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What To Look For In An In-Line Skate

Inline skaterHere are the features to look for when buying in-line skates:

  • Boot/Cuff. A two-piece boot, with a hinged cuff, is better because it allows the skater to bend his knees more easily. The boot should have ventilation holes.
  • Brakes should be on the heel, never on the toe. Most youth skates have one heel brake, usually on the right skate, but the retailer can switch it to the left skate if that is your child’s dominant side. Height-adjustable brakes are better because they allow for adjustments as the brake wears down.
  • Wheels. Smaller wheels roll more slowly but are more rugged and easier to maneuver. Experts recommend 70mm for beginners. Hard wheels last longer and are faster than soft wheels, but the ride isn’t as smooth and they are less "grippy." To tell how hard a wheel is check the "durometer" on the wheel; the higher the number, the harder the wheel. Experts say around 85A is good for kids. Three- or four-wheeled skates are fine for novice- or intermediate level skaters, depending on the child’s foot size. Five wheeled skates are for high performance and competitive skaters.
  • Liner. Look for one that is both removable and well-cushioned. The term "anatomical footbed" simply means that the footbed has a foot-like contour. Skates with expandable shells or interchangeable liners will accommodate the child’s growing foot.
  • Closure System. Some skates come with laces (which allow a more customized fit); some with buckles (which are easier to open and close); some offer a combination. Choose the system your child will be comfortable using by herself.
  • Frame. The frame (the "chassis" on which the wheels are mounted) should be sturdy. Look for frames made of glass-reinforced nylon. Ask the salesman if the frame can handle larger wheels. That way your child can upgrade to larger, faster wheels as his skill level increases.
  • Bearings. Two things to look for: (1) the American Bearing Manufacturer’s Association (ABEC) stamp, which means that the bearings meet ABEC’s safety standards. If you don’t see the stamp, you may have to pay extra to upgrade the bearings. (2) ABEC’s quality rating (a 1 or 3 rating on a scale of 1 to 7 is okay for kids’ skates).
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