Ice Skating Vs Rollerblading – A detailed comparison to help you transition

Skaters with either wheels or blades can all agree that there is nothing else like skating. No matter where or how, ice and roller sports help to empower you and set you free of any troubles.

While both ice skating and rollerblading work under similar principles and mechanisms, there are some differences that set them apart from each other.

In this article, we will be looking at ice skating vs rollerblading. We will break down these two sports and offer insights into how you can seamlessly transition from one type of skating to the other.

Is Ice Skating like Rollerblading?

Ice skating is known to date back thousands of years, with some of the first skates made from animal bones. It wasn’t until 1819 when the first ever inline roller skate was patented, and much of its early origins were inspired by its ice counterpart.

This is why you will notice many parallels between ice skating and rollerblading in the mechanisms of each sport, such as balance and coordination.

However, they have both evolved in their own unique ways over the past few centuries, which set them apart from each other today.

Volito inline roller skate
Volito inline roller skate – Credit: Smithsonian Institution

Here are some of the main differences between ice skating and rollerblading.

1. Ice skating vs Rollerblading Surfaces

The most noticeable difference between ice skating and rollerblading is the surface that you are skating on.

Ice skating is limited to ice, while rollerblading can be on any standard solid ground. Many rollerbladers describe the ice as being “slippery”. The frictionless surface of the ice makes it ideal for skaters to quickly turn and gain momentum. This can be off-putting for rollerbladers who are used to the resistance of standard ground, which they often take advantage of to catch themselves.

Ice skaters transitioning to rollerblading will find that they need to put in more energy to do the same techniques they find effortless on ice while also having to watch out for varying terrain.

2. Ice skating vs Inline Stops

Arguably one of the most important tricks to learn in both ice skating and rollerblading, stops are every skater’s go-to in almost every situation.

Rollerbladers who have attempted drag stops on ice found that they are ineffective for stopping.

Instead, ice skaters put more weight into the center of their skate and will dig into the ice in order to stop. Additionally, beginner rollerbladers have the option of a built-in brake, but there is no such thing in ice skating.

It can take a bit for rollerbladers transitioning to the ice to figure stops out since they usually put a greater emphasis on the balls of their feet when skating.

3. Balance – Is Rollerblading or Ice Skating Easier?

Balance is one of the primary core skills needed for any skater, but it depends on what type of skating you do.

In rollerblading, you have to put more pressure into the balls of your feet and bend your knees, for the most part, to be as stable as possible. You want to lean forward and widen your stance for optimal balance.

The wider wheelbase also helps to stabilize you.

Similarly, you want to learn more forward for hockey ice skating, but the balance is more at the center of the skate. On the other hand, figure ice skating allows you to stand more upright. This puts more pressure on the heels, especially to get momentum in stride.

For rollerbladers, putting weight into the heels is a no-no and could result in serious injury from falling backwards.

4. Contact Area – Is Inline Skating Similar to Ice Skating?

How your blades or wheels interact with and meet the surface that they’re on is something that can be overlooked by skaters from both sides.

Because of the emphasis on edges for ice skating, there is only one part of the skates in contact with the ice at any given time. This contact area also keeps changing as you skate, making it more challenging to keep your balance.

The majority of the rollerblade wheels stay in contact with the ground.

5. Technique – Is Ice Skating Or Rollerblading Easier?

Technique is the point at which ice skating and rollerblading diverge the most. Even with similar maneuvers, they both have different approaches that are unique to each skate.

Forward movement

This technique is almost identical in the two sports, except for the fact that they use different strategies to achieve it. Ice skaters rely on their edges to move forward, whereas rollerbladers have to push against a hard surface to do the same thing.


In ice skating, it is easier and faster to turn because of how “slippery” the ice is and how the skates are built.

The ice does not have as much resistance and friction as standard ground does, so skaters can glide across it pretty smoothly.

Interestingly, you can even gain more speed when you do turns and other tricks on ice.

And as we will go into more detail later, the ice skates themselves help facilitate turns due to the curvature of the blades. Rollerbladers have to make a more conscious effort to turn.


Edges are one of the easier skills to transfer between rollerblading and ice skating. However, much of ice skating is dependent on big and deep edges to move around and perform many tricks.

You are able to do this on ice because the blades of your skates can literally dig into the ice to get some grip.

This is not possible to do with rollerblading as you cannot get the same pressure on the floor as you would on ice. The thickness of the wheels also hinders you from switching from edge to edge as easily as on blades.

Are Roller Skates like Ice Skates?

For the most part, rollerblades and ice skates can look pretty much identical except for the bottom half of the boots.

You will also find differences depending on what type of rollerblades or ice skates you wear.

Toe picks/toe stops

Artistic ice skates, rollerblades, and quad roller skates have toe picks and toe stops that allow skaters to perform many tricks, including spins and jumps.

The difference is that the toe picks are lower on ice skates than the toe stops are on roller skates.

Blades vs wheels

Skaters who started on rollerblades will most likely find that ice skates are lighter. The wheels on the rollerblades act like ankle weights, and without that extra weight, it can feel like you’re flying on ice.

Wheel/blade curvature

Another difference has to do with the curvature of the wheels and blades.

For most default rollerblades, the wheels are positioned in a flat setup where they are all in a straight line, which can limit your maneuverability. However, the blades on hockey ice skates are curved, which gives them a bit of a rock.

If you are a hockey ice skater transitioning into rollerblading, you can consider “rockering” your rollerblades by switching out your wheels with different sized ones.

This will enable you to go faster and have more control.

Is Ice Skating or Rollerblading Harder?

The answer to this question depends on the person, but in general, skaters tend to find ice skating harder than rollerblading.

Maintaining your balance on two thin blades is no easy feat. You also have to manage this on top of a slippery surface.

Mastering the blades requires a certain level of agility that will take more time to master.

But what makes ice skating worth the effort is the experience you get from skating on ice. Once you’ve got your balance and coordination down, ice skating feels like a breeze.

Gliding on the ice feels great and is usually safer because there are no cracks, holes, divets, or obstacles. Compared to ice skating, rollerblading is a lot more accessible, especially for beginners.

The wider wheelbase provides stability, and there is more support for your feet. Braking is easier if you have built-in brakes on one of your skates. Rollerblading also has no limits in terms of surface areas. You can skate on most solid ground, given that there aren’t too many obstacles.

Can you do Ice Skating tricks on Roller Skates?

This is a question that comes up a lot – Can you do ice skating tricks on roller skates? and Does rollerblading translate to ice skating?

Because of the similarities between ice skating and roller skating, there are naturally a decent amount of tricks that you can easily translate from ice to asphalt. Some of these tricks include:

1. Forward and backward swizzles

Swizzles involve making “O” shapes while on your inside edges.

They are great for beginner skaters to get comfortable gliding forward/backward and using their knees to move. This trick is great for beginners getting accommodated to their ice or roller skates.

To perform the forward swizzle on and off ice, start in a “V” position.

Then, push your skates outwards so that you are on your edges and finish off by bringing your toes close together. Start the sequence again and continue repeating to make a chain of swizzles.

The backward swizzle is similar to the forward swizzle, but in reverse. You start with an upside- down “V” position and push outwards and backwards. Bring your heels together to end the sequence and continue to repeat.

2. Shoot the duck

Shoot the duck is a super fun trick you can do if you feel up to a balancing challenge. All you have to do is crouch down while you are skating and extend one of your legs in front of you so that you are just skating on one foot.

This trick is easier to do if you leave your dominant foot skating on the ground and extend your less dominant foot.

This can be harder on figure skates because your center of balance is different when crouching. Roller skates can be much more forgiving in this way because you can just sit back and perhaps maneuver a bit without worrying too much about falling.

3. Three-turns

Three turns are exactly what they are called.

You go from forwards to backwards skating on one foot, basically drawing the number “three” on the floor with your skates.

There are variations to the three-turn that differ in the edges you start and finish with. The easiest one to start out with is the forward outside three-turn. With either your left or right leg, you are going to bend the knee so that there is more pressure on your small toe and, ultimately, the front outside wheel.

Your weight should be concentrated downward.

To make the turn, you have to shift your weight so that you can lift your heel and do a bit of a hop into the backwards position.

You don’t need to deliberately pull up your heel, as it should come naturally with practice. Your upper should also be moving and shifting with the turn.

4. Mohawks

Mohawks are a useful transition move you can use to quickly change direction from forward to backwards skating. Like the three-turn, you are on one foot at a time, and you have to shift your weight when changing direction.

With a mohawk, you start out on either your left or right foot and put all of your weight on that leg.

As you are skating, you want to put your opposite foot down to form a position like a spread eagle. Quickly transfer all of your weight to that opposite foot and lift your original starting foot so that you are now skating backwards.

Throughout this transition, your hips should be changing position with your feet.

5. Forward and backward crossovers

Both ice and roller skaters can use forward and backward crossovers to move around corners and gain speed efficiently. It is executed exactly the same in both sports.

You begin by leaning on either your left or right outside edge when skating. Push out with the opposite foot, cross it over your supporting foot, and then uncross them. Continue to repeat this sequence as you are skating in a circle pattern.

Backward crossovers, also known as crosspulls, add the extra challenge of backwards skating.

With this move, you are also skating in a circle pattern but it is more like backwards swizzles combined with crossing over.

Instead of a full swizzle, you are doing a half swizzle with one foot while putting pressure on a supporting foot that is on an outside edge. While you are doing the swizzle, pull that foot in so that your feet are in a line, cross it inside, and then take out the supporting leg. Continue repeating this sequence.

As with any other backwards skating, you need to make sure to look over your shoulder behind you for any potential obstacles or people. Many people make the mistake of looking straight ahead of them for incoming skaters, but that is not necessarily your primary concern.

6. Spins

What you see in the Olympics for ice skating can also be done on wheels!

It is easier to spin with ice skates because you only have to focus on the rocker point of the blades. If you try to do the same on rollerblades, the rocker point would feel off since there is more of a distance between the wheel and toe stop.

Roller skating requires you to coordinate the pressure from your heel to toe to facilitate the act of spinning. Roller skates are also heavier, making it more difficult to spin or create more revolutions in the air for jumps.

Beginners usually start with the two-footed spin, which requires significant coordination between your upper body and skates.

Your upper body should be tight, pushed down, and leaning opposite to the desired direction. Going into the spin, your arms will go in and stay put against your chest. During this time, you also want your heels and toes to be moving together as you are spinning.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the hang of it the first go around! Spins take patience and practice, and they will come to you over time.

7. Jumps

You can also do jumps on roller skates like you can on ice skates. However, it can be easier or harder depending on the types of skates you have and what kind of jumps you’re going for.

Regular inline skates can do some jumps, but it will be more difficult to do others without the toe stop. Artistic inline and roller skates enable skaters to do everything from waltz to lutz jumps. Universally, all skaters can learn to do 180 and 360-degree jumps.

For any jump, your body and arms should be nice and tight throughout the duration of the trick.

To do a 180-degree clockwise jump, start with your right arm out in front and your left arm to the left side so that they are in an “L” formation. Bend your knees, jump, twist your body clockwise, and bring your arms in.

You should be landing 180 degrees relative to the position you were in. The same mechanics apply to a 360-degree spin except that you need to extend your arms out and bend down further to get the bounce needed to clear the full spin.

Does Roller Skating Help With Ice Skating?

Yes, it definitely does!

Whether you are roller skating with inlines or quads, both types of skates can help you become a better skater overall. Despite the differences in technique, ice skating and roller skating are complementary to each other. The more you practice one discipline, the better you will get at the other.

When off the ice, roller skating is excellent for helping you improve your balance and stance no matter where you are.

You need this regardless of what kind of skating you do. Balance is key to becoming a successful skater later on. Roller skates are also helpful for developing agility, control, and getting used to the movement of skating. Skating requires a certain level of maneuverability that is crucial for your coordination and ability to respond to changes.

Most importantly, roller skating can improve skaters’ self-confidence on and off the ice.

Roller skating is quickly becoming a more popular alternative for ice skaters looking to practice outside of the rink. If this is you, you might find that some things translate well and others don’t. It is important to distinguish each set of techniques so as to not confuse them or have them interfere with your advancement in each sport.

Roller skates can help with the more general aspects of skating but are different when you have to deal with edges and how they grip to the surface.

When you dive into the technicalities of either ice or roller skating, you might find yourself forming some bad habits. The transition into each skate might also feel weird if you haven’t been in one or the other for a while. Skaters usually found that it takes about thirty minutes to adjust to either ice or roller skating.

One of the main problems is adjusting to the shift in weight and pressure for each type of skate. The best way to get over this feeling is to forget that you are wearing ice or roller skates and just go with what feels natural.


Ice skating, roller skating, and rollerblading are similar and distinct from each other at the same time.

They all have the exact underlying mechanisms, which are virtually interchangeable between blades and wheels. Many tricks between the sports operate under the same principles and execution strategies from edges to turns, but are optimized for the different skates.

However, we have to appreciate the fact that they have evolved into their own individual sports with different types of skaters, sub-disciplines, techniques, skates, and communities.

In this article, we identified surfaces, stops, balance, maneuvers, techniques, and skates to be the main factors that set them apart from each other.

Roller skaters and rollerbladers can practice wherever and whenever they want.

They have no limit as far as surfaces go. However, the caveat is that it is more difficult to turn sharply and go on edges, unlike ice skates. The highly resistant nature of the ground can make your movements less precise overall. Ice skaters, while limited to ice rinks, can accomplish the same tricks with less effort.

Even though there are drawbacks to ice skating, roller skating, and rollerblading, nothing is stopping you from doing all of them. In fact, roller sports can actually help you improve your skills on ice and vice versa.

Overall, skating on and off the ice offers you a variety of opportunities to expand your skillset and broaden your horizons as a skater.

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