (like racing frames). Mounting the frames usually requires
       riveting the frame to the sole of the boot. Most all the serious
       hockey skates use the component approach.
       An example of a hockey skate is the Bauer H6-comps:
       Bauer H6-comps image
       _Speedskates and 5-wheelers_
       Speedskates are typically made of leather and come with a long
       wheelbase to accommodate 5 wheels. Usually speedskates won't be
       available in your local sports stores. You'll likely have to find
       a shop specializing in skates (in which case, ignore my previous
       remark about salespeople and baloney), to find speedskates on the
       _Component Skates_
       Speedskates are cut low at the ankles. Most all are laces-only,
       but some have one buckle at the ankle. If you're looking at racing
       skates you might want to pick out your components separately. The
       four main components you'll have to consider are the boots, frames
       (runners), bearings, and wheels. An example of a boot and frame
       are the Viking Marathon Special boots and the Mogema frames:
       viking boot image mogema frame image
       If you're looking at getting component skates, you'll find there's
       a wide variety of boots and frames to choose from.
       Racing frames are usually made of an aluminium alloy, although you
       will find the more expensive frames made of fiberglass/carbon
       fiber type materials too (mainly for lightness). There are
       different types of aluminium alloy, denoted by a Series number.
       _Al-Alloy Designation_ _Principal alloying element_ 1xxxnone
       2xxxCu 3xxxMn 4xxxSi 5xxxMg 6xxxMg and Si 7xxxZn 8xxxother
       In general the higher series have better strength characteristics
       but may suffer from lower corrosion resistance. For more info, see
       Racing frames tend to be made in three ways:
          + _Fabricated:_ A flat piece of metal is stamped out and then
            folded to make the frame (cheapest)
          + _Extruded and Milled:_ the molten alloy is forced through a
            die (mold) then milled to finish (moderately expensive)
          + _Machined:_ the frame is designed and cut by a computer from
            a solid block of alloy, which gives the best precision and
            tolerance (most expensive)
       Most of the mid/high-end frames out there tend to be machined or
       extruded. You may see the term "triple-extrusion". I'm not sure
       what this means. Maybe they have some sort of 3-step process to
       extrude the frame.
       Boots also vary widely in material, but are usually made of some
       type of leather. Most Bont boots, for example, are made of
       kangaroo leather. Some boots will have a combination of leather
       and carbon/graphite material for strength and weight-reduction.
       Racing boots often are heat-moldable, so that you can warm them up
       (like in an oven or with a heat gun) and then mold them to your
       feet. This is a somewhat tedious process, but the results are well
       worth it. Having a near-perfect fit to your feet helps conserve
       energy and gives you a better feel of the road. Some boots are
       only partially moldable, and some are fully moldable (usually the
       more expensive models).
       Buying components separately is typically the most expensive
       approach (short of getting entirely custom skates) but also
       provides the best fit for your skating needs. You get what you pay
       _Production 5-wheelers_
       The other 5-wheel option is to buy pre-assembled 5-wheel
       production skates which are generally considered more for
       recreational speedskating and long-distance skating. These skates
       have plastic boots with either metal or plastic runners. They will
       be a lot heavier than component speedskates in almost every case.
       Some are cut lower or higher depending on their intended usage.
       For example, the Roces Paris (CDG) skates has a plastic vented
       boot cut moderately low, laces, one buckle, and metal runners:
       Roces CDG image
       Technically, it's not the extra wheel that makes these skates go
       faster, it's the extra length in the wheelbase. The longer
       wheelbase makes the skates more stable at higher speeds. The
       trade-off (there's always a trade-off) is that they're much less
       maneuverable than 3 or 4 wheel skates. You may find some 4 wheel
       skates that have their wheels spread a lot farther apart than
       normal to achieve a longer wheelbase. I know of one K2
       cross-trainer model that has long runners with axle holes designed
       to let you use either 4 or 5 wheels. There is also a Bauer
       cross-trainer skate that has the wheels spread far apart (but
       without the extra axle holes).
    2. _What's most important to me? (quality, speed, or price)_
       Okay, now that you've chosen the type of skate to buy, the next
       thing to do is to decide what's most important to you in a skate.
       Let me quote the all-purpose law of consumer goods:
  "Good, Fast, Cheap. Pick two."
       For skates, "good" usually translates into "comfortable and
       durable"; "fast" is usually "quality of construction and parts"
       (which let you go faster). Basically you have to choose what's the
       LEAST important to you. For most people that I've counseled in
       skate shopping, the price usually turns out to be the least
       important ("What?? Is he crazy? I only have $X to spend!" you say?
       Read on.)
       In general, the more money you put up front, the less it'll cost
       you in the long run. But on ONE condition! This is assuming you
       will be using your skates, and continue to skate for years to
       come. If you're going to buy them, try them once, and throw them
       in the closet, then go directly to Toys-R-Us or K-mart and buy the
       $35 skates with bright neon green and purple colors. Do not pass
       GO, and do not collect $200.
       [ Toys R Us | K-Mart ]
       Okay, since you're still reading this, you haven't gone off to
       Toys-R-Us or K-mart, so I'll assume you're committed, or at least
       committed to being committed, to skating.
       So how does paying more up front save you more in the long run? If
       you buy cheapo skates, your skating experience will suck. Plain
       and simple. If you buy bad skates, then after a couple weeks of
       aches and pain, you'll say "See, Tony I told you so. Good thing I
       didn't spend more money." Wrong. Don't confuse cause and effect.
       Like most things in life, the rule is GIGO: garbage in, garbage
       out. You get out of it, what you put into it.
       To put it another way, the better skate that you buy, the better
       it fits. The better they fit, the less pain you endure. The less
       pain you endure, the less blisters you'll get on your feet. The
       less blisters you have, the less blood that oozes from them, and
       the more you like skating. I said it'd cost you less, and it terms of pain, sweat, tears, blood, time, and bandage
       money. Not only that, if you enjoy the skating, you'll want to go
       out and skate even more. In turn, this means you'll learn to skate
       better and get more for your money. Make sense? Good!
  Decide Your Price Range
   _The Crummy Skate Threshold (CST)_
   Now, in the previous section I made it seem like you should go out and
   spend your life savings on the best skate you can find. Only if you
   want to. As with most things, diminishing returns takes effect. $150
   skates are definitely more than 5 times better than $30 skates. But
   are $300 skates twice as good as $150 skates? Well, it depends. The
   bottom line is to stay above what I call the Crummy Skate Threshold,
   or CST for short.
   In my experience, the CST is at around $110-120 (all dollar figures
   are US$; adust for your standard of living and currency as needed).
   Skates retailing under $110-120 usually aren't worth their money.
   You'd be a whole lot better off putting that money towards a good pair
   of $150-250 skates. Note that the CST applies to the brand-new price,
   and not to used-skate prices. You may find good skates at clearance
   sales or skates that have been used. If so, go for it. (See the
   Shopping for Used Skates section for more details). As a general rule
   though, stick with the CST.
   _Safety Gear_
   Make sure you factor in $40-$80 for protective gear when trying to
   estimate your total cost. I would highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend
   (I'd make it mandatory if I had the power) wrist guards ($15-17) and
   knee pads ($17-20) for beginners. A helmet and elbow pads are also
   highly recommended. An ANSI or Snell approved bike helmet works just
   fine. If you have a really old helmet though, toss it and shell out
   $40 for a nice new safer one. Once you're bleeding at the hands and
   knees, it'll be too late to wish that you had spent that puny extra
   $40 up front. Sounds like the bloody blister scenario? That's right.
   _Mail Order vs. Local Stores_
   If all this sounds like you have to spend your life savings again, let
   me quote what Mr. Spock said to Scotty in the Galileo 7 episode of the
   old Star Trek series, when their shuttle crashed on a planet and
   Scotty exclaims that all is lost because most of their fuel was lost
   in the landing:
   _"Mr. Scott, there are always alternatives." _
   Of course in the end through Star Trek magic, Scotty converted their
   phasers' energy to shuttle fuel. Amazing. Wish they would show us how
   to convert bullets to gasoline.
   In your case, you don't have to find Scotty, but you can find a
   mail-order shop. Mail-order can save you a substantial amount of money
   without sacrificing quality. However, the trade-off is (there's that
   "t"-word again) that you can't try on the skates or gear before you
   buy. You might have to ship the skates back once or more, if things
   aren't quite right or what you expected. And of course, you have to
   wait for UPS or snail-mail (USPS), to ship it to your door.
   One thing that will help is to try out the same skates at your local
   store. This only works mainly if you're shopping for recreational
   skates. Don't count on finding speedskates at most stores unless
   you're lucky enough to have a dedicated skate shop around. Try on
   skates to figure out the size that fits best, and then you can go
   shopping for price. Note that sizing is NOT consistent between all
   manufacturers, so be sure to compare apples with apples.
   To some people this may seem like you're using the store for free.
   However, if you feel like the service and convenience they give you is
   worth the price they charge (it could be close to or even cheaper than
   mail-order) then by all means buy them there. You won't have to pay
   for shipping, you get to start skating immmediately, and your local
   store gets some business. Prices in stores can often be lower or near
   mail-order, so never count out the local stores.
   If your budget is really tight, one thing you might try is to
   negotiate the price with the salespeople. This probably only works in
   non-chain stores, where they may actually be willing to bargain. If
   they won't budge, maybe the store owner will. Tell them, "You know I
   really like these skates, but $275 is a little high for me. I see them
   listed for $240 in the catalogs but I'd love to do my business in town
   with you instead. Do you think you could help me out here?"
   Probably won't work many times, but you won't know if you don't ask!
   The worst that can happen is that they say "Sorry, but we can't do
   that." The best that could happen is that they match, or maybe meet
   the price halfway. Better than nothing!
   Having said all that however, let me just say that my own experiences
   with ordering skates and other accessories through the mail have been
   very satisfactory. And on the plus side, pretty much all the
   salespeople at the mail-order shops know what they're talking about.
   Store salespeople ARE improving though, so hopefully your shopping
   experience will be good all around.
   For a list of mail-order shops, look at part 3.2 of the FAQ
  Learn The Terminology
   All right, now we're on a roll, so to speak. You know what sort of
   skate you're looking for, you know your target price range, and you're
   ready to jump into that store and start trying on skates. Before you
   do though, go through the following terms and get an idea of what each
   means. Once you're beyond trying on skates for comfort and fit, you'll
   want to compare the other features to see what's best for you.
   (More in-depth wheel information is in part 4.)
   _Wheel terms:_
                If you'll recall from grade school math, the diameter is
                the length across the widest part of a circle. Twice the
                length of the radius, if you prefer. For wheels, this is
                measured in millimeters (mm). Most production skates come
                with 72 and 76mm, with some high end skates equipped with
                80mm wheels (other sizes are available through
                mail-order). The shorter the wheel, the more stable and
                maneuverable your skates will be. However, they'll also
                be slower. Conversely taller wheels will let you go
                faster, but are less maneuverable.
        _Maximum wheel size:_
                Although maximum wheel size won't seem like a big deal
                when you're just beginning, it will be important once you
                become a proficient skater. Low-end skates generally come
                stocked with 70 or 72mm wheels, while the higher-end
                skates come with 76mm wheels. This is no accident. Most
                skaters eventually want more speed, and taller wheels are
                faster, all other things being equal. Some 76mm skates
                will vary in their ability to take 80mm wheels too.
                Smaller skate sizes might not have the option due to the
                whole skate being smaller.
                Not all skates can take larger wheels though. Most every
                76mm skate will take up to 80 or 82mm (plenty large for
                most people). 72mm skates are another story. Depending on
                the runner and chassis design, some can take only up to
                72.5mm wheels, while others can squeeze on 76mm ones.
                Some people actually shave or grind down parts of their
                skates so that they can fit larger wheels. In any case,
                if you can afford it, I'd suggest going with skates that
                can take at least 76mm wheels. You can always switch to
                smaller wheels if you want.
                Durometer has to do with the DURAbility of wheels. More
                simply, it means how hard the wheel material is. The
                industry (plastic industry I guess) "A" scale is used,
                with 0 being softest, and 100 being hardest. (It's
                rumored that Rush Limbaugh's skull is rated above 500A,
                but like I said, it's just a rumor.)
                Most wheels are 78A or 82A. 78A is considered on the
                softer side. They don't last quite as long as 82A's, but
                since they're softer, they absorb bumps better for a
                smoother ride. That's the primary trade-off when you go
                about selecting wheel hardness. For most stock skates,
                you won't have a choice, since they almost all come in
                78A. If you want or need harder wheels, you can buy a
                harder set when your original wheels wear out.
                For indoor surfaces, most skaters go with really hard
                wheels, like 85A or higher. For real rough outdoor
                terrain, you might want 74A. You can also mix your
                durometers and have some wheels harder than others. This
                let's you gain the advantages of both worlds somewhat, by
                getting the better shock absorption of softer wheels,
                while getting the durability of harder wheels.
                Rockering sounds like something grandma does while
                knitting sweaters, doesn't it? Well, for skates, it means
                that you can adjust the heights of the axles (and
                therefore the wheels also), to approximate an ice-skate
                blade's profile. Those blades are usually curved upwards
                at the front and back (hockey skates anyway). The
                curvature allows for more maneuverability, but at the
                cost of stability at higher speeds. Trade-off once again?
                You bet. If you think you might want rockering sometime
                in the future, get skates that let you adjust it. Most
                all middle and high-end skates will let you rocker your
        _Bearings and ABEC ratings:_ (More in-depth information is in
                part 4.)
                The two bearings inside each wheel are where the turning
                action takes place. Bearings come in various ratings,
                based on the ABEC scale. This acronym is pronounced
                "ay-beck", and it stands for the "Annual Bearing
                Engineering Council" which sets the specifications for
                the ratings.
                The higher the ABEC number the more precise the bearing
                has been made. The ratings you'll come across are ABEC-1,
                ABEC-3, and ABEC-5. There are ABEC-7's being sold now
                too, but you probably won't see those on any skates.
                Although you might think that the more precise the
                bearings the faster it will spin, but this is still
                subject to some debate. After you skate outdoors long
                enough, ABEC-5's will be indistinguishable from ABEC-1's.
                It's more important to keep your bearings clean and
                well-lubed, in the long run.
                Also note that bearings do not always have the rating
                number marked on the shields. Unfortunately, this makes
                it hard to know the real rating and you end up having to
                trust the manufacturer or salesdroid's word. More on this
                later, when we get to store.
   _Braking systems:_
   Before 1994 the only thing you had to worry about with brakes was
   learning to use them. Now, you have to decipher the SSHA, or Silly
   Sales Hype Acronyms. Rollerblade has the ABT (Active Braking
   Technology), Oxygen skates has the PBS (Power Brake System), Bauer has
   the Force Multiplier, CCM has the Arrester Dual System, Roces has the
   Tartaruga, Ultra-wheels has the DBS (Disc Brake System) and I'm sure
   someone else will come up with yet another system.
   What we REALLY need is an industry-standard for brakes, not everyone
   trying to come up with the next better moustrap. Right now, every
   single manufacturer has their own brake design. None are compatible
   (without modifications) with any other manufacturer's skates. Even
   Rollerblade's ABT and non-ABT brakes are incompatible.
   In any case, Rollerblade's ABT is essentially a brake on a long screw,
   running up the back of your skates. You can adjust the height of your
   brake by turning the screw. It also means the brake can be activated
   if you tilt lean back on your skate. An example is the Rollerblade
   Bravoblade GL ABT skate:
   RB Bravo GL w/ABT image
   If you have an older skate and want ABT, there is now an add-on system
   called GEM which does much the same thing:
   GEM image
   The Oxygen PBS doesn't allow you to adjust the brake height, but
   instead it works like most brakes, with the added effect of pressing
   the brake pad against the rear wheel when you brake.
   PBS image
   The Ultra Wheels DBS is a cylindrical brake oriented to roll in the
   same direction as the wheels. Inside the brake is a disc-braking
   system that provides extra braking power.
   DBS drawing DBS picture
   The Roces Tartaruga system is a spring-loaded device that clinches
   brake pads on the two rear wheels (from the side) when you press down
   in a certain way with your heel.
   The bottom line is that these system are neither bad nor good. On the
   plus side, they help beginners brake easier and some systems like the
   ABT allow you to adjust the height of the brake pad, which is very
   handy and can extend the life of the brake.
   On the down side, the brake pads may be harder to find (ABT brakes
   have been hard to find, last I heard). Also, for true expert
   power-braking, these systems actually get in the way. (See part 2.1 of
   the FAQ for braking techniques.) Learning to brake effectively under
   various conditions still takes practice, not just spending money on a
   fancy braking system. This is quadruply true for those add-on devices
   like the Grip, which are hand-activated caliper-brakes.
   One last thing to mention. Not all brakes are equal. In the past,
   Bauer and Roces brakes have been notorious for poor durability.
   Rollerblade brakes tend to last very well. This may or not be true any
   more though. Ask other skaters that use Roces or Bauer skates. Things
   may have improved recently.
   Anecdote time: back in 1991 or 1992, my buddy Dave got some Bauer
   skates from the rest of us for his birthday. Boy, was he happy. That
   is, until he found out that Bauer brakes last about as long as a
   snowflake at noon in the Sahara Desert. He went through one brake in
   about 2 hours. Good thing for him, the rest of us were about ready to
   order some wheels and he ordered 5 brakes. We get our stuff in a few
   days and it turns out the catalog meant 5 SETS of brakes, meaning 10
   brakes in all. Good thing too. He needed every one of them!
At The Store

   _Ignore the hype_
   All righty. Now you know what you're looking for, you know all the
   nifty terms that go along with skates, and you're ready to head to the
   stores and see what they have. Before you go though, bring two things:
   athletic socks and a ruler with cm/mm markings (a ruler? you'll
   understand why later on.)
   Wear the socks that you'll be wearing to skate, when you try on
   skates. I suggest getting double-layered anti-blister socks. However,
   if you insist on the hole-ridden tube socks you've been wearing for
   the past 5 years, that's your choice 8-) Make sure the socks are not
   too short or thick. You want the socks to cover at least 4-5 inches or
   more above your ankle bone (assuming you are trying on regular
   production skates, and not speedskates).
   Some people do actually skate barefooted, but that's a personal
   preference. It may cause more chaffing though without socks.
   Personally, I think my skates smell enough when I *do* wear socks 8-)
   but hey to each his/her own.
   If you have problems with blisters, try polypropylene sock liners
   under your other socks. These are very thin and hydrophobic (won't
   absorb moisture from your sweat) which means they wick sweat towards
   the outer layers of your socks. This keeps your feet dryer and less
   prone to blistering. You might need thinner outer socks too, if you
   find that the layers are bunching up in your skates.
    Get ready
   Okay, now you're in the store. Remember our strategy? That's right,
   "Ignore the sales hype." If you've prepared ahead of time as I've told
   you to, that should be a piece of cake. Ice cream cake. Chocolate-mint
   ice cream cake even (I've always been partial to chocolate-mint).
   _Trying on skates_
   Okay, here's one part that the salesdroids are good for and good at.
   Pick out a skate that is exactly at your target price (there might be
   several models) and ask to try on one or all of them (if you want to
   be really thorough). You might find that your skate size will not be
   exactly your shoe size. Usually skates run a tad large meaning you'll
   have a smaller skate size than your shoe size.
   Try on skates a half-size larger and a half-size smaller than your
   normal shoe size to see the difference. Some manufacturers are better
   than other at providing skates for different shaped and sized feet.
   Rollerblade skates, for example, have tended not to be designed that
   well for wide feet. Bauer and Roces have done better in this regard.
   Also, for those of you who are just as confused as I am about
   Rollerblade's MondoPoint sizing system, here is a scan of their sizing
   chart that shows the U.S. men's and women's sizes versus MP: [LINK] 
   After you've got the skates on, wiggle your toes. You'll want to press
   your ankles back against the heel of the skate, while you wiggle. If
   your toes are crammed against the front of the skates, they're too
   tight. If your foot can jiggle around inside the skates while you hold
   your foot up (like a clapper in a bell), then they're too large. You
   want a snug fit -- as snug as possible without hurting.
   Okay, the skates are on and snug, so now stand up (slowly!) and put
   your weight on each foot and see how it feels. Wiggle your toes some
   more if you want. Remember that most people have asymmetrical feet. If
   one foot feels less comfortable than the other, you might ask to try
   on a skate of a different size for that foot. Most stores probably
   won't let you buy skates sized different for both feet, but you can at
   least try to minimize the discomfort for both feet combined.
   Walk around in the store for a couple minutes (hopefully it's
   carpeted) and let the liners conform to your feet a little bit.
   Re-tighten the skates and make sure they're still snug.
   Now, the comparisons. Ask to try on two other skates, one in the price
   bracket below your target skate and one above. This is so you'll see
   exactly how different quality liners, boots, and buckles feel. In
   other words, you get to see what your money can buy you.
   For those of you buying for kids (or if you ARE a kid...physically,
   not mentally), you'll know that kids' feet grow almost faster than the
   U.S. budget deficit. In this case, you might want to look for skates
   that will take multiple liner sizes, so that you can just buy larger
   liners instead of having to buy an entirely new skate each time. I
   haven't personally investigated this (since I started to skate after
   my foot size was stable) but the Roces STL Jr. model takes 4 different
   liner sizes. Most other (adult) skates shells come in full sizes, with
   liners coming in half sizes.
   See the Kids/Small Skate reviews and FAQ in section 3.3 for more
  Things To Look For
   _The liners are most important!_
   Your first criteria should be the liner quality and fit. If your
   skates aren't comfy, the rest of the gadgets won't mean diddly. You
   get better liners in more expensive skates, naturally.
   Nowadays, with soft-shell skates like K2's on the market, there is
   even more reason to compare all the different types of liners out
   there. Take your time in deciding which fits you best. Remember,
   you'll be punished or rewarded accordingly each time you skate
   thereafter, so don't make any hasty decisions.
   _Closure systems_
   Once you've found good fitting skates, decide on whether you want
   laces, buckles, or both. If you want convenience, an all-buckle setup
   is for you. Buckles are nice in that you can adjust them while you're
   skating, and they're very fast to put on and to take off. Buckles also
   don't break as often as laces do. The one trade-off is that buckles
   don't give quite as good an all-around tightness as laces do. For most
   people, that trade-off is a very worthwhile one, but everyone has
   their own preferences.
   Beware of bad buckle design, however. Even the K-mart toy skates have
   3 buckles these days. Part of the buckle quality will depending on the
   construction and design quality of the shell (the plastic boot). If
   the shell is flimsy or poorly made, the buckles won't align very well.
   There are also various types of buckles. Some are ratchet-style, with
   notches in the pull-through starp. Some are ski-boot style with the
   metal T-bar that hooks into round notches on the shell. Try on
   different types and see how you like each one.
   Many skates compromise and have both laces and an ankle buckle for
   added support. This approach usually works pretty well.
   _Shell design_
   You'll find many types of shell these days. The most notable
   difference will be vents. Some have them, some don't. The Rollerblade
   Aeroblade was the first to sport this feature. It works quite well to
   cool your feet and also makes the skate lighter. What's the trade-off,
   you ask? (I've taught you well, haven't I?) You trade cooling and
   weight-reduction for strength and durability of the shell.
   Normally, this isn't an issue. But for you thrasher types, who like to
   pound on your skates, vents make the skates a little less sturdy than
   their non-vented brethren. The non-vented classic Rollerblade
   Lightnings are about the most indestructible skates around. This isn't
   to say vented skates aren't sturdy, but it's that they're LESS sturdy,
   relative to non-vented skates.
   If you're in the market for street/vert skates, this probably won't be
   an issue. Most street skates are designed to take the pounding of rail
   slides, jumps, and the like.
   _Wheels and other stuff_
   Having compared liners, buckles, laces, and shells, you can now start
   paying attention to the more subtle features, like rockering ability,
   replacement parts availability, and maximum wheel size that the
   runners can fit.
          Rockering is nice if you skate in a wide variety of situations.
          For hockey or slaloming through cones, many people like to
          rocker their skates for that added maneuverability. Then when
          they switch to hills or long-distance skating, they can put the
          wheels flat again.
   _Replacement parts_
          Although replacement parts is another one of those plan-ahead
          type things (like max wheel size), it can turn out to be a big
          one. Finding replacement parts, namely for brakes and sometimes
          axles or spacers, is not always trivial. Rollerblade, being in
          the market first, has it's distribution set up fairly wide so
          you can pretty much find RB brakes at any store that also sells
          RB skates (which is a lot of 'em). Bauer parts are also pretty
          widely available.
          With other brands, you won't always be so lucky. However, this
          has improved greatly in the past year or so. Big city sports
          stores are most likely to carry more brands. Even with
          Rollerblade though, there are occasional brake shortages. I now
          stockpile half a dozen brakes all the time so I don't ever have
          to worry about it and I can carry a spare brake in my fanny
          pack all the time.
          So I should only buy a Rollerblade or Bauer skate then, you
          say? Nah. Mail-order to the rescue again. You can find pretty
          much any brand brake through catalogs. However, note that
          brakes aren't discounted much (if at all) through most
          catalogs, and once you factor in shipping and handling, you'll
          most likely want to order brakes along with other equipment to
          help defray the extra cost. Might as well as order more brakes
          at a time too (4 or more should be plenty). Also, remember what
          I said about brakes and braking systems previously.
          Brakes are a good thing by the way. They only cost $4 or so,
          while wheels will cost you anywhere from $3 to $7 PER WHEEL.
          Sure, you got fancy-pants skaters out there doing their macho
          T-stops and power-slides, but at 8 times $3-$7 dollars...that's
          anywhere from $24 to $56 folks! Okay, so you only do T-stops
          with one skate, that's still $12 to $28, and you want to save
          your wheels for rolling on anyway, right?. Economics alone
          should convince you to at least learn to use the brake
          properly. All those other stops are good to know, but build
          your skills foundation from the bottom up. Learn to brake.
   _Max wheel size_
          Maximum wheel size, as I said before, will be important as you
          get better at skating. For the most part, unless you're stuck
          with really small skates (i.e., your feet are really small),
          then try to get a skate that will take at least up to 76mm
          wheels. Don't believe the spec sheets 100% though. The
          officially stated max wheel sizes are sometimes just the wheel
          size that all of the skate sizes for that model can fit. Your
          particular size might be large enough that if you actually
          tried larger wheels they'd fit.
          The easy way to tell the *real* max wheel size: bring along a
          tape measure or ruler (one with centimeter and millimeter
          markings, unless you're a total whiz at converting English
          units to cgs in your head). If you want to see if a skate will
          take 76mm wheels, jam your ruler in there, with the 38mm mark
          at the axle center. If the 0mm mark doesn't rub against the
          frame, you're halfway there.
          You also want to measure the distance between axles. Can't have
          the wheels rubbing against each other, can we? Make sure the
          distance between adjoining axle centers is 76mm plus a couple
          mm (so approximately 78mm or more). If that holds, then you
          know the skates can take 76mm wheels. You can try the same
          thing for 80mm wheels.
   _Wheels and Bearings_
          The wheels and bearings you should leave as the last detail to
          consider, since they'll wear out and you can buy your ideal
          wheels and bearings after that. Of course, if two skates are
          pretty much equal in all other aspects (including price), go
          for the one with better wheels and bearings. For pure
          beginners, this may or may not be a good idea.
          Many beginners tend to be better off with *slower* wheels and
          bearings. This gives them time to learn how to skate without
          having their skates shoot out from under them everytime.. By
          the time beginners skate enough to wear out one set of wheels,
          they should be proficient enough to move up to better bearings
          and wheels.
          Bearings will usually last longer than wheels, especially with
          proper care, so when comparing skates, first consider the
          bearing quality, then the wheel quality. ABEC-1's are standard
          on most all skates (except maybe kid's skates), and ABEC-3's
          are very common amongst the high-end skates. Some even sport
          ABEC-5's now, so check up on it.
          If you're about to pick between a couple skates, do one final
          check on the skates. Ask to spot check several wheels on each
          skate to make sure the bearings are rated with the proper
          rating. Manufacturers often mix up different brands of bearings
          in their skates (since they use so many), and every now and
          then you'll find they used bearings that were rated lower than
          what they should be. This may or not have been any honest
          mistake, but you want to know *before* you leave the store,
          that you're getting what you're paying for. If you find the
          bearings are indeed incorrect, ask to have them replaced with
          the properly rated bearings.
  After you buy
   Okay, so you finally did it. You tried on all sorts of skates, you saw
   how the various models differed, you chose your skate, picked a nice
   color-scheme, pulled out your plastic and made the salespeople happy.
   Time to go out and skate down Mt. Everest, right? You want to hit the
   road and skate the Athens-to-Atlanta race, right? Not so fast.
   _Testing out your skates_
   Before you go out and go skate-crazy, unpack all the stuff that you
   bought in a nice orderly fashion (otherwise you can't return it if you
   need to). Put everything on slowly and snugly, and walk around on your
   carpet. Make sure everything fits like it's supposed to and feels
   comfortable. Now take your gear off and visually inspect your skates.
   Make sure there's nothing loose that isn't supposed to be. Make sure
   everything moves that's supposed to. If not, go right back to the
   store and exchange them.
   Let's say everything looks good so far, and you finally go outside to
   try them out. Since you're a beginner, I'd highly recommend that you
   go with an advanced skater (or at least someone who has skated more
   than you have). The ideal place is a flat, empty parking lot with no
   traffic (car or otherwise), smooth pavement, and grass surrounding the
   Okay, congratulations! You're now ready to join the millions of the
   other people who have learned to enjoy inline skating! For more
   information on general techniques, see part 2.1 of the FAQ.
Buying Guide Checklist

   This is a checklist you can print out from your web browser to make
   sure you cover all the bases before, during and after the store. I'd
   suggest using a graphical browser so that you can make use of the
   nifty checkboxes. (If you only have Lynx, you can download Netscape or
   Mosaic onto your computer). Download this section to your hard drive.
   Open the copy on your hard drive with the browser, and from there you
   can print it out with all nice graphical formatting.
  Before you go to the store
    Deciding on your skating needs
          + What type of skating will I want to do?
          + What's most important to me?
            ___Fit and comfort
    Deciding on your price range
          + The Crummy Skate Threshold
            ___< $110, less than the CST
            ___$110-120, around the CST
            ___$130-190, middle range
            ___$200+, high-end skates
          + Remember you'll also need safety gear
            ___Wrist guards
            ___Knee pads
            ___Elbox pads
          + Mail order versus local stores
            Does the local shop have:
            ___Good selection? (more than one brand, and multiple models)
            ___Accessories (brakes, wheels, bearings, safety gear, etc.)
            ___Knowledgable salespeople?
            ___Competitive prices?
    Learn the terminology
          + Wheel terms
            ___Maximum wheel size
          + ___Bearings and ABEC ratings
          + ___Braking systems
  At the store
    ___Bring the right socks
       ___Ignore the sales hype
    Trying on skates
    Things to look for
          + Liner fit
             ___Smaller than shoe size
                 ___Same as shoe size
                 ___Larger than shoe size
          + Closure systems
             ___Buckles only
                 ___Laces only
                 ___Buckles and laces
          + Shell design
    Wheels and bearings:
         ___Diameter: _______ mm
            ___Durometer: 76A 78A 82A
            ___Max wheel size: _______ mm
            ___Rockering: yes no
            ___Bearing rating: ABEC-1 ABEC-3 ABEC-5
            ___Lubricant: Greased Oiled
  After you buy
    ___Test out your skates on carpet
       ___Make sure nothing is broken
   _General Info_ _Techniques_ _Marketplace_ _Where to Skate_ Index
   Quotable rssi Posts
   Figure Skating
   Buying Guide
   Used Skates Guide
   Skate Reviews
   Other Reviews
   Copyright  1991-1996 Anthony D. Chen (

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:12 PM