Inline vs Quad Skates

As skating is back in the spotlight, more and more people are coming back to the sport. And, one of the top questions people are asking themselves is if they should be selecting inline vs quad skates. What is the real difference between these skates and is one easier to learn than the other?

There is more than meets the eye to inline skates and quad skates. So, to really understand what each type has to offer and which one is right for you, there does need to be a more comprehensive comparison of the two. So, here it is!

The History of Skates

Roller skating is actually a descendent of ice skating, but the idea took a while to get any traction. During the 1700s, various inventors attempted to design and create early versions of shoes with moving parts on them, but none were successful.

It wasn’t until French inventor C.L. Petibled that the world had a functioning pair of skates. These consisted of a wooden skate with three skates attached in a line. This was followed by Robert John Tyers, “Volito” which had a row of five wheels, with the center wheels larger than the others.

Volito inline roller skate
Volito inline roller skate – Copyright Smithsonian Institution

However, these earlier versions weren’t very successful largely due to the fact that they were difficult to maneuver. The problem was only solved when Louis Legrand opted to place two wheels at the front and the back in rows, that there was some progress.

James Leonard Plimpton, an American inventor, will go down as the inventor of the modern roller skate. He used a rudimentary quad skate design that allowed people to strap the roller skate frame onto their shoes and skate. This sparked a roller skating craze that would last for years.

Throughout the decades, improvements were made to the original design. This included the addition of ball bearings and the creation of a roller skating boot. It wasn’t until the 1980s, though, that inline skates made a comeback.

Inline skates were created to mimic the design and maneuverability of ice hockey skates.

One of the main uses of these skates were to help hockey players practice during the off-season. However, they quickly became popular among leisure skaters and have remained a main skating choice ever since.

Now, let’s move onto a comparison of inline and quad skates…

What is the Difference?

The main difference between inline skates and quad skates is the placement of the wheels. With inline skates, the wheel are in a single row.

 

With quad skates, on the other hand, there are wheels on either side of the boot, at the front and the back.

The boots, themselves, have been designed to look quite different as well. The boots for quad skates often resemble boots or shoes. With rollerblades, though, the design is a bit more distinctive as it has a harder shell.

Design

While the wheels tend to be the most obvious difference, it is only just one variation. The truth is that despite their similar function, these skates differ quite a bit when it comes to design. Here is a breakdown of the main variations:

The Boot

With inline skates, the boot is made up of a shell and inner liner. Traditionally, the shell was made up of plastic, but it is made from softer materials these days. The liner adds padding to the boot to keep you comfortable and also offer up a better fit. The padded tongue also helps with comfort.

Inline skate boots tend to have toe caps and vents that provide you with ventilation. This helps to prevent sweating and odor. These skates can also have laces, buckles, or a combination of the two. These work to create a tighter fit and add support.

With quad skates, boots tend to resemble regular shoes a bit more. You can choose either a high top skate or a low top one. These boots can either be made from leather, suede, or synthetic material such as acrylic or imitation leather.

The boots often have some padding, especially around the tongue. Laces are quite common with quad skate boots, but they may have a cuff around the ankle for additional support. Some quad skate boots have a heel, while others are flat against the frame.

The Wheel Frame

With inline skates, the frame that holds the wheels are attached via a mounting bolt. The frame can be made from carbon, aluminum, or plastic. It is the portion of the skate that transfers energy to the wheels.

The length of the frame will depend on the type of rollerblading that you do. Longer frames offer greater stability, which makes them suitable for leisure skating. Shorter frames, on the other hand, works well for free skating, aggressive skating, slalom, and hockey.

The front and the rear bridge of the frame are the parts that are fixed to the boot. The axles hold the wheels in place – thus, the number of axles will depend on the number of wheels in that particular inline skate.

The base of the wheel frame for quad skates is the plate. It physically attaches to the boot with mounting hardware and supports the kingpin and the pivot cups. Plates can be made from various materials, but aluminum plates are the hardier option when compared with the lighter cast metal and plastic.

  • The toe stop is attached to the plate.
  • The kingpin is a base that holds the trucks together. It protrudes from the front and the back of the skate plate. The tightness or looseness of the kingpin will determine how easy it is to turn with the inline skates.
  • The pivot cup is a hollowed rubber cup that supports the truck hangar. It is responsible for allowing the components to move in either direction. Then, there is the truck. The main purpose of the truck is to hold the axle onto which the wheels are mounted on.
  • The axle protrudes from the truck base and acts as the main structure around which the bearings rotate around. A wheel is attached to either end of the axle and is secured with an axle nut.

The Wheels

Traditionally, inline skate wheels are narrower and taller than quad skates. Still, rollerblade wheels can vary in size as well. Aggressive skate wheels are smaller – around 42mm – 70mm, while those for recreational purposes may be about 70mm to 90mm. Speed wheels are the largest of them all – over 90mm.

The other thing to be aware of is the hardness of the wheels. This is denoted by a number followed by an “A”. The scale typically runs from 68A to 90A. The higher the number, the harder the wheels. Soft wheels tend to be a good option for indoor surfaces, while harder wheels work well for the outdoors.

As mentioned, quad skates are smaller. Due to this, the diameters can vary from 30mm to 42mm, while the height can be anywhere from 55mm to 70mm. With quad skates, the wider and larger wheels offer balance and stability as well as speed.

The smaller wheels provide you with maneuverability. This is why you will usually find them on quad skates that are meant for artistic skating or roller dancing.

Quad wheel skates differ in hardness as well. Most wheels run from 74A to 105A. Most outdoor skates will have a hardness of 78A to 85A. Indoor skates tend to have harder wheels to overcome the slipperiness associated with smooth skating surfaces.

Types of Inline vs Quad Skates

There are various disciplines of both quad and inline skating. As a result, there are different types of skates to accommodate each of these categories. Here is a breakdown of all the kinds of quad and inline skates:

Inline Skates

Here are the main types of inline skates:

Recreational Inline Skates

Like the name suggests, these skates are meant for anyone who enjoys rollerblading. They are suitable for skaters of all levels, but are especially useful for beginners. These skates tend to be best for anyone who wants to skate to places that are only a short distance away.

Recreational skates are known for their comfort and stability.

Fitness Inline Skates

Fitness inline skates are all about performance. The shell, bearings, and wheels have all been designed to help you cover greater distances in a shorter period of time. Furthermore, the shell and liner promote ventilation so that you can get more of a workout without feeling uncomfortable.

Speed/Racing Inline Skates

One of the most standout features of these inline skates are that the wheels are far larger than other types. This allows you to cover ground more quickly, making them the fastest option around. At the same time, these skates are made from incredibly lightweight boots that let you pick up speed with minimal effort.

Urban/Street Inline Skates

These inline skates are largely reserved for doing tricks. As such, they have been designed for maneuverability as well as durability. Street skates are more than capable of taking whatever it is that you throw at them. These skates tend to not have brakes on them.

Roller Hockey Skates

Roller hockey skates are mostly meant to be for ice hockey players who want to train on land. As such, the overall design of these skates greatly resembles that of ice skates. This includes the material that the boot is made of. The skates are also lightweight and durable.

Three Wheel Inline Skates

As the name suggests, these skates have just three wheels to them. This allows you to fit larger wheels on the frame. In turn, this increases the speed with which you can move. Therefore, these skates are a good alternative to speed skates.

You can read our detailed comparison on 3 wheel vs 4 wheel inline skates.

Quad Skates

These are the main types of quad skates available:

Indoor and Outdoor Skates

The main difference between indoor and outdoor skates are the wheels. Indoor skates have wheels that are smaller and have better grip for slippery floors. Outdoor skates, on the other hand, have larger wheels that have been designed to decrease friction.

Hybrid Skates

Hybrid skates give you the best of both worlds. However, once again, they are virtually identical to regular quad skates. The only difference is that the wheels have been designed for indoors and outdoors. This way, you don’t have to swap out your wheels when heading to a different environment.

Speed Skates

These skates are all about maneuverability and speed. Due to this, they are almost always low top skates and have lighter frames. They are also designed to fit better to your foot so that movement feels more natural.

Jam Skates

These skates have been built to maximize your maneuverability as they are used to support breakdancing inspired roller skating. As such, they have a lightweight frame and low ankle profile to make it easier for you to move about.

These skates aren’t equipped with a toe stop, but some may have a dance plug.

Roller Derby Skates

These quad skates are all about durability and have tougher boots, often with a strengthened area near the toes. At the same time, many roller derby skates are also quite fast. They, too, have a low ankle profile for faster movement.

Rhythm Skates

Rhythm skates are used for skate dancing, too, but with a different type of dancing. As such, skaters who use these skates tend to spend more time with all wheels touching the ground. Therefore, there is a higher focus on bouncing and rolling in time to the music.

Artistic Skates

Artistic skating is similar to that of figure skating, making agility a key factor. This is why you will find that such skates have a higher heel on the boot. This way, they are able to distribute the weight more evenly, allowing skaters to land their tricks with a bit more grace.

Ease of use

One of the main questions that people tend to have about inline and quad skates is, which one is easier to glide on? Many are also curious about which one is more suitable for beginner skaters.

There isn’t a straightforward answer to this question. This is because, at the end of the day, both quad skates and inline skates require balance, stamina, and strength. Due to this, how easy it is to learn on inline skates or quad skates can differ from one person to another.

That being said, inline skates do appear to be the preferred option. At the very least, it appears that people pick up skills faster with these skates. There are a few reasons for this. To begin with, the boots offer more support. They have a rigid structure which works well to keep your feet and ankles upright.

There is also the fact that the wheels extend out ahead of your boot both in the front as well as the back. As a result, it is easier to balance your forward and backwards momentum. Therefore, you will find it easier to glide forwards.

The placement of the brake can also make it easier for beginners to learn how to move and stop on inline skates. Unlike with quad skates, inline skates have the brake at the back of the skate. This tends to be a more intuitive motion for when people are trying to slow down.

This doesn’t mean that quad skates are completely out of the running, however. The wider wheelbase on skates tend to offer greater stability. These are found to be especially useful for anyone who has trouble with keeping their balance when moving from side to side.

Many skaters can also appreciate the feeling of safety that quad skates provide. The platform is wider and flat and prevents you from feeling like you have to work as hard to keep your balance.

Safety

Most people are concerned with how safe it is to be on quad or inline skates. After all, you are compromising your balance and stability quite a bit when you prop yourself on wheels. However, is one of these safer than the others?

The good news is that activities such as cycling, soccer, and even basketball pose a greater threat to your threat than either type of safety. Nevertheless, it is possible for you to experience injuries with each quad and inline skating.

You are most likely to injure your wrists, lower arms, elbow, shoulder, and ankle. But, these risks are pretty equal for both kinds of skating, meaning that one is not more dangerous than the other. These injuries can be greatly minimized by wearing the proper safety gear at all times.

Comfort

It is important to keep in mind that every pair of quad skates and inline skates are different. Some models are focused on comfort, while others are all about minimalism and performance. Therefore, it is difficult to make a direct comparison.

If you are looking for comfort with inline skates, then you should opt for a soft boot rather than a harder one. These are typically found with skates meant for beginner. It is also important to consider the liner and tongue – the more well-padded they are, the better.

The good news about quad skates is that the boot tends to be made of natural fibers or at least synthetic fibers. Due to this, they boot does tend to be softer. That being said, having an interior that is a bit padded or molds well to the shape of your foot certainly helps.

Speed

If you want to engage in speed skating, then inline skates should be your go-to option. These skates have been exclusively designed for speed and as such can allow you to get up to between 8 to 16 miles per hour. Some experienced skaters can even surpass speeds of 25 miles per hour.

So, why are inline skates so quick? Well, one of the reasons has to do with the arrangement of the wheels. The inline arrangement actually results in less friction, ensuring that you are able to get forward momentum much more easily.

Also, as mentioned, the higher wheels cover more ground, allowing you to cover a particular distance faster. In addition to being faster, inline skates also make it simpler for you to pick up speed without making as much of an effort.

Quad skates aren’t completely left out of this category, though. Speed quad skates are actually pretty impressive, although they may not be as fast as inline skates. The light frame and low top profile make these a good option for derby and even racing.

Maneuverability

Once you have gotten the hang of skating, maneuverability becomes more important. This is because this element is linked to efficient turns, pulling off tricks, and getting a better performance out of your skates. Which type of skate does this better?

Inline skates are better for maneuvering, simply due to the profile of the boots. As you will have noticed, they are narrow and helped by the low profile of the wheels in line with one another. Due to this, moving your feet inwards and outwards is a far easier task.

This is also one of the reasons that people pick up skills on inline skates more easily.

Of course, quad skates have made some strides in this department as well. This has been achieved with the help of low top quad skates. These free up the ankle so that your movements aren’t restricted, allowing you to move side to side with greater efficiency.

Indoor Surfaces

Roller skates function better indoors than they do outdoors. And, this is because they have been designed to be used in rinks instead of rough terrain. Due to this, they are the better option for indoor surfaces.

This is all to do with the wheels, however. Indoor wheels have been designed to glide across smooth floors. As a result, they are harder. Most roller skates are already equipped with such wheels. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about making the switch.

Of course, there are inline skates that come with indoor wheels. You will find that these do perform quite well. When compared directly to quad skates, though, quad skates do tend to be the winner.

Outdoor Surfaces

On the flip side, inline skates have been practically built to be used outdoors. Due to this, you will find that you can hit the ground running without making any changes to the wheels. One of the reasons for this is that inline skates have thinner wheels.

Thinner wheels aren’t as sensitive as larger ones. This reduces the risk of them picking up any vibrations associated with gliding over small cracks or irregularities in outdoor surfaces. Thus, the inline skates make for a more comfortable ride.

On average, the frame of the inline skates makes these skates quite a bit more durable. This holds up well to the wear and tear that you would expect from skating on pavements, parks, and other surfaces.

Still, quad skates are catching up in this area as well. These days, there are more quad skates that come with outdoor wheels. Like the inline skates, these have softer, gummier wheels. This allows them to roll over irregular surfaces more easily.

The outdoor wheels of the quad skates do tend to be on the wider side as well. This reduces the risks of the wheels getting stuck in larger crevices. However, quad skates still don’t have the kind of durability that is required from true outdoor skates.

Fitness

Many people have been starting to roller skate or rollerblade for fitness purposes. This is seen as a more enjoyable alternative to walking or running. So, which kind of skates are best suited to this kind of activity?

Now, both types of skating are great for toning your legs and buttocks and can even help in engaging your core. That being said, they do require you to use your body in different ways. As such, they have varying impacts.

If you want to improve your cardiovascular abilities, then inline skates are the way to go. These skates allow you to pick up significant speed and to travel greater distances. As such, they are ideal if you are trying to get in a HIIT workout.

Quad skates, on the other hand, require greater effort to get moving and to stay on the move. Due to this, they are great if you are trying to improve your endurance or stamina. You may also find that this movement has a greater toning impact on your muscles.

One kind of skate isn’t necessarily better than the other when it comes to fitness. That being said, rollerblades are the preferred choice simply because they allow to get you farther, mimicking the act of running.

Style

This might seem like an odd feature to compare, but it is an important one. One of the reasons that skating has achieved such a resurgence is due to its aesthetic appeal. It has dominated social media with flashy/retro designs as well as cool skating moves.

Are inline skates or quad skates better for this purpose?

Quad skates is the hands-down winner here. This is simply because these skates have a more retro vibe to them, which is what most people are looking for. Not to mention, they are more compatible with various skating outfits, making them excellent for pictures and videos.

To add to this, numerous quad skating companies are heavily leaning into modern trends. As such, they are designing skates with fun patterns, colors, and features. This makes them even more sought after by the masses.

This isn’t to say that rollerblades are boring by any means! Inline skates are available in various shades and colors. The wheels offer interesting pops of color. The streamlined looks to the skates also offer a sexier profile.

By comparison, though, inline skates are still falling behind. After all, these skates are built for performance over all else. Due to this, manufacturing companies don’t pay as much attention to the aesthetic appeal of these skates.

The advantage of this is that inline skates do hold up better against wear and tear. Many quad skates do find themselves easily scuffed or scratched, these flaws taking away from the design. With inline skates, though, many of these imperfections blend right into the stark design.

This allows you to use inline skates for longer without them coming off as looking old or worn out.

Inline vs Quad Skates: Is There a Winner?

Now, when it is all said and done, are quad skates better than inline skates or vice versa? Is there one that you should choose over the other?

In the end, it all depends on what you are looking for in a pair of skates. For instance, if you want stability and comfort, then quad skates would be a good option for you.

On the other hand, if it is all about performance, then inline skates should be your go-to option.

You should also think about the kind of skating that you want to do. If you are about speed and tricks, inline skates will fit your needs perfectly. If you prefer dancing or more artistic forms of skating, then quad skates will have what you require for such activities.

It is a good idea to consider the kind of environments that you will be skating in. Quad roller skates are built for indoor surfaces and hold up better in rinks and other indoor arenas. Inline skates have the comfort and durability that make outdoor skating a breeze.

Skating for fitness? Well, inline skates are great for building up your cardiovascular system and for engaging in HIIT workouts.

Quad skates can help you with toning muscle and potentially boosting your stamina in the long run.

As you can see, it is all about choosing the skates that are suitable for you. After all, each person has their own set of requirements or preferences. It is up to you to select the skates that meet these to the best of their abilities.

This is the only way that you can get the most out of your skating experience, regardless of the type of skates that you choose. 

You can check out our post on best inline skates for beginners and best quad skates for beginners for some ideas on whick skates you should buy.

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