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Roller Derby Skates - Buying Advice

So, you've already made the epic decision to take part in the adrenaline-drenched sport that is

roller derby. Excellent choice.

The second critical decision that you need to make is which skates to purchase. Trust us whenᅠ

we say that this isn't a decision to be taken lightly. You're going to be in these skates for theᅠ

bare minimum of 2 hours of practice a week (and after a month or so, it could easily end upᅠ

being 6 or more). You need them to not only be comfortable, but feel like an extension ofᅠ

yourself. You will only truly understand this significance after a few weeks on the track.

There's a wealth of skates on the market and this can make the decision seem extremely ᅠ

intimidating. However, most people end up gravitating to the same choices, which makesᅠ

selection through recommendation somewhat easier.ᅠ

To narrow down these vast product catalogues, there's some key questions that you should askᅠ


What's your budget?

The initial set-up cost of derby packages can be offputting, but remember - You and your skatesᅠ

will have a very intense relationship, with a lot of ups and downs (literally). Roller derby isᅠ

extremely athletic and it's of no benefit to be let down by your kit.

モBuy cheap, buy twiceヤ is an adage that really rings true where derby is concerned. A good ruleᅠ

of thumb is to bear in mind that the majority of skates below the £100 mark will be recreational,ᅠ

not ᅠprofessional. Recreational skates are ace for a skate down the pier or the odd roller disco.ᅠ

But for speed skating, jumping, endurance and heavy falls (all of which are frequent in derby), aᅠ

recreational skate will - best case scenario - fall apart. Worst case scenario, they will hurt youᅠ

and cause injury.ᅠ

At the £100 mark, you can buy a reliable starter skate like the Riedell R3 or Suregrip GT50.ᅠ

They'll last you at least a couple of years if you take good care of them - certainly long enoughᅠ

to tell if you're serious enough to invest further.

At £200 and higher, you'll find a wide range of setups that market themselves at the moreᅠ

professional skater. Realistically, there's no need for a beginner to spend that much, but youᅠ

may decide to do so once you have a specific requirement for your skates, i.e. a more reactiveᅠ

plate of a lighter boot.

Do you have a wide or narrow foot?

Certain brands can cater to specific needs. Riedell, for example, are known to have a narrowᅠ

fitting, while Suregrip are wider.

Ideally, a skate should be a SNUG fit. Not so tight that they cause you pain, but tight enoughᅠ

that you can feel that the skate is supporting your foot across its length and width. A skate that'sᅠ

too wide or long will be difficult to maneuver, while a skate that's too short or narrow will simplyᅠ

be too painful to enjoy.

How high do you like the cut of a boot?

To clarify, there are no ムhigh leg' derby boots which will reach your calves, and you shouldn'tᅠ

buy a boot of that shape to wear at derby training. The lack of ankle flexibility makes derby drillsᅠ

extremely difficult and potentially very unsafe. Skaters that are new to derby often worry aboutᅠ

derby skates being low-cut, thinking that their ankles will be vulnerable to twists and breaks. Theᅠ

opposite is ᅠtrue - Flexibility in your lower body makes you far less likely to become injured.ᅠ

Unfortunately, if your foot is in a high leg skate and you get caught in the wrong position, you'llᅠ

be stuck there. When that happens, something's gotta give. That モsomethingヤ will be your fibula.ᅠ

モOuchヤ would be an understatement.ᅠ

Pretty much every derby skate, for this reason, will have a low-cut ankle, with the notableᅠ

exception of Antik boots. Antiks have a higher ankle than most, but care has been taken toᅠ

ensure that the fabric is flexible. So, you can enjoy a little extra support without the associatedᅠ


Do you want a leather or synthetic boot?

This is a fairly obvious question for vegans, but not quite so for the rest of us.

The モobviousヤ (and often incorrect) assumption is that synthetic materials are cheap and nasty.ᅠ

That's not necessarily true.

On a lower quality skate (let's say, a setup less than £200), leather is probably going to be aᅠ

stronger option, as well as a more comfortable one. However, the game completely changesᅠ

with higher-end products.

Carbon and microfibre boots are specifically made to be both sturdy and light, often trumpingᅠ

leather on both counts and providing unrivalled comfort. Brands like Bont and Crazy Skates areᅠ

known to be at the forefront of synthetic boot technologies and are always worth a look.

Do you mind upgrading parts?

This will play a big part with regard to how much money to spend on an initial setup. It's a matterᅠ

of モbuy now, pay laterヤ, or going all-in.ᅠ

A basic skate package (anything £100 - £200, really) will be sold with standard parts. Fit forᅠ

purpose, sure - but not parts that will last a lifetime, or likely to suit your skating style in a fewᅠ

months' time once you've found your bearings. With this in mind, you're likely to need to replaceᅠ

the wheels and toe stops at the bear minimum. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. When you firstᅠ

start skating, it's near impossible to guess what kind of skater you will become and the specificᅠ

type of gear that will be of benefit. So, rather than investing in top-end parts that you might notᅠ

even like, you're probably best off getting a slightly lower-end setup so you can save some ofᅠ

your budget for upgrades that have been carefully considered. Just make sure that the bootᅠ

itself is 100% comfortable. The rest can pretty much be built out around it.

If you've been skating for a while and are familiar with your own requirements, it might be bestᅠ

to skip buying a pre-made setup altogether and go straight into a custom build., by choosing allᅠ

of your own parts and building the skate yourself.This requires a degree of knowledge, but theᅠ

advantage is that you won't waste money on parts that you dislike or need to replace. Obviouslyᅠ

you can change bits as needed, but the idea is, you can invest in a skate that will last for years.ᅠ

Most custom boots (such as Antik, Riedell and Bont) will allow you to have a pair made toᅠ

measure, so they'll fit like a glove. A well-fitting boot allows the ultimate reaction with your plateᅠ

and wheels, so don't underestimate the importance of getting your feet measured up!