Inline skating has been one of the fastest-growing recreational activities in the world for the last decade. Routine in-line skating produces nearly the same increase in aerobic fitness that running does. In-line skating creates higher muscular activity levels for hips, thighs, and shins that running or cycling. In-line skating strides work leg muscles for longer periods of time than running strides or cycling crank cycles. In-line skating produces less than half the impact shock to joints that running does. In-line skating burns as many calories as running. There are many choices of skates, as well as wheels, bearings, brakes and spacers.
First, let’s talk about skates. You want a skate that feels comfortable. The skate should feel snug, but not so tight it feels like the blood flow in your leg is being cut off. You should be able to wiggle your toes inside the skate. Also, there should not be any areas where there is extra pressure. After trying to skates out at a store, make sure they are not rubbing against your ankles (this will create blisters). Try tightening the laces and/or buckles if this occurs.
Inline skates either come with laces, buckles that snap on, or both. The laces provide a better fit and pressure on the foot is distributed more evenly. However, some people prefer buckles because they are faster to fasten and can tighten or loosen in specific areas (the ankle, foot, or toe areas). The choice of laces or buckles usually depends on personal preference.
Because of the extra padding inside the skate boot, sizing usually goes up a half or full size from their shoe size. For example, if a person wears a size 10, then they would probably try a 10.5 or 11 first.
The best recreational skate available, in my opinion, would be the Salomon line and K2 softboot line. The Rollerblade line with the soft boot comes in a close second. Other companies, such as Bauer, Oxygen and Ultra Wheels are all nice skates, but not as performance-minded as these. For years, inline skates were made with hard, plastic shells. K2 invented the softboot, which revolutionized the recreational inline skating market. The softboot skates feel more like a hiking boot than a rollerskate. The softboot line runs around $150-300, depending on the year made and the store. The Salomon runs higher in price (around $200-$350 depending on the store), but the quality is well worth it. Salomon invested millions in researching before they created their skate. The result was a top-of-the-line skate. The laces tighten and hold automatically like a ski boot, and the ABEC-5 wheels in the TR and FT spin longer than all the skates I have seen. The Salomon and K2 both have shock absorbers within the frame of their skate.
The accessories of an inline skate are about as significant as the skate itself. Wheels are very important. There are many wheel choices and varieties. Wheels vary in size and durometer (the hardness rating of the wheel material, polyurethane). The harder the wheel, the longer it will last. However, the hard wheels produce a slightly more rigid ride. The softer wheels wear out more quickly, but they have a slightly smoother ride. Usually you can see the size and the durometer ratings on the side of the wheel.
Durometer is an industry hardness rating for polyurethane, which is the primary wheel material. Ratings such as 76A, 78A or 85A are usually seen on wheels. The higher the rating, the harder the wheel. Aggressive skaters usually want smaller and harder wheels, but the recreational wheels run a little bigger and usually lower in durometer. The most well-known brand of wheels is Kryptonics. The wheels that fit most skates are 76 mm. and 82A. When replacing the wheels, choose the same size and durometer is you are satisfied with your last wheels’ ride and durability. Choose a slightly larger wheel if you want to go faster or want them to last longer (note: make sure the new wheels you buy fit your skates!).
Another aspect of inline skates is bearing choice; in inline skates, two bearings are in each wheel. Bearings regulate the speed at which the wheels spin. Bearings are measured in ABEC, short for Annular Bearing Engineer Council. The higher the ABEC, the higher ABEC-stated precision level. From slowest to quickest, they are rated at ABEC-1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11. Beyond the ABEC scale is Swiss bearings, the quickest bearings on the market. For beginning skaters, usually ABEC-1 or ABEC-3 bearings are preferable. Intermediate skaters should buy skates with ABEC-3 or ABEC-5 bearings, and advanced skaters usually prefer ABEC-5 through ABEC-11 or Swiss bearings. Some skates come with faster bearings, such as ABEC-3 or ABEC-5. Bearings can also be bought separately, usually where inline skates are sold. The most well-known company that makes bearings would be Kryptonics. Although, I would personally recommend the BOSS Swiss Bearings as being the fastest bearing available.
Spacers connect the bearings inside the wheel. Most skates come with plastic spacers, but some prefer aluminum spacers for more durability.
Inline skate brakes are usually all company-specific. In other words, the brake will only fit the skate it was made for. Rollerblade developed the ABT-brake, where instead of having to raise the front part of the skate, you can brake by just moving the skate forward. The part of the skate that covers the back ankle is its own component, and pushes the brake down automatically (braking instructions are discussed later).
Finally, always use protective gear. Protective gear includes a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards. The helmet is the most important. Most wrist guards are designed so that if a fall occurs, the skater can slide on the hard plastic shell, with hands extended forward. Obviously, the knee pads prevent any injury or scrapes to the knees, and the elbow pads prevent any injury or scrape to the elbow. Make sure to get wrist guards, elbow pads and knee pads that fit. You don’t want them to be too tight, but snug enough to not fall down when you are skating. Safety should be on the top priority when skating; have fun, and skate safe!
[+] The best way to get up from the ground on skates is to first bring up one knee while the other is knee is on the ground. Then put both hands on the knee that is up, pushing until you are standing. To get used to the skates, start out in dry grass. After you are in the skates standing, get used to standing and crouching with your hands forward while in the skates.
[+] Once you are comfortable standing on pavement in your skates, try pushing yourself forward, slowly with one skate, while the other points the direction to want you go. Push yourself with the back skate facing diagonally, between backwards and sideways. Push off so the wheels don’t spin, but produce friction between the wheels and the road, creating speed. If you try to push off with the back skate facing forwards like your front one, then you won’t go anywhere because your wheels will just rotate. Alternate between the two skates, creating a stride. As you gain more experience, the tendency will be to crouch lower and to push off more with more force in each stride.
[+] On inline skates, the brake in on the back of the skate, instead of the front, such as on rollerskates. The best way to brake is to use the scissor-motion. While you are coasting with both skates parallel, move one skate forward and the other skate backward for balance. Title the forward skate backward, bringing up the front of the skate and pressing down on the heel. The harder you press, the faster you will stop. Practice braking before your try any steep slopes or hills.
[+] In order to turn, some beginners find the "tray method" the best. While coasting, pretend you are carrying a cafeteria tray with your arms. Move your arms to one side, and usually your skates will follow with you. Others find it easier to turn by concentrating on where the emphasis of the foot is placed on the skate.
[+] Avoid skating in dirt, sand or water. This will limit the life of your bearings. To clean your bearings and to get them to roll like they were newer, many skate shops sell a spray-on lubricant/cleaning solution. To clean your bearings thoroughly, take apart the bearings and soak them in a citrus degreaser.
[+] Rotate the wheels of your inline skates. Rotating the wheels extends the life of your wheels. Depending on how much you skate, the wheels become worn, especially on the inside of the wheels. Rotate first and third wheels with each other, and rotate the second and fourth wheels with each other. The idea is to move the most-worn wheel to where the least-worn wheel is, so that the wheels will last longer.
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