Is Ice Skating Like Rollerblading?

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If you’re a newcomer to the world of skating, one of the first questions you might have had is whether ice skating is like rollerblading. Rollerblades and ice skates look similar, especially in the fact that their bases are very thin.

Both of these sports showcase skaters moving and performing at very high rates of speed. It also takes a great amount of balance and focus to succeed when you rollerblade or ice skate.

These hobbies have similarities, but there are also a lot of differences. There are differences in the technique, training, and various characteristics that make up each sport, respectively.

It takes a lot of discipline, focus, and dedication to practice to excel at either one. It takes a lot of balance to stand up and move when you rollerblade or ice skate. Both sports provide good cardio exercise.

The two certainly go hand-in-hand, though, it seems, and anyone that has rollerbladed has most likely also been ice skating. Many hockey players trade their ice skates for rollerblades when the weather doesn’t permit ice skating, requiring them to trade the ice for hardwood.

In this article, we’ll examine both of these sports in great detail. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll have a greater understanding and appreciation for both of these hobbies. Maybe you’ll even decide whether you want to rollerblade or ice skate.

Table of Contents

Ice Skating and Inline Skates: The Breakdown

Let’s start with the main difference between these two skating sports. Rollerblades are lined with four wheels at the bottom, and ice skates have metal blades. The skate wheels on rollerblades are thin and the thin blade underneath ice skates is even slimmer. However, this isn’t the only major difference between the two.

The biggest question in regards to these two sports is which one is harder. Many people believe that because of the boot that rollerblades provide, it’s easier to keep your balance and stay on your feet. Some say this also gives you better control. The thin blade on ice skates can make it hard to stay up.


Truthfully, regardless of the sport, there’s always some type of ankle support. It’s important that your ankles aren’t able to move or twist when you are pushing off in such a way in an attempt to gain momentum.

Rollerblades are more comfortable than ice skates. The boot inside of rollerblades is padded, which adds a level of comfort that ice skates don’t have. Normally ice skates consist of canvas shoes on top of the blade, and they’re laced very tight.

The tightness of the shoe portion of ice skates can take some getting used to. Many new users report soreness in their feet and ankles after skating because of the snug fit. The tightness is beneficial though, helping skaters to be more aware of changes and feel sudden shocks.


Rollerblades also have a long extension to the front and rear of each skate. The wheels extend past the toe and slightly past the heel. This gives a user extra balance and support when they’re walking or skating.

Ice skates don’t have this extension, which makes them much harder to balance on. The metal blades beneath the shoe are also much thinner than the wheels of a rollerblade, which adds additional difficulty when attempting to balance yourself.

Ice skating helps perfect your balance a little bit more than rollerblading does. Some would say this gives ice skating an advantage over rollerblading. Despite ice skating’s larger demand for balance, both these sports require a great deal of it. 

Inline Skating and Ice Skating Surface

Rollerblades usually do best on a wooden skating surface at skating rinks and skateparks. Asphalt and concrete are also used if these facilities can’t be accessed.

Inline skaters who prefer the street discipline may also prefer concrete or asphalt, as skating on the street provides obstacles and usable terrain for grinding and other tricks.

Ice skating is done on, well, ice skating surfaces. It turns out ice skating is not just a clever name.The icy surface allows skaters to glide seamlessly across the rink. 

Normally ice skaters frequent ice rinks that are similar to skating rinks that inline skaters and roller skaters use. An ice rink provides an area with a smooth ice surface for skaters to move across. The ice skating surface is kept smoothed down and fresh to ensure skaters glide easily and don’t trip on ruts and cuts made from the blades of the skate. With a smooth ice skating surface, skaters glide across the ice nicely and showcase their ice skating skills

However, ice skaters will also use outdoor settings whenever possible. Lakes and ponds freeze over when the weather gets cold enough, providing a natural surface for ice skating. When the ice freezes to a thick enough depth, skaters can move freely across these lakes and ponds until the weather warms enough to thin the ice.

It’s incredibly dangerous to go ice skating on thin ice. Even if the icy surface looks thick, you should still be aware. Ice surfaces can be very deceiving. Always make sure a frozen lake is safe enough to walk and skate across.

It’s very important that ice skaters don’t attempt to make their way onto thin ice. If the ice isn’t thick enough, the weight and pressure of people skating across it will cause it to fracture and crack, leading to a potentially deadly situation. Whenever you’re ice skating on a natural surface, always bring a partner 

Inline Skating and Ice Skating Gear/Clothing

Rollerbladers who are serious about the sport normally wear a distinct type of outfit. Usually, rollerbladers wear a form of spandex that allows them more comfort and free range of motion.

This ability to move more freely allows the inline skater to stretch and bend to perform more advanced maneuvers. There’s also another purpose for the specialized spandex shorts many inline skaters wear.

Some of these shorts contain extra padding in the rear portion. Essentially, this padding exists as an extra cushion for your butt in case you fall.

This cushion is needed because it prevents rollerbladers from breaking their tailbone if they fall on their butt. A broken tailbone is a serious injury that can take months to recover from. It’s one of the most painful injuries a skater or any other person can endure.

Ice skating requires a wide variety of different clothing styles depending on what discipline a skater is participating in. Each different sport or hobby that requires ice skates is completely different from the other.

For example, speed skaters compete in races and to achieve top speeds over shorter distances. These speed skaters will wear clothing similar to those of a rollerblader. The spandex option gives them more motion options, and it also prevents the drag that baggier clothing would cause.

Figure skaters wear costumes and different themed outfits depending on their routine. However, the costumes are normally always complete with tights or leggings underneath. This is also to give them a better range of motion and prevent tripping or falling from loose-fitting clothing.

Ice hockey is a different story altogether. Ice hockey players wear bigger jerseys and pants to fit built into the massive amount of padding they wear underneath their clothing. Hockey players must be well guarded because of the violence of the sport.

When you’re ice skating at top speeds directly at a player, you’re going to need pads. Many hockey players suffer serious injuries as a result of the high-impact blows they take.

The subject of padding takes us to our next topic.

Inline Skating and Ice Skating Safety Equipment

Safety equipment also differs between these two sports. Rollerblades have a whole array of safety equipment they don when they hit the skating rink or concrete.

Knee pads, elbow pads, helmets, and wrist guards are all worn during any rollerblading session. A lack of this safety equipment could lead to a serious injury, including head trauma or broken and sprained bones.

The helmet and knee pads are probably the most important out of all the different safety equipment pieces. Protecting the head is very important in case a rollerblader falls backward. Protecting the back of the head can also prevent neck injuries.

Knee pads come into play because a lot of rollerbladers will use their knees to stop themselves when they aren’t as experienced. The knee pads can regularly prevent skaters from getting skinned and bruised knees.

Ice skaters typically don’t wear any safety equipment as rollerbladers do. Sometimes you might see very young children sporting certain safety items, but for the most part, it’s a very rare commodity.

Ice hockey is another exception to this rule. Like we mentioned above, hockey players are loaded with a variety of pads and guards for nearly every part of their bodies.

Techniques Involved with Inline Skating and Ice Skating

The techniques that make up these two sports vary greatly. Let’s look into the more specific technique requirements.

Forward Motion

Rollerbladers push off against the surface they’re skating on to create a back force that moves them forward. Ice skaters create this same force by pushing off with the sides of their blades.

Speeds are typically higher in ice skating. This is especially true when it comes to professional speed skaters. Some of these competitors have hit speeds of 20 mph on flat surfaces with banking turns involved.

Inline Skating and Ice Skating Stopping Techniques

When rollerbladers want to stop, they normally have two options. One method is used by newer rollerbladers, and the other is used by veterans. Some rollerblades for beginners actually have built in brakes. The built-in mechanism makes it much easier to stop.

Beginning rollerbladers will normally lean down to one knee while they’re skating in order to slow themselves down. This prevents crashing and also allows them to reduce their speed slowly. The friction and drag created by their knee and rollerblade is enough to force them to finally stop. 

Ice skaters rely on shaving ice to stop. While they’re skating, they will turn sideways and position their front foot at the same angle. They will slowly turn their back foot to this position as well.

Initially, they put weight on their back skate to begin slowing. After they reach a lower speed, they slowly shift their body weight towards the front skate, allowing it to dig deeper into the ice. This digging is what created the term shaving ice.

However, if an ice skater puts too much weight and the front skate digs too deep, they will be catapulted into a head-over-feet crash. This is probably the most common form of accident for beginning ice skaters and can cause a nasty fall. It’s important while braking this way that you maintain balance.

Inline Skating and Ice Skating Tricks/Special Disciplines

Ice skaters don’t necessarily perform tricks. The closest thing to trick skating seen on ice would be figure skating.

Figure skaters perform intense spinning maneuvers in mid-air, requiring them to have very high levels of coordination and balance. Landing back upright can be extremely difficult when performing these maneuvers.

Rollerbladers perform a good amount of tricks when the discipline is street skating or vert-skating. Rollerblading street-style incorporates elements of grinding, ramp tricks, and other obstacles that allow skaters to get air and perform other maneuvers. Vert-ramp rollerblading is all about big air and twist and spin tricks.

Speed ice-skating doesn’t incorporate tricks. However, that doesn’t make it any less impressive to watch. The lack of tricks doesn’t make this type of ice skating easier, so don’t be fooled. 

Conclusion on Inline Skating vs. Ice Skating

Rollerblading and ice skating are similar in the fact that the bottom of the skates is shaped the same, the leg motions are similar, and they both require a high level of balance and coordination.

Overall, it seems as if ice skating might be a little harder to learn in the beginning and even harder to master. Ice skating requires a lot more balance, and there’s less assistance from the skate.

To answer the original question of whether rollerblading is like ice skating, we’d have to say the answer is no after careful examination. Both of these sports are incredibly unique in their own way, and although the styles may look similar, each requires a demanding skill set that makes these sports differ.

However, if you’re looking for a hobby or sport to engage in that challenges you and keeps you in peak physical condition, both ice skating and rollerblading would be an acceptable choice. It’s a hard choice between the two if you want to start skating. The dedication, patience, talent, focus, and discipline that each requires are something that any enthusiast of either sport should be proud of. 

If it takes you a bit to get the hang of either hobby, don’t get discouraged. Many people require skating help. Keep practicing and stick with it. Happy skating!