World renowned speed coach Bill Begg shares his vast knowledge of skating every week in his "Ask Bill Begg!" column on the Inline Planet.
'Can I Learn to Skate in Speed Boots?'
Hi, Bill: What kind of skates would you recommend for someone just learning to skate? Regular rollerblades with small wheels (80mm) or skates with high cuffs and 100mm or 110mm wheels? Thanks! - Anonymous
Hi, Anonymous: I can’t use the " R.B." word. It’s a registered trademark, and sometimes, when people like me use it, they get a cease-and-desist letter from the company. So I’ll just stick to the generic term “inline skates.”
As for what kind of skates you should start with, that all depends on the skater's size, strength, age, and ability.
I can tell you what we do with new skaters at our Timaru skate club. We set them up with a pair of fitness skates from our fleet of X-Tech skates.
These skates, like most fitness and recreational skates, have high-cuffs. This provides lots of ankle support, which makes it easier for new skaters to stand straight without caving at the ankles.
Then, once the new skaters successfully complete a few learn-to-skate sessions, we get them into a pair of low-cuff speed skates.
For young children (10 or younger), we recommend a speed skate with four 80mm wheels. Once they develop some confidence, we move them into bigger setups, such as 4x84mm, 4x90mm or 3x100mm.
The trick is to make sure they can handle what they are on before moving them to something bigger. That's good advice for any skater. First master high-cuff skate with smaller wheels. Then move on to speed skates.
For adult beginners, I recommend finding a good quality skate with a boot that is stiff and comfortable and with wheels no larger than 90mm.
Smaller wheels are easier to control. So it's best to stick with them until you develop some skill. That way you won’t be a menace to yourself and others.
Eventually, if your goal is speed skating, you will need a pair of low-cuff speed skates. But if you are more interested in fitness skating, you may want to stick with higher cuff skates, which provide extra support and comfort.
If you plan to skate marathons, but not competitively, consider a pair of so-called marathon skates.
They have mid-level cuffs for ankle support and wheels ranging in size from 90 to 110mm. All in all, they offer a good trade-off between comfort and performance.
Good luck with your new adventure in skating!
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