Inline hockey skates are one of the most important pieces of equipment for an inline hockey player. The modern style skates were developed for Russian athletes so they can practice hockey on solid ground instead of ice. They later helped develop a new sport – inline hockey. The design of inline skates depends on the player’s style and needs, based on their experience level and foot shape.
Inline skate construction:
Before shopping for new inline hockey skates it is important to have some basic knowledge about the construction of the skates. They compose of 5 different parts:
- Heel brakes or toe stops
Choosing the right combination can help you upgrade your game, or if you are a beginner it can be helpful during the learning process. Depending on the type of skating you prefer you can choose between skates for aggressive skating, speed skating, inline hockey and artistic inline skating.
The high boot is used for most types of skating, since they offer better ankle support and are easier to use, especially for beginners and children. Considering the fact that boot is your only line of defense when it comes to skates, their complexity is quite understandable. The parts of the boot are:
Quarter package – the boot’s shell. The padding and support inserts are inside of it. The difference between high end and cheaper boots, when it comes to the quarter package is that the first ones, besides having better stitching overall, also have strategically stitched patches that prevent. If you expect your boot to last, look for the patches on the sides of the boot. Depending on the experience level the player has, the stiffness of quarter package can vary from medium – for beginners and recreational players, to very stiff – for pro level players and aggressive skaters. Some brands make their quarter package thermoformable, which means that with a little baking (don’t do it yourself if you are inexperienced) they can fit player’s foot perfectly.
Ankle padding – A foam inserted inside the quarter package for comfort and support.
Heel support – It is anatomically shaped dent built into the quarter package. It provides better fit and therefore more safety.
Tongue – It is usually covered in felt that provides comfort. Some higher quality skates have plastic inserts and foam padding. Its main job is to protect player’s leg from hits and lace bite (which can be more annoying and painful than you can imagine).
Outsole – Solid underside of the skate to which frame is attached. Types of materials that are used for soles differ. If you overbake your skates this is the first part that will show damage. Also, if you keep your skates unused for a long time (months, or even years) it can start crumbling.
Footbed – Removable insert in the bottom of the boot. Some manufacturers make them anatomically shaped for more comfort.
Liner – surface material that covers the inside of the boot. Most commonly used material for the liner is brushed nylon. Some manufacturers use antimicrobial coatings for liners, so not only do you get a comfortable boot, it also smells less.
Frame and configuration
There can’t be much science when it comes to frames, right? Wrong! There are actually a few different designs of frames, including different materials. In the beginning, they were made of plastic, which was ok, but they didn’t last very long. Manufacturers have experimented with different materials like carbon fiber, magnesium, extrude aluminum, or even pressed aluminum. They all have something unique to offer so they are all used, depending on the type of game you prefer.
Carbon fiber frames are lightest, weighing around 130 grams, where aluminum ones can, depending on the length of the frame, weigh from 170 to 240 grams. It is important to consider the weight of the frame when buying inline skates because it can significantly affect the overall weight of the skate.
When it comes to design, the most popular types are:
Flat – all the wheels are the same size, 80-80-80-80. This configuration is good for beginners, nonaggressive skaters that are looking for better stability instead of maneuverability. All the wheels are touching the ground at the same time, allowing for better speed. That’s why this configuration is often used in marathons.
Rocker – there are two types of rockers, “full rocker” and “front rocker”. Full rocker has 76-80-80-76 configuration, whereas the front rocker has 80-80-80-76. This type of frame is created so it allows better maneuverability, especially if the frame is short. Freestyle skaters, freestyle slalom skaters, and artistic skaters prefer this type of configuration. Because of the way this frame is built, you never get all four wheels on the ground. It is less stable but makes that up in maneuverability. It is important to point out that some wheels in this type of frame, especially in full rocker, wear faster and will need to be replaced more often.
„Hi-Lo“ hockey setup – 76-76-80-80 mm configuration. Because of the way wheels are positioned, player’s foot is slightly leaned forward. This affects entire posture and changes the player’s center of gravity. This way the player gets a more aggressive stance for more powerful strides and more stability.
The length of the frame is also important, since the longer the frame is, the larger surface contact area it has. This is good for beginners who need more stability and for marathons where speed is crucial, but more experienced inline hockey players prefer shorter frames because it gives them more flexibility.
Bearings used for inline hockey skates are regular ball bearings. Since they are primarily intended for machinery their quality is rated on the ABEC scale. Ranging from 1 (worst) to 11 (best quality). However, since this measurement system is not intended for inline skate manufacturers have developed their own rating system. For example Rollerblade brand created SG1 to SG9 rating. They are mounted on the molded openings in the wheels, two per wheel, with separators that keep them apart. The quality of the bearings can affect speed and it is best to check what bearings manufacturer recommends.
The size of the wheels varies depending on the skating type. The smallest wheels 44-59mm are for aggressive skating, 47-80mm are for roller hockey skating, 68-72mm. For artistic inline skating, 72-80mm is most commonly used. For freestyle slalom skating, 72-100mm is for general recreational skating. And 100-125mm is used for speed skating.
Depending on the type of surface you prefer to ride on, there are different materials that are available. If you plan on skating on sport tile surfaces the softer wheels are a better choice. These wheels are made from softer plastic or some types of rubber. The downside of this type of wheels is that they tend to wear out quickly if used on harder surfaces like asphalt or concrete. Harder wheels are better for those surfaces. Some manufacturers sell their skates with “universal“ wheels, but the practice has shown that those wheels don’t last long on hard surfaces.
The profile of the wheels is also important, accordingly, there is elliptic profile, which is good for a faster ride, while more rounded profiles have better grip and are more stable. Also, rounded profiles have longer wear life since there is larger surface contact area.
Heel brakes and toe stops
Not all skates come with this piece of plastic or rubber. It is placed behind or in front of the wheels and its purpose is to help player slow down or stop. Intermediate and advanced players don’t use brakes since there are other techniques of stopping and having a brake can even affect player’s speed since it limits movement. Toe stop is very useful in artistic skating for performing figure skating jumps.
Choosing the right fit
When choosing inline hockey skates it is crucial to know your foot type. This can make a difference between having blisters on your feet or having your feet „float“ inside the boot and having skates that fit perfectly.
Different manufacturers have differently shaped boots. That’s why it is crucial to determine the type of your foot, and the best way to do so is to measure the width of your ankles and heels, thickness/depth of your foot and width of the front part of your foot for toe box. Using these measurements you can determine whether you have a narrow, regular or wide foot. The general rule of thumb is that if you have problems with shoes being snug or tight, you probably have wide feet.
When trying on new skates first put them on while sitting. Make sure your heel is deep in the heel pocket of the skate and that your toes barely touch the front of the toe box. If your toes are cramped or loose, you have the wrong size.
The size of the roller skates is rarely the same as your US size. Usually, it is at least 1.0 up to 2.0 sizes down from your shoe size. Always check manufacturer recommendations, but keep in mind that even that might not be enough because everyone has unique feet and should try the skates on before buying.
„A good skater can skate on anything“ – while that might be true, don’t underestimate the power of well-chosen inline hockey skates. If you do a little research you will not only save money in the long run but can also improve your game significantly. Hopefully, this article has explained enough for a beginner and refreshed a more experienced player’s mind.