Roller skates vs. inline skates

Roller Skates and Inliner on grasEver since the first roller skates and inline skates showed up in the same store, there has been one big question: Which one is better? Roller skates or inline skates? Well.. of course there’s no clear answer to that, but we had a look at a number of aspects to see where their respective strengths and weaknesses lie.


Overall you can say that inline skates are faster than roller skates. The wheels are thinner and the positions of the wheels make it easier to push yourself off and accelerate – especially at high speeds. At high speeds the inliners also have the advantage that they are able to deal with unevenness of the road and debris on the ground than roller skates can. This is one of the main reasons why you see almost exclusively inline skaters going on long tours, while roller skates are more popular when skating for fun near the home. The roads around here are sadly of … let’s call it “mixed quality”.  You can just cover more ground and have to worry less about the state of the road when you using inliners than when using roller skates.


Roller skates are more mobile/agile. Of course there are some specialized inline skates that are made for better mobility, but the vast majority of them are focused on speed. The wheelbase, meaning the distance between the foremost wheel and the hindmost wheel is much shorter in roller skates than in inline skates. That makes the turning circle for roller skates much smaller.
Another important factor is the basic construction of the shoe. Inline skates are almost exclusively plastic skates. Even the semi-soft ones have a kind of plastic scaffold and are very high to support the ankles and prevent them from buckling.
Because roller skates offer a stable, flat platform, they don’t try to buckle when standing and accordingly don’t have to be as tall as inline skates. There are some roller skates – like most speed skates – , that don’t even pass the ankle. The materials they are made from are often softer as well. All of this allows for much more mobility and flexibility in the feet which in turn allows a much more agile way of moving.

Indoor and Outdoor

Like we already established above, inliners are usually favoured for longer tours outdoors, while roller skates are often preferred for short rides near the home.
Indoor rinks are almost exclusively dominated by roller skates. There’s a few reasons for that. First off, roller rinks are much smaller than the great outdoors. That means you don’t drive super fast but instead are focused on having fun and maybe getting a bit creative with your footwork and even doing some tricks or dance moves. All of these are areas where roller skates excel while inline skates are a bit problematic. Another point are the wheels. Inliner wheels are usually softer than roller skate wheels which is great for outdoor, but can be really frustrating on the sticky floors of skate rinks. Last but not least, the stoppers. Roller skate stoppers are in the front which allow them to be used for tricks etc. Inliner stoppers are in the back, which makes braking at high speeds easier, but limits them for alternative uses.
Overall it has to be said though, that you can use both roller skates and inline skates indoors and outdoors. It’s ultimately a question of preference. That’s why it’s nice that – especially in Britain, you have a huge choice of roller discos.

Learning to skate

Some people find it easier to learn to skate on inline skates, because the long wheel base makes them feel that it’s harder to fall over. Others think it’s easier to learn on roller skates because the offer a stable base and you don’t have to actively keep your ankles from buckling. Ultimately this is a pure matter of preference.

Adjustable skates

This is a very important topic for kids skates. Size adjustable roller skates and inline skates can be used for a much longer time frame, because they grow with the size of the child’s feet. Adjustable kids skates usually reach over a frame of about 4 shoes sizes (EU sizes). However there’s also attachable roller skates for kids and adults that can span up to 10 shoe sizes. Generally adjustable roller skates tend to span a size or two more than inline skates.
So if you have a kid that’s still growing fast, or smaller siblings that will use them in the future, then adjustable skates – roller skates or inline skates equally – are a great idea. Learn more about adjustable and attachable roller Skates.


You can usually get roller skates a lot cheaper than inline skates. Especially in the high end area, there are many inliners that exceed 200€. On the other hand, you’ll be hard pressed to find a pair of roller skates that exceeds 120€. That holds true even for fine real leather roller skates.
So, from a price perspective, the edge goes definitely to roller skates.

Conclusion: Inline skates or roller skates

Well, as you can see from all the points above, the question “Inline skates or roller skates?” just can’t be answered universally. What is possible, it to find general tendencies. It’s possible to say that inline skates are better for long and fast tours on public roads. Roller skates on the other hand are better when you want to just skates for fun through the neighbourhood, do challenges like a slalom or  play games like roller hockey. But all of those statements are generalizations. In the end, there’s no big duel between inliners and roller skates. You can do everything you want to with both inline skates and roller skates. Neither one has a real killer-feature that makes them better than the alternative.
In the end it comes down to this: What do you personally like better? Inline skates or roller skates?