Is It Easier to Roller Skate or Inline Skate?

Woman inline skating through a city park
Getty Images/Tom Merton

Many potential inline or roller skaters want to know whether inline skating (sometimes called rollerblading) or quad roller skating is easier to master.

Surprisingly, many people – young and old – become mobile on inline skates much faster than on traditional quad roller skates. That is because most well-made recreational inline skates offer a lot of rigid support for feet and ankles if they are the right size, buckled and laced up properly. The wheels extend much further to the front and rear which helps balance a skater's forward and backward momentum. The long wheelbase with bigger, thinner wheels is also less sensitive to slight surface irregularities and cracks for outdoor activities. As long as the goal is simple local transportation, individual or group fun, low impact fitness, or scenic outdoor skating activities, inlines may be easier to use and a lot more practical.

On the other hand, other new skaters may find that the wide wheelbase provided by traditional quad skates helps them overcome their side-to-side stability fears. There is a nice secure feeling when there is a flat platform under your feet. But, these skates have all of the wheels under the ball of the foot and under the heel with nothing projecting beyond the skate toe or heel, so there is not nearly as much front and back balance support or stability.

Choose the Skates You Are Comfortable With

If a beginner does not have a skating goal or skating discipline in mind, they can choose to learn in traditional quad roller skates indoors, or recreational inlines outdoors or indoors based on their own comfort zone. The beginner techniques for these are similar and transferable to whatever skating sport they finally choose. Most roller rink skating classes allow both inline and roller skates in beginner classes.

Choose Skates to Match Your Interests

If tricks, stunts, and other advanced maneuvers are the goals, traditional quads are designed for these things and will allow more freedom with less skill. Inline skate designs have come a long way, so almost anything is possible in them, but for a novice who does not own specialized inlines, one foot turns, spins, and jumps will require special effort on a rigid inline frame compared to a traditional quad frame with cushions for "steering" built in.

Quad roller skates and rollerblades both require balance, strength, and stamina. The perceived degree of difficulty will differ from person to person. If you know what you want to do - speed, aggressive, freestyle slalom, figure, etc. - go for the skate that fits your activity, and try not to worry about what's easier. The easiest one for you will be the one you have the most fun doing.

The bottom line is, if your skating interests go beyond exercise and fun, the specific roller sport that interests you will determine which skates, the type of training, and what additional gear you may need. Take a good look at many of the roller sports options available:

  • Recreational inline skating and social quad skating include a variety of activities that are suitable for skaters of all ages and many skating levels. 
  • Inline fitness skating and quad fitness skating are more goal-oriented skating to achieve medical, mental or physical benefits.
  • Street and road skating are organized group events on public thoroughfares and smooth paved roads.
  • Speed skating and inline racing are recognized as competitive disciplines around the world.
  • Quad speed skating is still a recognized competitive discipline – even though participation has significantly declined.​
  • Marathon skating events are taking place on every continent.
  • Freestyle slalom skating lets you dance and spin around cones.
  • Dryland skating or inline figure skating is very similar to ice figure skating.
  • Quad figure skating is a type of figure skating that is often called artistic skating.
  • Inline hockey skating is a popular year-round sport at the amateur, scholastic, and professional levels.
  • Quad rink roller hockey is a popular year-round sport at the amateur, scholastic, and professional levels.
  • Inline roller soccer is a unique version of regular soccer.
  • Roller cricket athletes play all batting, bowling and fielding positions on roller skates.
  • Roll ball is becoming a popular school sport.
  • Inline basketball is an easy roller sport to develop.
  • Aggressive and stunt skating includes jumps, grinds, slides, and flips.
  • Vertical roller skating is just as exciting as aggressive inline.
  • Urban inline skating is a great activity for young or young-at-heart thrill-seekers.
  • Skate cross is an aggressive ramp and obstacle course race on inline or quad skates.
  • Off-road and all-terrain skating combines mountain biking and skiing with inline skating.
  • Nordic inline skating is also called cross-skating or Nordic blading.
  • Kite skating is an extreme inline-based roller sport.
  • Wind skating or skate sailing is a wind powered inline sport.
  • Kjoeringis an extreme equine team roller sport.
  • Downhill racing is one of many gravity sports and very similar to the Alpine downhill ski racing.
  • Rhythm skating is a soul-based skating style that emerged along the same timeline as the Motown sound experience.
  • JB skating originated in Chicago with skating to the soul music sounds of the legendary "Godfather of Soul," James Brown.
  • Jam skating is a newer style in the history of quad skates that blends several styles of dance, gymnastics, and skating.
  • Quad roller derby recently took the sports world by storm and appears to be the fastest growing roller sport today.

If you are not sure that your interests will be dedicated to any one of these specific skating styles, start by building a good foundation in recreational or fitness activities and training. Strong basic skills will take you in any direction that you want to roll on either kind of skates.