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NATIONAL ROLLER SKATING MONTH
National Roller Skating Month is an annual designation observed in October. Depending on where you live… This may not be the BEST month to grab some blades and take them for a spin outside. But if there’s not snow on the ground, now’s the time to give roller skating (or roller blading, whichever you want to call it) a chance! Roller skates have been around since the mid-1700’s when the first recorded inventor of the skates, John Joseph Merlin, rolled into a lavish party in London… and crashed into a huge mirror, sustaining a few small injuries. Today, roller skates are everywhere! Many retro-themed restaurants still have their waiters and waitresses rolling around in them. People also roller blade for exercise. It’s a fun, healthy hobby to get into!
HOW TO OBSERVE
Get together with a group of friends and go roller skating. Take some fun pictures or videos, and use #RollerSkatingMonth to post on social media. There are even a few fun tricks you can try! See who can stay standing the longest. (Falling on roller skates doesn’t hurt that bad. Promise.)
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Your wheels are an incredibly important part of your skating experience. They are literally what move you and make your roller skates more than just funny-looking footwear. But a lot of people who skate don’t know what kind of wheel they have or how to choose one better suited to their needs.
In this post, we’ll be showing you what to look for depending on your skating habits and preferences. So whether you like to skate indoors or outdoors, pay attention! We have a little something for everyone this time around.
What Is Your Surface?
What surface you plan to skate on most often does matter. This is because different surfaces call for different wheel hardnesses (wheel durometer). If you’re a more experienced skater or skating at a rink, which is regularly maintained for the express purpose of being skated on, you may prefer to choose harder wheels that will last longer.
On the other hand, if you’re a new skater or generally skating on slick or rough outdoor surfaces, you’ll probably find you prefer softer wheels. They’re slower and they’ll wear down faster than hard wheels, but they’ll absorb shocks from obstacles much better.
For roller skates, wheel durometer generally ranges in hardness from 78A (soft) to 103A (very hard).
What Is Your Plan?
What you’re planning to do with your skates matters, because that will dictate what diameter your wheels should be for the best performance. Weight, speed, acceleration, and stability are all going to be affected by your wheels’ diameter. Smaller-diameter wheels are superior when it comes to acceleration, stability, and weight. Larger-diameter wheels are superior when it comes to top speed and how long you roll.
What that means is that if you want to skate outdoors or especially if you want to endurance skate, you may want wheels with a larger diameter (65 millimeters or more); meanwhile, you can use wheels with a smaller diameter (less than 65 millimeters) for pretty much everything else, including regular speed skating.
Wheels Have Lips (But Don’t Kiss Them)
The lips of a wheel are on either side, where the wheel stops making contact with the skating surface. Lips are considered either “square” or “round.” Square lips are going to offer more traction but less give; round lips will have the opposite.
Most wheels are going to fall somewhere in between, but what kind of skating you want to do will affect what’s best. Rounded lips will be best for outdoor cruising, while square lips are going to be better for something like artistic skating.
Getting in Touch
The width, or “profile,” of a wheel is the total size when measured from one face to the other. But depending on the kind of lips you have, the contact patch—the part of the wheel that actually touches the ground—may be narrower.
In general, you’ll have more stability and traction with a wider contact patch. A narrower patch will be less stable but will be better for making quick movements. Common contact patch widths range from 31 millimeters to 44 millimeters, with 38 millimeters being a good choice for skaters of all experience levels.
Finding the Right Core
The inner part of a wheel where the bearings go is called the hub or “core.” The three major types of core are nylon, aluminum, and hollow.
Nylon cores are often spoked in appearance. They’re going to be the most affordable, lighter, and not as rigid. But they also mean a slower ride, because they don’t do a good job keeping the wheels round and so don’t transfer power as well as harder cores.
Hollow cores are a middle ground. They’re relatively light, but offer good acceleration and a firmer core that allows for a nice long roll.
Aluminum cores are the apex core. They’re the strongest, most rigid core you can get. They’re also the heaviest most costly. Being so stiff means they’ll roll longer and faster with less effort because they don’t deform the way the nylon ones will.
As you might expect, the weight of a wheel corresponds to its size: smaller wheels are lighter and larger wheels are heavier. This will, then, make your skates lighter or heavier as well. But your weight matters too.
If you’re of an average weight—say, over one hundred pounds but under two hundred—then you can probably expect whatever wheels and cores you get to perform normally. For someone lighter, any core may be good enough, but a softer wheel might improve things. Someone heavier will want to consider going the opposite direction and getting slightly harder wheels and choosing a more rigid core.
After all of that, there are also hybrid wheels. Hybrid wheels are called such because they can be used both indoors and outdoors on slick or smooth concrete. They’re made of an outdoor urethane formula—which means they’re soft and handle obstacles well—in a shape normally used for indoor wheels, which typically are wider and more squared, so they offer good traction.
If you’re unsure of what skating surface you like most or are lazy about cleaning, hybrids might be the best of both worlds. They need only a quick examination for damage and debris plus a wipedown when going from one surface to another.
What Else Is There?
Actually, there is something you’ll want to consider, especially if your skate of choice is rollerblades. This item is a must-have for hardcore skaters, but even for casual skaters they’re cheap and a worthy investment. They’re called “wheel covers” or “wheel bags” (to make it worse, other items go by the same name), and their entire purpose is to make your life simpler by providing some protection to your wheels and especially your bearings. That way, your maintenance duties are a little less involved because there isn’t so much dirt and moisture getting into your bearings every time you go out.
The most common type is shaped nylon or polyester fabric with an elastic strip at the top. You pull one part over the wheels and wheel frame on one end, then pull the other part over the wheels and frame on the other end. Simple and quick. This type is normally shown on and designed for rollerblades, but its flexibility means that some may also fit over roller skates. A slightly more expensive and rollerblade-only variety is made of stiffened polyester and zips over the wheels.
In general, neither type is designed to accommodate a brake pad, so unless you skate without one you’ll have to remove the brake pad to make everything fit.
Of course, this isn’t an exact thing. What wheels will work best for you may well depend more on your age, weight, speed preference, and what kind of ride you want than what’s considered “normal” by all the experts out there. But now that you understand what all the different numbers mean, you can start selecting your own roller skate wheels with confidence. As you keep skating you’ll buy more wheels and figure out what your preferences are while indoors, outdoors, or both.
We’ve done a few posts on helping you learn about roller skating and rollerblading, such as how to roller skate, and roller skating tricks. This time, we’ve decided to do a speedy one-stop shop for skaters who aren’t complete beginners anymore but still have some questions and need just a brief refresher that they can put into play alongside the experience they’ve gained.
How long will it take for me to learn how to roller skate?
It may seem like it takes forever, but most people can learn to skate in about an hour if they have a friend to teach them. Becoming skilled at skating, though, is going to take longer. If you don’t have a friend to help you it might take a bit more trial and error, but draw a ‘V’ one stroke at a time with your feet and you’ll get the hang of it.
How do I stand on my skates without moving?
The most secure way is to place your feet in a perpendicular ‘T’ shape, with the toes of one foot pointing forward and the toes of the other pointing to the side.
How do I skate without tilting back or falling?
Remember, when you first start off in skating, position your feet about shoulder-width apart and always stay slightly bent forward. This lowers your center of gravity and makes it easier to balance. Just be careful to not lean too far forward or you’ll fall.
If you’re finding your back starts to hurt, try bracing your hands on your thighs for added support. Practice standing upright near a sturdy table or chair on carpet, as carpet will make it harder for your skates to roll and give you more control over what they do and when; if there is no carpet, you still need to stay close to a strong table or chair, or within reach of the rails of a rink.
How do I skate faster?
This is, first of all, actually a matter of your comfort level. Increased speed usually comes automatically as you practice and improve your balance. If confidence isn’t a problem, skating faster involves rhythmically shifting your weight from one leg to the other and pushing off with the foot you’re taking your weight off of. Always make sure you’re looking only in the direction you want to go.
How do I turn while going fast?
There are a couple of ways to do this. The easiest is to lower your body a little and lean your weight onto the knee and leg that are on the side you want to turn (e.g., put your weight on your left leg for a left turn). First work at taking turns at a slower speed, then gradually speed up as you get better.
I want to stop without using the toe stop. How?
There are multiple ways. One is called the “T-stop” maneuver, which involves gliding along on one foot while dragging your other foot sideways behind it. It’s a particularly noisy move and adds unnecessary wear to you skates’ wheels, but it’s commonly used by roller skaters everywhere.
However, this move does take some practice; you have to apply a certain amount of pressure to your trailing foot for the move to work as desired, so too little and you won’t slow fast enough, while too much can cause you to fall.
I’m really good at skating. Do I still need all the safety equipment?
If you’re concerned about looking silly because everyone around you is going without protection, realize that they aren’t making the best choice. Professional skaters like speed skaters, trick skaters, and roller derby skaters take precautions suitable for their discipline and skill level because they understand how devastating an injury can be to their sport and don’t want to take the risk of coming to permanent harm. So reconsider being “cool” if it means increasing your chances of getting hurt.
But if the safety equipment hurts you or negatively impacts your ability to move, and if all you’re doing is skating around a rink, then no, you don’t need it (unless you’re particularly prone to falling). Still, the one piece of equipment you should always try to wear is a helmet. Head injuries are no joke.
If I start to fall, should I slide or just fall straight down?
Always turn your fall into a slide if you can. This will help lessen the force of impact so that you can get back up and keep skating.
How do I deal with a painful fall?
Always be sensitive to how you feel. If it’s just a small bruise or sore bone, take a few minutes’ time out from skating and lightly massage the injury. If after a little while you feel better, go have fun. Just be keenly aware of how the injury feels and stop if the pain increases.
If it’s a big bruise or cut or you’ve twisted a joint, you’re done for the next few days. Get some assistance with rising and leaving the rink; if you can, use your toe stops to walk so you have better control of your movement. Clean and bandage any open cuts, apply ice to counteract swelling, and don’t ask too much of your injured joints for a few days. If you get too physical too soon, you’ll worsen your injuries and increase your recovery time.
NOTE: If you have a blood-clotting condition, remember to be VERY attentive to the appearances of your injuries and immediately call for an ambulance if your condition worsens.
I’m over 60, but I want to skate. Can I still?
Of course! Just make sure you’re extra careful and wear protective gear, since older people are statistically more likely to be injured during physical activity; this goes especially if you’ve been mostly sedentary up to this point. It’s also a good idea to have someone nearby who’s ready to help you the instant you need it.
You’re On Your Way!
Hopefully, you can take it from here. There’s only so much we can do to help, after all! Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to becoming a good skater—you have to practice, practice, practice! But what you can rest assured of is that Mac’s Roller Rink will be here to give you somewhere to practice: We’re open Friday evenings, Saturday afternoons and evenings, and Sunday afternoons.
Sometimes, the most important part of something isn’t the one you can easily see. For example, anyone can understand why wheels are very, very important on roller skates, but there was a time when they didn’t roll all that well. It made skating more difficult, which meant fewer people did it.
The first boom in the popularity of roller skating came with the addition of ball bearings—or just “bearings”—to the wheels of roller skates. They made skating easy, and therefore fun, for people of all ages. In this post we’ll cover what bearings are, why they matter, and the types you can put in your skates.
What Are Bearings?
A bearing is circular with flat sides—a short cylinder or thick disk—and they usually come in sets appropriate to what they’re needed for. They are what make it easier for you to move fast and do some tricks. While you could still do those things without bearings, you’d find it quite difficult and much less fun than it currently is.
How Do Bearings Work?
To start with, it’s important to know what friction is. “Friction” is the resistance between two objects; generally, the more surface area something has the more friction it experiences when it contacts something else. Sometimes, such as with the fingerprints of your hands, that’s good—the resistance caused by friction helps you grip things. But if you want movement, friction is the enemy.
Ball bearings consist of a number of spheres spaced evenly apart in a “cage” arranged between inner and outer “races.” They turn around the axle as the wheel turns around them. The fewer and smaller points of contact that exist in a bearing mean less friction is created, which means you can move faster much easier than if the wheel was in direct contact with the axle.
What Kinds of Bearings Are There?
For roller skates, there are three types of bearings you should know about:
These might be termed a “normal” or “traditional” bearing. This is a bearing that will have an “ABEC” rating, ABEC (Annular Bearing Engineering Council) being the governing body that determines the rating of normal steel bearings. The ABEC rating system is more about quality than speed, but it will give you an idea of what you’re looking at; put simply, a bearing rated ABEC 7 is better than a bearing rated ABEC 5. However, the testing is so brutal it would be impossible for any human to match, so you aren’t likely to notice a difference.
Bearings that have a rating that includes the acronym “ILQ” (InLine Qualified) have been engineered and trademarked by a single manufacturer.
Most Swiss bearings are no longer made in Switzerland, but they’re still called “Swiss” because of how they’re made. What differentiates Swiss bearings from other types is the casing, the outer shields, and the inner race. A bearing that has all or even just some of these technologies qualifies as “Swiss.”
Swiss bearings are notably more expensive than normal steel bearings. In the past, this meant you were buying a higher quality bearing made with better technology, but there is a debate as to whether modern Swiss bearings really match up to the Swiss bearings of the eighties. If you really want Swiss bearings, your best bet is to look for the brands that are known for making them. This is a situation where brand does matter.
Swiss bearings don’t have an ABEC rating and are identified as just “Swiss.”
You may have heard at some point that certain sports and racing vehicles have ceramic brakes. This is because ceramic brakes are lighter, harder, and much more heat-resistant than traditional brakes, allowing for harsher handling at higher speeds. It’s the same way with ceramic bearings for your skates.
Ceramic bearings are made of a compound called silicon nitride, which means that they’ll pretty much last forever. No human could hope to harm them. They’re much harder than steel, self-lubricate, and are capable of withstanding powerful physical impact. Since they excel at reducing friction, they’re faster than steel bearings, too. They’re also a little more than one-third the weight of traditional steel bearings.
All of this means that ceramic bearings are incredibly popular. When it comes to bearings for your skates, there is currently nothing better than ceramic on the market. But you will pay for them. Making ceramic bearings is much more difficult than making steel bearings, so you’ll be paying for the time someone put in to craft them for you.
Ceramic bearings have no ABEC rating, as they far outstrip any normal steel bearing out there.
Do Bearings Need Care?
Oh yes. Steel (and Swiss, because they’re typically made of steel) bearings need regular drying, cleaning, and lubricating to protect them. Without these the bearings will heat up and may become malformed, or they may rust and either lock up completely or roll very roughly.
Even ceramic bearings, for all their being sent from heaven to make our lives easier and more fun, need care. While the bearings themselves are in no danger of rusting, surrounding parts are still made of metal and are vulnerable—particularly moisture, humidity, and grit. So a little bearing oil will make your life simpler and protect the considerable investment you’ve made by buying ceramic bearings.
How Many Bearings Do Wheels Need?
Roller skates and rollerblades need two bearings per wheel. So one roller skate needs eight bearings, and a pair of roller skates needs sixteen bearings. A set of rollerblades with three wheels apiece will need twelve bearings. The quick math is to simply count how many total wheels you have (that is, on both skates) and then multiply by two.
Rollerblades also need a “spacer” between the bearings of each wheel.
Which Bearing is Best?
That depends entirely on you. If you’re a casual, infrequent skater and regularly take time to care for your skates, plain old steel bearings with pretty much any ABEC rating are going to be adequate and especially cost-effective for your needs. Steel bearings have been around for ages and are used daily in a variety of industries, which means it’s hard to go wrong with them.
If you skate more often or are otherwise rough on your skates, Swiss bearings are made in such a way and with such technology that they’re usually better able to handle the increased friction of extra wear. Treat them well and they can last for decades. With how the global market is these days there’s really no need for Swiss bearings to cost what they do, but you may consider the expense worth it. Just realize you may be able to do just as well with traditional steel bearings if you made sure to maintain them.
Ceramic bearings are long-lived bearings for hardcore skaters and generally require minimal maintenance because they don’t rust. Professional speed skaters are likely to use them because they handle friction so well, and some trick skaters find them worth the expense. But ceramic bearings are the most expensive bearings available to roller skaters (usually over one hundred dollars), so you need to think hard about whether you really need them.
Time To Get Rollin’!
If you’re a really, really casual skater and only ever skate at a rink, the bearings that come with your skates are likely to last for either a very long time or until you buy your next pair of skates. If you skate a lot more often and especially if you skate outdoors, you can expect to need to regularly check your bearings for wear and damage. Make sure you know what bearings you have and keep them clean so you can keep skating.
Mac’s has always offered skates for rent. That way even the most casual of skaters can always find a pair if they want to take a spin around the rink. But we know that not everyone who skates at Mac’s is that casual, and if you love skating so much that you skate every chance you get then you should consider investing in a pair of your own.
Your own skates will seem expensive at first because you’re dropping a lot of money all at once, but if you really love skating and have been doing it often then think about how much of your money you’ve spent renting skates you can’t keep. Isn’t it better to have your own that fit your feet just right? And if you have your own it means you can skate not only at Mac’s, but any time you want!
Choose Your Skating Discipline
If you know which skating discipline you’d like to practice, you’ll want to do research on it, find out who manufactures skates for it, and read reviews to find out if those skates seem like they’ll be good for you as well. Just remember that specialized skates are probably going to cost a little more than a typical pair of nonspecialized skates.
If you don’t know which discipline you’re interested in, you can check our post on roller skating disciplines and see if there’s one you like. If you aren’t interested in any discipline and would just prefer to “free skate” at a rink or in your neighborhood, you should be able to find suitable skates at a sports outlet or online retail store.
When You Should Shop for Roller Skates
Roller skate shopping isn’t too far removed from shoe shopping. So if you’re going to buy your own set of roller skates, the best time to go shopping for them is after you’ve been walking around for a while, when your feet have swollen a bit. Your feet do swell when you walk, even when you haven’t hurt them; in most cases this is normal and nothing to worry about.
So if you can, shop for skates after you’ve already been on your feet for hours. This way they’ll still fit comfortably after you’ve been skating for a long time. And if you’re not too steady on your feet, bring someone along to help you.
How You Should Shop for Roller Skates
First, do your research on the retailer and find out what you can and can’t do with skates you try on. For example, a sports retailer that you can visit in person may permit you to try the skates on, but for safety reasons may not want you to skate along the aisles; meanwhile, an online retailer may be fine with you skating as long as you do so only in your home where the skates aren’t likely to be damaged (and if you do return the skates damaged, they won’t refund your money). So always know what a retailer’s restrictions are before trying on or ordering a pair of skates.
Trying On Skates While Sitting
Keep in mind that most of us have one foot that’s a little bigger than the other. Also for most of us, it’s not obvious which one is bigger. Commonly, though, it’s our dominant foot (the foot you push off of when you first start to walk). So when you’re trying on skates, choose your skate size according to what’s comfortable for whichever of your feet is bigger. Don’t assume that a little bit of a pinch anywhere on your foot will get better—it probably won’t.
If you’re sitting on a bench, check beneath it once the skates are on your feet and see if there’s room to roll the skates back. If so, move carefully to the edge of the bench and roll the skates back under it as though you were in a slight crouching position. Try as many skating positions as you can while seated and notice any discomfort.
Trying On Skates While Standing
If you don’t feel any pain while you’re sitting, it’s time to try standing in the skates. Hopefully you were able to sit on a bench while you put the skates on, so standing won’t be too difficult. But if you have to get up from the floor, we’ve talked about how get up while wearing skates in a previous post. This is the time to have someone with you so that they can help steady you. Even if you’re a good skater, the skates aren’t yours yet, so you don’t want to fall and damage them.
If you’re in a sports store and the retailer allows you to skate, skate slowly in an open area and stay away from other store patrons. You don’t need to go fast to get an understanding of how the skates will feel on your feet, so always be responsible and courteous toward others. Try a variety of skating positions. Pay attention to how your feet feel as you skate, and if anything pinches or squeezes, don’t put up with it—find another pair.
The Exception to the Rule
In most cases, if a pair of skates cause you discomfort while sitting you’re likely to feel it while standing as well, which means that particular pair of skates isn’t right for you. Issues like lace bite (see image at right) can be a sign that your chosen skates aren’t right for you. However, because of skate design it’s possible that you may feel discomfort when you sit down, but not when you stand up.
If that’s the case and if you reallylike the skates otherwise, consider that you’re more likely to be standing up than sitting down while you’re wearing them. You may decide that purchasing them is worth the risk. Just realize that once you start rolling with them, you won’t be able to return them.
If You Got It, Flaunt It!
Once you’ve chosen your skates and made your purchase, come by Mac’s and show off your awesome new wheels. Mac’s doesn’t charge for skate rental if you bring your own skates, so you can enjoy a small discount every time you skate with us!
Just keep in mind that you do need to maintain your roller skates, but rest assured that Mac’s has you covered there, too, with some advice on roller skate care and inline skate care.
Yes, there is such a thing as skating socks! Socks are so easy to forget that we bet it’s probably never crossed your mind, but it’s actually very important to have good socks to use for skating. So in this post we’re going to discuss lace bite and show you that the type of sock you wear does matter.
The Pains of Lace Bite
Probably the most important reason to wear the right sock is that it’s one of the cheapest ways to reduce or eliminate a condition known as “lace bite.” As its name suggests, the typical cause of lace bite is tightly tied or incorrectly laced laces, which can put pressure on a tendon that runs from the front your leg to your big toe and leads to a sensation that feels much like a “bite.” Rashes, blisters, swelling, or other irritation can develop as well.
However, “lace bite” is also used to describe the same sort of pain in situations without laces (more properly termed “skate bite”)—it can be caused by skates that are cheap and thinly padded, are the wrong size for one foot or both feet, aren’t broken in yet, are old and inflexible, or are otherwise too stiff. It can happen to anyone with any type of skate, even if the skate is otherwise a perfect fit. Someone who rollerblades is slightly more likely to experience lace bite, since most commercial inline skates have a rigid shell.
Fixes for Lace Bite
If your pain is indeed lace bite, the first thing to do is take a break from skating for a while. Give rashes or blisters time to heal. For swelling, elevate your leg(s) and apply ice to the area. Once you’re back to normal, consider what changes you can make to reduce the chances of the lace bite coming back.
Sometimes the condition can be resolved simply by loosening the laces of the upper part of the skate boot; this takes the tongue pressure off the middle portion of your foot but keeps the lower laces tight enough that your heel stays securely in position
Try a different lacing pattern
If your laces are thin, replace them with thicker laces
If you play inline hockey and use waxed laces, consider ending your use of them; waxed laces make laces tighter
If the skates are new, don’t rush to judgment—give them time to break in; it’s possible that the lace bite will stop once the skates have gotten to know your feet and how you move
You can also get into labor-intensive and potentially expensive fixes, like replacing the tongue(s) of your skate(s) or taking them to a professional skate shop to have your skates stretched or padded. But for casual skaters—particularly if you normally just rent skates—that’s probably investing a little more time and money than you ever intended.
How Skating Socks Help
Most roller skaters are casual skaters, and an everyday pair of socks you’d wear with your everyday shoes is usually enough for a few hours of cruising in skates. But every person is different, and it’s possible for even casual skaters to experience lace bite. In that case, the first thing to do is loosen your skate laces, and the second thing is to look at your socks.
The shorter and thinner socks are, the less likely it is that they’re protecting your foot; if loosening your skate laces doesn’t help and you wear the “no-show” socks, the socks are only making things worse because it’s impossible for them to adequate pad your legs and feet. As far as regular socks go, plain old thick crew-cut or tube socks are going to offer the best coverage and padding. For those who can make the investment, which is pretty small, there are skating socks that have extra padding (“lace bite pads”) built into them at strategic locations.
If someone likes a particular type of sock—such as the “no-show” style—for fashion reasons, that person may not be terribly impressed at first with skating socks. Skating socks come in a variety of lengths but are most often cut higher than crew length to ensure that they extend above the top of the skate boot. It’s also worth keeping in mind that those weird tall socks are fashionable in the skating world, and that they can get even crazier than that—especially if you get into roller derby.
Alternatives to Skating Socks
A single pair of skating socks with built-in lace bite pads isn’t that expensive—they usually run under fifteen dollars. However, if you’re a casual skater who’s sensitive and more prone to lace bite but can’t justify having specially padded socks that you use just for skating—or maybe you’ve realized you experience lace bite with regular shoes as well and can’t afford to pay fifteen bucks for a dozen pairs of socks with built-in lace bite pads—there are alternatives. Aftermarket lace bite pads (or just “bite pads”) come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and attachment designs.
If you have your own pair of skates, adhesive lace bite pads are an option; these are normally placed on the inside of the tongue of your skates, in whatever area you usually feel pain, and left there.
Velcro lace bite pads are essentially the same as the adhesive pads—they even tend to look the same as adhesives—but they’re removable.
If you think adhesive won’t be reliable or that the hooks of the Velcro will only add to the pressure you’re feeling, there’s a type of lace bite pad that looks a shoe tongue removed from the shoe; two eyelets at one end allow you to lace it into your skate as a second tongue. It’ll have a very long lifespan compared to the other two, but there’s a chance that it will slide around since it’s only secured at one end.
There are also lace bite pads that come as part of an ankle sleeve, which you pull on like a sock. The sleeve normally ends about halfway between your heel and toes, by may end just below your ankle. These can be sold individually, so if both your feet are feeling the bite and you need a set of two, make sure that’s what you’re buying.
None of these alternatives is significantly cheaper than skating socks (the ankle sleeves are probably a little more expensive), but depending on your circumstances they may be more versatile and appropriate to your needs.
We already have a few basic tips on our site, but we thought it’d be a good idea to go into more detail. After all, a skating rink is going to be more fun when you know how to skate, even if you maybe aren’t the fastest, steadiest, or coolest skater on the floor.
Once you’re geared up, we recommend you practice each step on carpet before moving on to the rink floor. Doing this will increase the friction between your skates and the floor, which will help to slow down any moves your skates might make “on their own.”
And since this is a really long post, we’ll add some links to help you get to and from the section you need to work on:
Obviously, you need skates. Whether they’re quad (roller skates) or inline (rollerblades) is up to you, but it’s typically easier to learn to skate using quads, since having a wheel on each corner is more stable than balancing on an edge. But really, you can learn on either—just consider that you’re likely to fall more if your try to start out on rollerblades.
Also, of course, new skaters should always wear protective gear. Casual skating isn’t generally too risky; the more experience you gain, the less likely you are to fall. But if you’re just starting out—whether you’re a new skater or just trying unfamiliar moves or tricks—the best choice you can make is to wear safety gear from the start.
It’s pretty much a given that you’re going to fall at some point, because the vast majority of skaters who came before you fell. A lot. For new skaters, a helmet, knee pads, and wrist guards are probably going to be all you really need (maybe also a mouth guard, if you feel there’s a chance of falling on your face).
The best way to get to your feet is if you’re already halfway there. That is, you’re sitting on a bench or chair. If that’s the case, start by lifting your feet and setting them down a few times. Get familiar with the weight of your skates and how that affects your legs. Once you’ve done that, get your feet under you and ensure that your weight is balanced evenly on both skates. Use your quads (the muscles on the front and sides of your thighs) to help you stand slowly. Remember, don’t straighten your legs—keep them bent (a lot, for now).
If you have a friend who’s willing to help you, have them stand nearby in case you need them. Hold still for a moment and get used to the changes you can sense now that you have skates on. Then have your friend pull you away from the bench a little bit at a time, with stops as needed for you to regain your balance. If you don’t have a friend to help you, use a rail or table to assist. Just make sure that the table is sturdy enough that your weight on it won’t cause it to flip.
We’ve mentioned it a few times, and it’s true—you’re probably going to fall, more than once, on your journey toward becoming a proficient skater. That’s okay! Falling is part of learning to roller skate just like falling is part of learning to walk. What’s important is knowing how to fall.
When you were learning to walk you were probably a baby, so you weren’t that far off the ground. You likely also had the benefit of a diaper padding your backside and absorbing some of the shock. At the time, falling was more frustrating than painful. But nowadays you’re higher off the ground and your skeleton isn’t as flexible. Your tailbone is just under your skin, and falling directly on it will leave you in pain for months. Skating will be out of the question. Don’t let it get to that point!
There are many ways to fall safely. No matter what, if you fall you should always try to do so in a way that will redirect the energy of the impact; for example, turning a forward fall into a roll. In skates that’s a little harder, but a good rule to follow is to simply avoid landing directly on bone (like your tailbone!). Instead, if you find yourself falling backward, tighten your glutes—your butt cheeks—and then fall on one cheek or the other. Instead of falling on your knees, fall on your thigh and upper arm (just pick your foot up so you don’t twist your ankle).
If you fall forward, bones are really all you have available to land on, and this is why you should always wear safety gear. While a forward roll is possible, it’s probably not a good idea to have your heavy skates flailing in the air while other people are around. Your best bet is to slow down as much as you can if that’s an option, then fall onto your knee pads. If your momentum is great, fall farther forward onto your elbow pads and wrist guards, keeping your arms in front of your face to protect your head.
And try to keep track of your fingers. Make them into a fist as soon as possible to protect them from being run over by your own skates or someone else’s.
New skaters are infamous for windmilling their arms if they feel uncertain about their balance. That can help sometimes when you aren’t on skates, but on skates it only helps create energy that becomes motion. Resist the urge. Instead, if you’re afraid you’re going to fall, bend your arms and bring them close to your sides. Bend your knees more. In most cases, if you feel unsteady you can do a lot to help yourself—even prevent a fall—by getting low and widening your stance; if nothing else, doing this will mean you have a shorter distance to fall and are less likely to hurt yourself.
If you do fall, getting up on skates is as much a matter of practice as skating itself. That goes whether or not you have friends to help you. So be ready to have to work at it. If your friends aren’t around to help, start by shifting position until you’re in something of a split, with one foot in front of you and one behind. Bring the knee behind you up under you, and place your other foot firmly on the ground in front of you (using the toe stop is better than the wheels, since it won’t roll). Put both hands, as fists, in front of you on the ground so that you’re balancing mostly on both hands and the foot in front of you. Slowly press your weight onto the foot in front of you and bring your other foot under you. Go ahead and straighten up some, but keep your knees bent and give yourself time to stabilize. After you do that for a while, if you haven’t moved on to using your toe stops instead of your wheels, practice that. It’s safer and steadier.
As your confidence in your skating skills grows, trying getting up using your fists, then without hands at all. Like we said last section, fingers. Fingers getting run over by wheels. Skating is going to be a lot more fun, and less painful, if you minimize your risk of crunched digits.
Someone, at some point, has likely scolded you to stand up straight and keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Maybe on more than one occasion. Well, we’re here to tell you that when you’re just starting off in skating, while you should still keep your feet shoulder-width apart, standing up straight can cause you to overbalance. Instead, as a new skater you should keep your knees slightly bent and squat down a little. This will lower your center of gravity and help protect against falls (though you should expect to anyway).
As you might expect, it’s difficult to stand in skates. They’re on wheels, after all. So practice moving your feet just a little to get yourself off balance, then regain your balance. Eventually, you’ll do it automatically. Compare it to not wearing skates: If someone pushed you, you’d move your feet to compensate, right? The same goes when you’re wearing skates, it’s just that you’re compensating for a push you gave to yourself.
Remember, you can practice these moves on carpet so you don’t roll too far too fast. You can also hold on to a rail or a friend (who agreed to help you—don’t suddenly volunteer someone as you fall or you both may be hurt!) to help with your balance. And don’t worry—once you get more comfortable with your skates you’ll be able to stand up straighter and straighter.
Once you’re comfortable with your posture, it’s time to add another step: you’re going to learn how to walk (all over again!). This time around, though, you’re going to want to position your feet in a duck-footed stance—that is, heels together and toes out. The reason for this is that if your skates suddenly start to roll and you aren’t prepared, if they roll forward you have better control of your fall while if you roll backward your skate wheels will interlock and stop you.
Keeping your feet in that position, begin taking steps one at a time. Keep your heels right below your body so you can keep your balance better, and don’t take another step until your foot is solidly on the floor. As always, expect to fall a few times; when you do, just get back up carefully, get into the bent-knees position, and keep your body centered as you move.
As you grow comfortable with taking steps, step more quickly, then eventually lengthen your stride. The wheels of your skates are more likely to roll when you do that, especially if you’re practicing on a rink floor rather than carpet. Just be ready for it. As you get closer to moving at your normal stride, push harder with each foot and let yourself roll a little bit.
NOTE: From here on is the part where, if you’ve been practicing on carpet so far and have some confidence in your balance and control, you should move onto a hard surface like a rink floor to continue improving your skills. If you aren’t confident enough yet, or find that you’re still having trouble with your balance, keep practicing the above exercises on carpet until you feel ready to move on.
Continue to lengthen each stride of each step as you grow more comfortable with your balance on your skates. Once your skating stride is as long as your normal walking stride, lengthen your stride more by pushing off a little harder with your feet to encourage your skate wheels to roll. Keep your pushing foot off the ground behind you and let the glide wear out on its own. Focus on maintaining your balance rather than gaining speed—being properly duck-footed won’t let you get up too much speed anyway.
While you’re gliding is a good time to practice your turns, since you should still be in a bent-knees position that keeps your center of gravity low. When you turn left, lean your body slightly to the left; when you turn right, lean your body slightly to the right.
Increase your speed as you feel more confident about your balance. Move your legs faster and put more pressure on the wheels to move even farther forward. Try leaning your body weight into your strides to gain speed. Use your arms to help by moving them the way you would if you were running.
Each of your skates should have a “brake” (toe stop) attached to the front; if there isn’t one on each skate, it’s probably on the front of the right skate. To stop, place your skates parallel to each other as you’re gliding. With your knees still bent, lean forward a little. Place your braking foot slightly in front of the other, then tilt it onto the toe stop. It’s important to be very firm when you do this, first because the harder you press the faster you’ll stop, but also because if you’re too hesitant when applying the brake there’s the chance you’ll lose your balance and fall.
If you’re having trouble figuring out the right amount of pressure, try placing your hands on the knee of your braking leg (it’s still bent a little, right?) and pressing down. This should help you apply enough force to stop.
There are other method of stopping, such as the T-stop, but those require a little more skill and confidence. Don’t rush it.
Find a time to practice. Practicing skating even just once a week will help you improve. Mac’s welcomes skaters of all ages and skill levels, and is open Friday evenings, Saturday afternoons and evenings, and Sunday afternoons (except certain holidays or events). That’s plenty of opportunity to stop by and work on your skating skills.
Make sure your skates fit properly. As you might imagine, skates are generally sized in the same way shoes are, and in this regard you should treat them like shoes. Whether they’re too big or too small, getting the wrong size will cause you big problems, so be honest with yourself about your needs.
Remember to secure your laces. This might seem like a no-brainer, but when we’re excited we don’t do things we should or aren’t as thorough as we should be. So always make sure your skates’ laces are tight before you go onto the rink floor, and check them frequently. If they come undone you could skate over them and accidentally yank your foot in an unintended direction.
Tie long hair back. This is a good thing to do for a variety of reasons. First, it helps keep you cool to have the back of your neck exposed to the air. Second, tying your hair back will keep your hair out of your eyes. This is true if you skate indoors, but more so if you choose to skate outdoors.
Use the rails. If you’re practicing at a roller rink, stay to the outside and use the bars along the edge of the rink for support as necessary. That’s what they’re there for. If you’re concerned you’d look silly holding onto the rail while everyone zooms by you, think of how silly you’d look sprawled across the rink floor and forcing everyone to swerve around you because you were trying to skate beyond your skill level. Use the rails.
Stay near the wall. Even if there are no rails, the wall can be invaluable help. It can stop a runaway foot, give you something to lean on to help you balance as you skate or recover from a fall, or give you something to fall against so you don’t hit the floor too hard.
Check the floor and your wheels. Often. Oil, threads, rope, cloths, pipes, or any other hard or slippery material can easily trip up any unprepared skater, let alone someone still trying to learn. Know what’s around you and respond accordingly, and if your skates seem to be acting up and not doing as you’re telling them then check for anything that might be wrapped around the axles.
Always look ahead. When you walk, do you stare at your feet? Probably not. Even so, you manage to not trip and fall 99.99% of the time, right? The same applies to roller skating. We know it’s hard to avoid looking because of how unsteady you feel, but try it for a while and notice how much better (and faster) you skate when you’re looking out instead of down.
Don’t stare at obstacles you don’t want to run into. It’s important to have situational awareness, of course, especially outside, but keep in mind that your body goes where your eyes go. If you stare at something you don’t want to encounter, it’s pretty much a guarantee you’ll encounter it anyway. Instead, identify the hazard and then look in the direction you’d rather go.
Don’t go faster than you want to. This is a matter of confidence and especially safety. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is saying or doing; if you try to do more than you’re capable of, you’ll possibly hurt yourself or someone else. Don’t worry—if you stick with roller skating you’ll have plenty of opportunity and experience to really get up some speed.
Give yourself the chance to learn. You’ll pick up more better if you take the time to study your failures and successes. While not necessary, having a friend or family member film you while you skate can boost your learning opportunity, since you can watch what you’re doing and then compare it to tutorial videos or have a family member or friend with more roller skating experience critique what you did.
Just do your thing. Don’t let yourself give in to peer pressure, whether someone is making fun of you or asking you to do something you aren’t ready to do. Your peers may know everything about roller skating, but you have to do what’s best for you or someone may get hurt; if your peers know nothing about roller skating, well, that’s only more reason to ignore what they say.
The most important thing of all is that you keep practicing, so come by Mac’s every week or so and build on your confidence and skills! Practice gliding, speeding up, turning, slowing down, and stopping. Keep on until you feel as steady on skates as you are on your feet. Like learning to play an instrument, you never actually forget how to skate, but without regular practice you might backslide to a point of fresh awkwardness. Fortunately, it won’t take long for you to get back in the groove, but you might feel a little silly for “forgetting.”
If you’ve visited us at least once, you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of smiles at Mac’s. We’re a family-friendly place where the every member of the family, no matter their age, can enjoy a healthful activity together.
For anyone of any age looking to stay healthy, roller skating can be a great alternative to what might be considered “traditional” cardiovascular exercise, but there are extra benefits for growing kids. For kids, ensuring that they get regular—and fun!—exercise like roller skating can help them to build healthful habits that last into adulthood. Read on to learn some of the ways roller skating assists with a child’s healthy development.
A Strong, Healthy Heart
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that children get at least one hour of physical activity each day. Roller skating is aerobic activity that will ramp up a child’s heart rate. As you might recall from our health benefits of roller skating post, roller skating has the same benefits as jogging but with less joint damage. And obviously, less joint damage to developing joints is preferable.
Helping a child build endurance will help them into their teen years and adulthood if they decide to play a sport or engage in some other physical activity.
Encourage Social Interaction
When it comes to exercise, it’s important that a child is able to engage in an age-appropriate activity. This is a matter of safety. Happily, roller skating has no age restrictions. It’s an activity that children can enjoy with other children, friends, siblings, parents, grandparents, and other family. At a skating rink, children have the opportunity to chat with others about a shared interest and make new friends.
Gives a Brain Boost
In general, regular exercise is one of the better ways to improve cognitive function. It’s also a great way to ease stress and let go of spare energy. This is particularly good for children who are easily distracted, as the expended energy will allow them to focus at home, at school, and on homework or other assignments.
Easy to Learn
Some children may have health conditions related to balance that would increase the difficulty of learning to skate, but for most kids skating can be learned in a short time. From there it’s just refining technique and learning more advanced skills.
Childhood is a critical time for the development of self-esteem. Becoming skilled at skating is something parents can’t do for their children—only encourage them toward. This puts children in the position of being able to take advice but having to actually solve problems themselves. Successfully resolving a problem (or learning a trick), with or without advice, shows children that there are things they can do themselves and that failing isn’t the end of the world.
Less Aggressive Sport
For the shy or happy-go-lucky child—or the concerned parent—sports commonly played at school might be too physically aggressive. Even in sports that are treated as “non-contact,” contact can be frequent and rough. However, most disciplines of skating are about speed and/or precision, which contact can negatively impact. Disciplines that do or may involve contact, such as quad hockey, roller hockey, or roller derby, have very strict rules regarding what’s considered acceptable.
It’s never too early to get into healthful habits. Such habits are good for people of any age and especially beneficial for children, and roller skating is a great place to start (or continue). So come by Mac’s Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays to take a few spins around the rink. Start skating toward a more healthful future!
You’re probably already aware that exercise is good for your body and will improve your health and general quality of life. The benefits your body reaps from regular physical activity, like roller skating, are so well documented that few people bother to really talk about it anymore. But were you aware that the benefits of exercise extend to your brain as well?
If not, don’t be embarrassed. Most people either don’t know or forget soon after they hear about it simply because the benefits haven’t been pushed into mainstream consciousness; instead, we’re told to play “brain games” to keep our brains young and let physical activity be for our bodies. But what if we told you that when it comes to it, roller skating is a brain game?
It Helps You Learn More
Whenever you exercise, chemicals in your brain called “growth factors” are released. These growth factors help create new brain cells, which will help you to not only learn easier but remember new information.
It Helps With Depression
If you’re feeling a little down, there’s some evidence that being active is almost as effective as reducing the symptoms of depression.
It Helps You Get Balanced
Of course, roller skating improves your sense of balance; this will make you more stable on your feet and boost your fitness level, which will help you in other activities. On top of that, however, improved balance will help your brain synchronize and keep your mind clear.
It Helps Cut Stress
When you’re under stress, you can feel as though your brain is fogged. The mere act of thinking becomes difficult, let alone making decisions and performing at work or school. Roller skating helps by encouraging the release of chemicals such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which help to calm you down and increase your overall ability to function.
It Boosts Memory
According to the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center, regular physical activity—even casual activities—is one of the best ways to slow or possibly prevent Alzheimer’s. So for older skaters, roller skating is a fun way to not only reconnect with a fond childhood activity, but also lowers your chances of developing this terrible and distressing disease.
So What Are You Waiting For?
There’s no doubt about it: For most people, the point of exercising is to build muscle or flatten a stomach. If it’s that way for you too, there’s nothing wrong with that! But it can’t hurt to be aware of the boost that your brain will get alongside your body, right? So now that you know that roller skating benefits you literally from head to foot, why are you still sitting in front of a screen? Get your skates on, get out there, and engage your brain!
Like roller skates, it’s important to carry out regular maintenance to extend the life of your inline skates (rollerblades). Fortunately, you don’t need much in the way of tools and supplies, and—bonus!—as you gain experience with doing maintenance you’ll be able to do it faster and take less time away from other things.
You won’t need to remove your wheels or bearings every time you do maintenance, but it’s good to be ready, in case you notice a problem. We’ll pretend they do need to be removed to give you a thorough idea of rollerblade maintenance. We’ll also pretend you have hard-shell skates (the stiff plastic sort), since there are a few more parts involved. Here’s a list of items you’ll need:
Allen tool/all-purpose skate tool/manufacturer’s tool(s)
toothbrush, or a craft brush that’s small and stiff
cloths, tissues, or wipes (lint-free)
bearing oil (light)
cleaning solution for bearings
Remove the Wheels and Boot Liners
Use the Allen tool (or skate or manufacturer’s tool) to remove the wheels. Open all boot fasteners and/or loosen laces and remove the boot liner. Doing these will make it easier to see and clean all areas of your skates. Look first for anything that needs repair or replacement; those things won’t need cleaning, so you shouldn’t waste time with them.
Wipe Down the Shell and Frame
Roller skates usually have soft boots. The typical rollerblade is more likely to have a “hard shell” (stiff plastic), but there are “soft shell” varieties. Either way, you need to wipe down the shells and frames (what the wheels attach to) with a damp cloth. This will help keep them looking new, but also help keep dirt away from areas that might be harmed by it.
Use the brush to knock grit from holes, crevices, wheels, and wheel spokes. As with wiping off the shell, you don’t want the dirt to ever get into your bearings. Keep in mind that it’s better to do this easy cleaning than need to disassemble your bearings and clean those because you didn’t do the easy cleaning (sometimes, the type of seal on bearings means they can’t be cleaned and have to be replaced, which can get expensive).
Keep Dirt and Grit out of the Bearings
Once you have the other parts free of dirt, wipe down the bearings with a lint-free cloth dabbed in light oil or bearing cleaner. This will help remove dirt without adding water, which will cause the bearings to rust if it gets inside.
Spin each wheel to check for an even and quiet roll. Adding one drop of light oil to each bearing on each side of each wheel will make them last longer, but don’t add more than that because a buildup of oil will attract more dirt and possibly shorten your bearings’ lifespan. If after all that the roll is rough or there’s a scratching noise, the bearings will need to be removed and cleaned with bearing cleaner.
Double-Check Brake Pads
Always make sure it’s firmly secured. An unsecured brake pad could come loose when you need it most and you or someone else might end up hurt; at best, the brake housing—if not the entire frame—would probably be damaged and need replacement. So give it a wiggle and tighten it if necessary.
After every skating session, check the wear. Most brake pads have a wear line, which will help you decide whether the pad needs to be replaced. Exactly when the brake pad should be replaced is a little flexible; for safety and comfort replacement should be done no later than the time the wear line is reached. Wait much longer than that and you’ll find you’re tilting your foot back at a steep, possibly painful angle. Eventually, the screw that holds the pad in place would damage and be damaged by whatever surface you skate, and it might catch on something and cause you to fall. So change your brake pad by the time it’s worn to the wear line.
Keep the Wheel Bolts Properly Adjusted
This is very important to your wheels’ performance. When you put your wheels back in the frame and have the wheel bolts tightened to what’s approximately correct, check each wheel for excessive play (a lot of rocking on the axle). Too much play will lead to increased wear, which will prematurely age your wheels. So you’ll want to tighten each one to the point where the wheel spins freely but the play is minimal.
If you find yourself tightening the bolts a lot, there are solutions you can buy that act sort of like glue that will help keep things in place. Just keep them away from the wheel bearings or the bearings might lock up.
Buckles and Laces
Buckles, laces, and other fasteners keep your rollerblades on your feet, so they’re very important for safety and stability. Check them frequently for wear, or loose or missing parts. These are easily replaced, so be proactive if something doesn’t seem right.
Inspect the Boot Liners
Dirt loves to hide in and around your liners. This might not do any harm to the equipment, but think of how painful it’d be to skate with a rock digging into your instep! So when you’re doing maintenance on your rollerblades, give the liners a shake over a garbage can or a plastic shopping bag you’ve spread over the floor (to catch anything that falls). Wipe both sides of the insole and the bed inside the skate where the liner or insole sits.
Check the Skate Boots
You may not skate outdoors, aggressively, or play roller hockey, but your boots (that is, the shells), can still be damaged by falls and scrapes. So check that the boot structure, fasteners, and supports haven’t been weakened or broken by routine wear.
Wash Liners and Other Fabric Parts
Your feet probably sweat when you skate, so after every skating session you’ll want to open the liners wide and let them air dry to reduce the presences of bacteria and odors. Still, not everything will shake out, wipe off, or air out. At some point, some parts of your rollerblades are going to make you recoil and pinch your nose.
Fortunately, certain parts of your rollerblades are washable. The best way to wash these parts is by hand with a mild soap, but you can also toss them into a cloth bag, net bag (see image), or even a pillow case and run them through a mild cycle in a washing machine (using mild soap). Air dry them afterward. Don’t put them in a dryer unless you want them shrunken or destroyed.
If you have any doubts, contact the manufacturer and ask what they recommend for cleaning.
And You’re Done (For Now)!
“But skate care is boring!” Yes, we know. Virtually any kind of care for any activity can be boring, even if you love doing the activity. But maintaining your rollerblades is safer for you and anyone around you. It’s also infinitely cheaper in the long run than just abusing your rollerblades until they don’t work, then buying a new set. It even increases the amount of fun you have, because by keeping them in good working order you don’t have to fight with them to get them to do what you want.
The good news is that, with time, you’ll be able to perform the care faster and faster, and soon it won’t take long at all. You may even find you come to enjoy the maintenance as a wind-down, if it’s been a particularly frustrating day. So put on some music or a video you don’t need to watch to enjoy and get cleaning. Your skates will be happier, and so will you.