Skate Boots and Liners

Something we haven’t really focused on too much is skates and your feet. Of course, the simple fact that you wear skates on your feet means they have a very important relationship, but there’s more to it. Because how the skates fit your feet directly relates to what kind of skater you can be (especially if you’re a novice!). That’s why in this post, we’re going to address skate boots and liners.

Generally Speaking

In general, if you’re a novice or casual skater you’re probably going to want skates that have as many interchangeable parts as possible. This way you can experiment with what makes you feel most comfortable and maximize your learning potential. Even if you know what discipline you want to practice, comfort and learning are going to be your most vital needs at first. After you’ve skated for a while you can look for ways to increase your speed or agility or some other requirement your chosen discipline calls for.

Roller Skates

This skater didn't use his roller skates for the discipline they were made for.

In most cases, skate boots for roller skates are a “set it and forget it” sort of thing. While there are skates with hard shells and removable liners, you’re probably generally going to see roller skates with boots or shoes. And while you can absolutely buy another set of boots to replace your current ones, you’re replacing a major component of your skates. If you like that your boots have heels but the pair you’re looking at doesn’t have heels, you can’t keep the heels from your old boots and attach them to the bottom of your new boots. So you have to choose carefully.

That said, there are designs of boots or shoes that are more likely to be specific to certain disciplines. Less aggressive disciplines or disciplines that require extra ankle support probably have a higher cuff, while more aggressive disciplines will have a lower cuff to allow for more maneuverability. Hard shell roller skates are ideal for long-distance speed skating. Make sure you buy the style of skate boot that’s right for your preferred skating habits or you’re likely to give yourself blisters, rashes, or rub injuries.

Inline Skates

When it comes inline skates (rollerblades), things are sometimes easier that they are with roller skates. Depending on the manufacturer or model of skate, the inner part of the “boot” of a rollerblade is more likely to be removable. This inner part is more correctly called the “liner” (the outer part is commonly called a “shell”). Whether you have a liner or retain the entire boot depends mostly on the discipline or manufacturer.

Professional speed skaters, for example, never have liners; instead, they have skate boots that are custom-molded to the shape of their feet. By contrast, recreational skates are likely to have a removable liner just because it’s convenient for cleaning and allows a skater to try out a variety of liners to find what works best. Depending on your foot size you may find that a thinner or thicker liner makes skating more enjoyable because your feet aren’t being pinched or they aren’t sweating as much. There are four main types of liner:

  • Standard – The basic liner, usually made of foam. These liners are not customized so they’re relatively inexpensive. Mainly for casual, recreational, and novice skaters.
  • Auto-Fit – Normally padded with gel that contours to your feet. More supportive and comfortable than standard liners.
  • An example of heat-moldable rollerblade liners.Memory Fit – A relative of the auto-fit, this liner remembers your foot pattern and shapes to your feet the more often you skate.
  • Heat-Moldable – These liners are removed and heated (by a skate shop professional!), then placed on your feet. As they cool, they contour to your feet, making your skates uniquely yours and, hopefully, uniquely comfortable.

The Alternative

At this point you may wonder if you really need to go to all this trouble. Well, perhaps not. Have you ever seen a pair of (really young) children’s training skates? They’re adjustable for kids to grow into and also step-in—that is, the child wears normal walking shoes and straps the skates on over them. This is largely to help parents with squirmy children, but there are varieties for adults that are frequently offered as “commuter” skates so you aren’t having to carry your entire shoe closet with you.

So should you get them? Well, whether these skates are worth it is a matter of opinion. While there’s little arguing the convenience and time saved switching shoes, especially for casual skaters, such skates don’t typically offer good foot support. That’s the job of your normal shoes. Yet for some these open skates also tend to restrict what kind of shoes you can wear with them. If you have a foot or arch condition, then, you may find yourself in a bind.

Two models of step-in inline skates.Probably the best thing is to consider that they’re billed as “commuter” skates, so even if you see exciting promotional videos of skaters doing tricks in them, that may not be ideal for you. If you’re just skating a short distance from one location to another over relatively smooth surfaces, doing few or no jumps or tricks, you may find they serve your needs exactly. But if you skate long distances over rough terrain and like or need to take jumps or lots of stairs, they may not be the best choice.

If the Shoe Fits…

Every skater, but particularly anyone who plans to skate frequently or for long periods of time, needs to have skate boots or liners that are comfortable. Hopefully, with this post you have a basic idea of what you should be looking for when it comes to your skating discipline and needs.