Which is better among the two (roller blades or roller skates) depend upon your preference of usability and speed. Both these types can be used indoors, outdoors, as well as in speed skating.
The traditional roller skates are the quad roller skates that most people grow up trying at some point in their life. Each skate has 2 axles with one at the front and the other at the back. Both the axles have two wheels each on them – one at the left side while the other on the right side.
Inside each wheel are two skate bearings that play a vital role in the pace of your roller skate. The wheels are attached to the skate with the help of an axle nut. You can have roller skates with heels or without heels depending upon your comfort and preference.
If you are inclined towards roller disco or dancing while skating, roller skates are often the favorite. Due to their short wheel structure, they are easy to maneuver and let you enjoy quick moves, turns, and spins.
Another factor that makes them stand out (literally) is the stability as the wider wheelbase ensures fewer chances of falling sideways and is relatively more stable when you stand. Technically, quad skates, inline speed skates, and roller blades are all types of roller skates.
You can use your roller skates indoors, outdoors, as well as speed skates.
Indoor roller skates have special wheels that are built to perform on hardwood floors. That is the reason why the indoor wheels glide smoothly on skate rinks and other indoor surfaces with their wheels relatively harder than the outdoor skates’.
Many roller skaters purchase indoor boots and switch wheels before heading outside. If you plan to skate outside most of your time, it is better to purchase outdoor boots that have a higher top and are much more durable. You can always switch your wheels when you want to skate indoors.
The outdoor roller skates have rugged and rubbery wheels specially designed to absorb shocks from the uneven outdoor terrain. This may cause them to get damaged more frequently than your indoor wheels.
The wheels of your outdoor roller skates are also larger than the indoor ones that help you in the maneuverability by overcoming different outside obstacles such as pebbles, dirt, and sticky surfaces that you may encounter while skating outdoors.
You may find roller skates that are specially designed keeping fast pace in mind for speed skaters, jam skaters, and roller derby skaters. These high-performance skates offer you better playability and maneuverability. Having said that, you may need to maintain them on a more frequent basis. If you plan to roller skate leisurely without getting involved in some high-paced sport, they may not be ideal for you.
The term inline skating is often interchangeably used with roller blading. The main factor that makes inline skating (rollerblading) different from roller skating is the positioning of the wheels. Roller blades have a single central frame with a line of 3 to 5 wheels. You may find most of the roller blades having 4 wheels – all placed in a way that they cover the length of the sole.
Another difference between inline skating and roller skating is that the wheels in inline skating are much bigger in diameter and are not as wide as those in a roller skate.
The inline skate boot is quite supportive and offers a tight fit so you can confidently maintain your balance. With a longer wheelbase, the inline skates have the front wheel slightly ahead of your toe and the rear wheel slightly behind your heel. This gives you stability and prevents you from falling backward or forwards.
Most of these inline roller skates have brakes at the back that help you stop, but you can also find many models without any brakes as well.
The only difference between indoor and outdoor rollerblading is the wheels. Indoor rollerblading requires harder wheels that help you glide at a flat surface. The hardness of the wheel is measured using a device called Durometer. In most of the wheels, you may find a number with the letter “A”, for instance, “85A” which is the hardness rating of that wheel. The higher this number is, the harder the wheel is, and the more ideal it is for indoor rollerblading.
If you plan to do a mix of both indoor and outdoor rollerblading, you can purchase an extra set of wheels and you get the versatility to rollerblade both indoors as well as outdoors.
For outdoor rollerblading, you need to make sure the wheels are softer and especially for the outdoor terrain that is usually rough and rugged. With outdoor wheels on, you can rollerblade for fitness, commute, or entertainment in all kinds of surfaces including roads, parks, and urban spaces.
Mostly rollerblades come with outdoor wheels as the manufacturer assumes you plan to do rollerblading outside. You can change these wheels manually any time you want. Since the outdoor rollerblading is normally done on a rough concrete surface and asphalt, you should ideally go for a lower hardness rating, such as 85A or lower. 78A, which is smoother than 85A, is considered a good hardness level for doing outdoor rollerblading. The lower the Durometer rating is, the smoother will be your rollerblading on rugged terrain and you can even rollerblade on leaves and small pebbles.
In earlier days, speed skating was done using quad roller skates. But now, roller blades have proven their speed factor and outclassed the roller skates. In all major speed skate competitions, most of the skaters prefer going for rollerblades due to their fast speed.
For competitive speed skaters, inline speed skates are specially designed. These speed skates have a single axle with 3 to 4 wheels. These wheels slide into the axle and are secured by a long axle nut. In order to make it easier for the skater, these inline speed skates come with a pretty short low cut boot so the skater can dig into his/ her turns.
The wheels are also relatively larger in diameter which helps in moving fast. Generally, the wheels start at 75 mm and can go as high as 130 mm. You may find a majority of inline speed skaters competing with a wheel that ranges in diameter from 100 mm to 130 mm. Due to their larger diameter, you can maintain the fast pace of a longer duration of time.
Whether roller blades are better than roller skates or vice versa – this depends upon your preference and comfort level. Technically rollerblades belong to the family of roller skates, and many skaters commonly refer to quad roller skates as roller skates and inline skates as rollerblades.
If you are a beginner, it is better to learn the sport on a roller skate as it provides car-like support of wheels that keep your body stable. If you are interested in doing tricks, you can perform those with both rollerblades as well as roller skates. Similarly, rollerblades can be used both indoors and outdoors, just like roller skates. If speed skating is your thing, you may want to switch to rollerblades as they have been proven faster than their counterparts. No matter what your choice is, as long as you are having fun, that’s all it matters!