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The History of Roller Skates

Roller skates are shoes, or bindings that fit onto shoes, that are worn to enable the wearer to roll along on wheels. T

The first use of roller skates occurred as a public spectacle, on a London stage in 1743. The unusual novelty that they were, it took some time before they came into common use. Just over a century later, in 1857, the first roller rinks began opening. Their popularity wasn’t able to soar, however, until they become functional. Initial versions were rudimentary, difficult to use and impractical.   These very first models were similar to present day in-line skates, with only two wheels, front and back. Technical development led them to eventually have four total wheels as well as a toe-stop. These newer more functional skates led to their mass-production and explosion in popularity in the 1880’s.   In the meantime, roller skating has been come to be seen as a rather whimsical pastime. Throughout various moments in history, though, roller skates played roles in some more serious social movements. During the UK suffrage movement, a large number of women protested the 1911 census by spending the night roller skating, hidden in a London rink, where they refused to be counted. Since the 1930’s in the US, skates have enabled the sport of roller derby, a sport long associated with feminist and LGBTQ ideals. Later, during the civil rights movement, black Americans used skating rinks as sites of resistance, protesting the segregation of public recreational areas

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roller skating

Different Types of Roller Skates and Their Construction

Since roller skates have been around for over 250 years now, various types have been developed to suit the different types of skating. Here is an overview of the most common categories of skates and what they’re made of.

Roller Skate Structure

There are three main components to the roller skate:

  • Boots
  • Wheels
  • Brakes

Quality skates will have a well-fitting boot, as foot comfort is an indispensable part of the skating experience. They come in low top, mid top or high top and are chosen based on skater experience and whether they prefer more stability or flexibility. The boots can be made of synthetic materials, leather or a combination of both. Each has its benefits, with synthetics offering affordability, low weight and high breathability, while leather is durable, stylish and adaptable to varying foot forms, providing a more individual fit.


Wheel types are built according to which type of skating will be done and differ in size, durometer (stiffness) and shape. Larger wheels, with greater diameters, enable higher top-speeds, while smaller ones are good for rapid acceleration and deceleration. Stiffer wheels are well suited for high speeds, and softer wheels offer greater grip to the skating surface. The portion of the wheel contacting the ground, called the profile, is the most important aspect of wheel shape. A more pointed profile means less stability, but also less friction with the skating surface and thus higher top-speeds. The flatter profiles will provide more surface area contacting the ground for better grip.

Line Graffiti Roller Skates with PU Wheel

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