How to Roller Skate Downhill Safely? Full Guide 2024

how to Roller Skate Downhill Safely

Have you been watching those cool outdoor skaters skating downhill in your city? And you want to try that yourself, but are too scared to actually do so? Well, this article has been written just for you.

In this article, I’m going to explain everything you need to know about downhill skating. I’ll also teach you everything about skating safely so that you don’t hurt yourself too badly.

After reading this article and following the guide, you’ll definitely be able to show off in front of your friends.

So without further delay, let’s get started on how to roller skate downhill safely.

What is Downhill Skating?

For newbie roller skaters, I may as well define ‘downhill skating.’ If you already know, you can skip this part.

Downhill skating is an advanced roller skating skill that involves rolling down from long slanting surfaces like downhill roads, hills, etc. The skater keeps gaining a lot of speed while rolling. So they must be able to slow down or stop themselves efficiently.

Your wheels roll by themselves – which is the thrill of downhill skating.

What Skills You Must Already Know to Skate Downhill?

Downhill skating is an advanced-level skill. This means that you need to know some other skills or tricks before you even think of rolling down a slope. If you already know these tricks, then you can skip this part. But this is a complete tutorial, so I’ll be explaining these in detail as well.

Remember that it takes practice to get comfortable with these skills. So practice, practice and practice, until you’re comfortable doing the tricks.

Here are the skills you need to know before attempting to skate on a slanted surface.

1. Good Balance Skating Forwards 

You need to have a good balance while skating forwards. Good balance all lies in the posture and weight distribution. If you’ve got that down, your balance will improve in no time.

Here’s how you get a good forwards balance.

  • Staggering the feet – Staggering the feet means keeping one leg in front of the other. This increases your base and distributes your weight equally in all directions. It reduces the risk of you toppling over due to excessive weight going in one direction only.
  • Bending the knees and lunging – You want to be bending your knees and lunging every time you’re not skating in a straight line. It keeps you in balance; which is especially required in downhill skating.
  • Keeping weight forwards – When you’re skating forwards, your momentum is obviously going backwards. To counter that, you want to be keeping your weight slightly in front of you.
  • Pressing the Heels – Outdoor skating involves bumps and pebbles. If you don’t want to fall badly while skating downhill, just because you come across a crack or a rock; you better be pressing your heels, so you can glide over obstacles, instead of getting caught up in them.

Balance is what you’ll be learning when you’re a beginner. If you don’t have a good grasp of skating forwards, don’t skate downhill. It can be really dangerous.

2. Good Balance Skating Backwards

Rolling backward is the same as rolling forwards. However, there are a few tiny differences in technique.

Most of the steps here are the same as forwards skating. There are just some minor differences here and there.

  • Staggering the feet – Keep your one foot in front of the other, in a scissors position.
  • Bending the knees and lunging – Lunge a bit keeping most of your weight on the front foot.
  • Keeping weight forwards – You must keep your weight forwards while rolling backwards. If your weight goes backwards, you’re probably going to get into a nasty fall.
  • Pressing the toes – This time you press the toes, but not too much that you fall headfirst.
  • Looking backward – You should look where you’re going, especially skating outdoors or while roller skating downhill. You don’t want to be bumping into a vehicle or a person, right?

3. Pushing / Propelling / Accelerating

Pushing means paddling or pushing your feet outwards to accelerate forwards. It’s the basics of roller skating. And definitely a necessary skill for downhill skating.

Here’s what you need to do.

  • Pick up one leg while putting your weight on the other leg.
  • Push the leg outwards into the ground.
  • Now put the pushing leg down, and repeat the same process for the other leg.

Congratulations! You’re able to push now. This takes time and practice. You can get the hang of it in a few weeks.

4. Toe Stop

Toe stops, turn-around toe stops, and plow stops are lifesavers when it comes to roller skating, and especially outdoors downhill skating. You need to learn all the basic stopping techniques before hitting the hills.

First is the toe stop. Here’s how you do it.

  • Bend your knees.
  • Improve your balance on one leg.
  • Shift your weight on one leg.
  • Lift the other foot behind you.
  • Point the heels of your roller skates inwards.
  • Drag the toe stop with the ground.
  • Don’t drag too hard, or you will stumble.
  • Don’t drag too soft, or it won’t be enough to stop.

Executing a perfect toe stop requires a perfect angle of inclination, the perfect balance on one leg, and perfect pressure on the dragging foot.

This braking technique is one of the most difficult for beginners. It requires a bit of practice and getting used to it. But when you get the hang of it, it becomes quite easy.

5. Turn-Around Toe Stop

The turn-around toe stop is a must for downhill roller skating. Actually, it’s safe to say that it comprises 50 percent of backward downhill skating.

The turn-around toe stop is just a variation of the toe stop but while going backwards.

  • Lunge and bend your knees while skating backwards.
  • Stagger your feet and keep one leg in front of the other.
  • Lift your heels and drag the toe stop of the back roller skate with the ground.
  • This should reduce your speed, and stop your skates from rolling further.

That’s it. This one’s a bit easier than the normal toe stop and it’s also extremely useful for outdoor, downhill, or speed skating.

6. Other Stops

Other roller skating stops can also be extremely helpful when hitting the streets. When you’re roller skating downhill, your speed is going to be extremely high. So when you might need to stop urgently, you would want your arsenal of stopping techniques to be up and ready.

Some other useful stops are:

  • T stops
  • Plow stops

Just make sure you know how to stop before hitting the slopes.

How to Roller Skate Downhill Safely?

Now’s the part we’ve all been waiting for. Here’s the full method to skating downhill.

The real challenge to downhill roller skating is controlling your speed.

So you need to be able to control your speed while skating downhill. There are two ways to do that.

1. Backwards Downhill Skating

Believe me or not, roller skating backward is the easier and safer way to go downhill. But some people may feel the other way around.

Anyways, to roller skate backward.

  • Stagger your feet, position one foot in front of the other.
  • Keep your weight on the front foot
  • Look backwards.

There’s no need to push or propel because you’ll be gaining speed automatically.

Controlling Speed – Turn Around Toe Stop

Backwards downhill skating is where the turn-around toe stop comes into play. When you’re going backwards, you can lift up your back foot, and drag the toe stop.

  • The slower you want to get, the more pressure you have to put on your toe stop.
  • If you want to stop completely, you should put a good amount of pressure on the toe stop.
  • If you want to roll again, you can remove the pressure, by lunging forwards.
  • The less the inclination angle, the more the friction, and the more the stopping power.

The turn-around toe stop is the go-to for controlling speed while downhill skating.

2. Forwards Downhill Skating

To skate downhill forwards,

  • Keep your feet staggered.
  • Keep your weight in the front.
  • Keep your body low.
  • Press your heels.

But you also need to be able to control your speed. A good way to do that is carving.

Controlling speed – Carving

Now, what the heck is carving? Carving means skating in a snake-like pathway to reduce your speed using friction.

Here’s how you carve like a pro.

  • Turn one way and then turn the other way in a snake-like pattern.
  • If you’re turning left, then your left foot will be in front of the right foot.
  • If you’re turning right, then your right foot will be in front of your left foot.
  • You need to keep shifting your feet and the direction of turning from left to right and right to left.
  • The front legs navigate the direction of turning.
  • The back legs create the necessary friction to slow down and eventually stopping.
  • To create friction, you have to push out with the back leg.

Congratulations! If you’ve done all the things above, you would be a pretty decent downhill skater by now.

What Roller Skate Equipment Do I Need to Roller Skate Downhill?

You can’t be skating downhill on indoor wheels, right? Because that’s a death wish. Toe stops are also a crucial part of skating down a hill.

So the equipment you need is:

  • Outdoor wheels
  • Large or new toe stops – The toe stops must be screwed tightly to your roller skates.

That’s it.

Safety Precautions

Let’s admit it. Even though downhill roller skating is cool, fun, and thrilling, it’s still quite dangerous. To minimize the risk, you must take all the necessary safety precautions.

1. Wear Your Helmet

Head injuries are not fun at all. So you need to be wearing a helmet at all times while roller skating. Downhill skating is especially dangerous.

  • There are pebbles, cracks, and rocks that might pop up anywhere and surprise you.
  • The roads are incredibly bumpy sometimes.
  • The speed can be extremely high.
  • There might be cars and people on the roads.
  • There’s a huge risk of losing control, falling backward, and hitting your head.

There you go. These are all the reasons to be wearing a helmet everytime you go out.

2. Wear Your Knee Pads

Knee pads are the piece of safety gear, that prevents the largest amount of roller skating injuries from happening. When you fall at a normal angle, your knees are the body parts that face the most impact. So knee pads are mandatory while roller skating.

3. Use the Knee Slide for Emergency Stopping

Suppose you’re rolling downhill. And after some amount of time, your speed becomes so high that you’re unable to control your skates. It would take a lot of time to stop using toe stop, T-stop, etc. But you want to stop urgently. What then?

Here, you can go into the knee slide. It’s kind of an emergency stop. It’s even used by roller derby players to brake.

You’ll need your knee pads on, to be able to do the knee slide. Here’s the technique to nailing it.

  • Thrust your knees forward and get ready to go into the knee slide.
  • Touch your knees with the ground and slide them against the ground.
  • Your weight should go slightly backwards.
  • Do not bump your knees directly into the ground from the top. The slide should be as smooth as possible.

And there you go, skaters! It’s the knee slide.

How to Pick a Suitable Location? 

For downhill roller skating, you need a location. Here’s how the trend generally goes.

  • The less the traffic, the safer.
  • The wider the slopes, the safer.
  • The smoother the slopes, the safer.
  • If the slope is shallow, it will be easier to control your motion. And it would be safer.
  • If the slope is steep, it would be difficult to control your speed. And it would be more dangerous.

If you’re a beginner, pick a slope or a road, that’s;

  • Empty (no traffic or people)
  • Wide
  • Smooth
  • Clean (no pebbles and rocks)
  • Shallow (less steep)

Stay safe skaters.


Ready to show off your awesome downhill skating skills to your friends? I hope this article helped you become confident in your downhill roller skating. So you too can experience the thrill of rolling on your own, without making any sort of effort.

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Good luck and have fun skating.

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