Aggressive Inline Skates Buying Guide
While many people will feel satisfied with recreational skating, a rare few will dare to pursue the adrenaline-inducing sport of aggressive inline skating. Aggressive inline skating is an extreme sport founded in the early 1990s and includes street skating, park skating, and vert (short for vertical) skating. Although skating has waxed and waned in popularity throughout the last thirty years, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a new generation to the mental, physical, and social benefits.
Here's everything you need to know about aggressive skating before purchasing skates:
What's the Difference Between Aggressive Inline Skates and Regular Inline Skates?
When people think of inline skating, they usually picture recreational skates. Although recreational skating is a great entry point as a beginner skate, fitness skates are not durable enough to sustain repeated impacts from jumps or grinds. However, before jumping into the differences between the skates themselves, let's talk about the difference between recreational and aggressive skaters.
Generally speaking, recreational skaters have less skating experience. Either they are beginners that are just building skating confidence, or they are intermediate skaters who no longer need to worry about stopping, starting, or making turns. Aggressive inline skaters, on the other hand, typically fall into the advanced or expert category. This is because they can handle high speeds, can turn on a dime, and are fearless in their approach. For this reason, aggressive inline skaters must already master beginner and intermediate skills.
In terms of the differences between recreational and aggressive skates, it mostly comes down to fit and hardware. Whereas casual skaters will enjoy the comfort and flexibility of an almost-tennis-shoe boot, aggressive skates will prefer stiffer skate boots, aluminum frames instead of plastic, and high precision wheels and bearings that handle higher speeds.
What to Look For When Buying Aggressive Inline Skates?
The design of aggressive skates plays a much more significant role in skate performance than regular inline skates. Depending on whether you're looking for speed, want to do park tricks, or are itching to hit that vert wall, different aggressive skating styles will require different types of equipment.
Here are some essential areas to consider:
Aggressive boots come in three main styles: soft shell skates, hard shell skates, and skeletal skates. Although different styles serve different types of skating, what's most important is fit. The feet should be snug but not cramped within the boot. An aggressive skate boot that's too tight will be painful to wear over time, while a boot that's too loose can be more challenging to control and compromise the safety of the foot and ankle.
Soft Shell Aggressive Skates
Soft shell aggressive skates feature more flexible material that allows for superb control. Because the soft shell boot enables you to apply pressure and bend your foot more, skaters have much more control over their technique to land tricks. For that same reason, you should not use them for jumps that require hard impact, at risk of personal injury.
Hard Shell Aggressive Skates
On the other hand, hard shell aggressive skates can take a hard impact, making them great for park and vert skating, where jumping is common. In addition, hard shell skates feature stiff boots made of hard plastic that offer less control than soft shell boots but offer greater protection for skaters looking to get some air.
Skeletal skates offer a hybrid option between softshell and hardshell skates. Rather than having the skate boot be one contiguous piece, skeletal skates use a mix of hard and soft materials to wrap around the skate liner to create a custom fit. This is particularly helpful for aggressive skaters who like to skate across different mediums so that they have the flexibility to swap out their skate liner so they can grind one day and get some air the next. In addition, some skeletal skates will allow skaters to use their shoes to dial up the customization features as a bonus.
Skate liners are an essential component of a skater's comfort and performance. Skate liners fit almost like a sock within the skate boot to create a better fit and improve power transfer. Also, the removable liner is easy to swap out when they get too worn, which helps extend your aggressive skate's life.
Aggressive Skate Frames
Compared to the molded plastic frames of a traditional inline skate, most aggressive skates have aluminum frames. The frame is the hardware that holds the wheels in place, but unlike an inline skate, aggressive skate frames have what is known as an 'H-block.' The H-block features two wheels near the foot's toe and two wheels near the foot's heel with a hollow space in the middle to lock in a grind. You'll also notice that aggressive frames often use a universal frame system separate from the skate boot. The universal frame system allows skaters to mix and match boots to their frames for a custom build.
Aggressive skating requires higher performance bearings than a regular inline skate because bearing directly impacts the friction the wheels experience. Bearings typically operate on a nine-point scale, where the higher the number, the higher the level of manufacturing precision. The higher numbered bearings will also work best in larger wheels. Typically, higher-numbered bearings are used by racers and other aggressive skaters that placing heavy stress on their skates over longer distances.
How Do You Choose Aggressive Inline Wheels?
There are two main considerations when choosing wheels for aggressive inline skates: size, hardness, and wheel type. Here’s a quick breakdown:
Aggressive skate wheels are measured in millimeters (mm). Almost always, wheels will be under 60mm to give advanced skaters an advantage in skate parks to deal with ledges and other grind surfaces. However, consider the wheel size based both on skill levels and the anticipated uses for the skates. For example, skates with large wheels size will generate more speed and cover ground quickly, which may be more suitable for speed skates. Comparatively, skates with small wheels are ideal for tricks.
Standard wheels for aggressive skates generally have a wheel size between 50mm and 60mm and are made out of polyurethane, which has a better surface grip. An essential aspect of skate wheels is the wheel durometer or the hardness of the wheel. Softer wheels are better suited for fitness, while experienced skaters will want wheels with greater hardness because they are less likely to crack from hard impact. Avoid wheels made of cheap plastic; they are likely to break and have less surface grip, impacting your control.
Aggressive skaters will have a much different wheel setup than beginner skaters. For example, where beginners will have an inline skate with wheels that are all the same size, and aggressive skate may have what appears to be two large wheels at the toe and heel and two small wheels near the center of the foot. These are called anti-rocker wheels.
The two smaller wheels are significantly smaller and don't make contact with the ground while you skate. Typically, anti-rocker wheels come as part of an anti-rocker frame, which is standard in aggressive skates. These are considered trick skates because the small wheels make it easier to lock in on a grind rail.
What Are the Best Aggressive Inline Skates?
That's a loaded question. Ultimately, the best aggressive inline skates come down to personal preference. Compared to other skate modalities, aggressive skating lends itself to greater customization so you can curate your own skate experience. The best inline skate is whatever pair is the right pair for your interests, whether that's speed, park tricks, or getting big air.