Is Roller Skating and Ice Skating the Same?

Despite various notable differences, many people consider roller skating and ice skating the same.

The two sports indeed share virtual similarities such as both involve similar skills to learn the tricks, both trigger a similar set of muscles, and so on.

Does that mean roller skating and ice skating are the same? Certainly not. The two sports may require a similar skill set, yet they are extremely different at the level of complexity and in performing actual tricks.

In roller skating, a person uses a pair of boots with attached wheels. This form of sport is performed over a smooth surface.

On the contrary, in ice skating, a person uses a pair of shoes with attached metal blades to assist a smooth glide over a surface covered in ice. The article highlights the similarities and differences between the two sports through a thorough analysis of both [source].

Historical Assessment of Roller Skating and Ice Skating

Roller skating originated as a prop in a stage performance in London during the mid-1700s. The first known pair of roller skates were invented by Sir John Joseph Merlin in 1760. However, the invention was not patented until the 1800s. The original design of the roller skates was more or less like the popular in-line skates we use today. The sport has resurged from history with its gaining popularity over the past few years. Most of the credit goes to the roller derby teams or the hip hop dancers.

Ice skating was invented in Finland about 4,000 years ago. The first pair of ice skates were actually a set of two sharpened bones attached to the base of the foot. The design of the ice skates evolved over time to include the sharp metal blades of today. Later Dutchman added edges to the metal blades for smooth gliding over ice and easy cutting through the surface. The blades at the bottom facilitate better grip and improved comfort while skating on ice.

Mechanics Behind Roller Skating and Ice Skating

Earlier roller skating was considered to be a difficult sport. The initial skates were difficult to maneuver and the quad skate design was not invented until 1863. The invention of new quad skates with four-wheels arranged in pairs allowed skaters to easily move, pivot, and turn by shifting the body weight. Skaters quickly learned to push forward with each skate, gain momentum, and propel the movement by leaning in different directions. Nowadays, you can find a whole variety of roller skates. However, the most common ones are the quad and in-line skates.

Inline skates gradually replaced the traditional roller wheels with inline polyurethane wheels. These new pair of skates were termed inline because they had two to five single or parallel pairs of wheels arranged in a single line. These skates are also known as rollerblades after the company who invented and promoted them. Inevitably, inline skating came to be popularly known as rollerblading.

Ice skates resemble the mechanics of roller skates in terms of locomotion, however, the friction is generated by the inclination of the blades as they glide and dig into the ice surface. The propulsion helps skaters in making a smooth movement. Ice skaters deviate their bodies to push the blades against the surface. The technique is often termed drawing.

Evolution of Roller Skating and Ice Skating as a Sport

Roller skating gained immense popularity during the 1970s. The release of the movie Derby in the year 1971 further fueled the viewer’s inclination towards this sport. Nowadays, roller skating is making a come back in full swing through world-famous dancing troupes and approved hip-hop circles. The dancing groups present remarkable dance performances on roller skates to amuse the audience.

Roller or inline skating is an aggressive and intense sport which requires a high degree of speed and immense mobility. Some popular forms of competitive roller skating include speed skating and freestyle skating. Vert skating is another popular discipline of inline skating. All these disciplines of skating involve racing at fairly high speed, performing tricks, taking spins and flips galore.

Ice skating was not recognized as a sport before 1876. Since then, ice skating has evolved in many popular forms such as ice hockey. This multi-player sport is not only exciting but also dangerous. Another notable form of ice skating includes figure skating in which the skaters perform solo or in pairs to present a graceful, pleasing, and daring feats involving an amalgamation of dancing movements and acrobatic maneuvers.

The Winter Olympic games further added a new wave of enthusiasm for the popular sport of speed skating over the ice. Nowadays, ice skating is not limited to be a winter sporting requisite. People are taking up the sport as a hobby, a relaxing leisure activity, a rejuvenating exercise, and even as a quick medium to travel on ice.

How Roller Skating and Ice Skating Compare With Each Other?

Roller Skating is a popular extreme sport where the skaters run on wheeled shoes attached to their feet. You can take up roller skating as a fun sport or pastime activity. In addition to being fun, the sport is also taken up as an effective aerobic activity to stay in shape. You can enjoy the sport alone or in groups with your peers. You must have seen roller skaters or rollerbladers practicing in residential localities, skate parks, and even ice. You can perform the sport over rough terrains such as the one found on the roads or in the rinks, race tracks, or urban localities.

Ice Skating is another popular extreme sport among people of all age groups. Ice skating is a sport where the players move over a surface covered with ice in a pair of ice skates. Ice skaters slide over the icy surface at a high but controlled pace. Speed is the most exciting element of ice skating. The smooth surface of ice makes acceleration easy and quick.

Very close related article Do Roller Blades Help with Ice Skating? Make sure you check this article as well.

You can perform ice skating on a variety of surfaces such as frozen lakes, naturally frozen rivers, or other water bodies. You can also ice skate indoors or outdoors on artificially constructed tracks. You may be an admirer of indoor ice skating inside a rink or outdoor ice skating upon a frozen pond. Nevertheless, ice skating involves certain inherent dangers such as falling through the ice or getting injured with the sharp metal blades. Despite the involved risks, the thrill and excitement of ice skating can be seen in many sports activities including ice hockey and short-track racing.

Techniques Involved in Ice Skating and Roller Skating

In spite of the numerous similarities, ice skating and roller skating have substantial differences such as they are performed on different skating surfaces, they require you to balance yourself differently, and have different start-stop techniques [source].


Ice skating and roller skating involve different types of stopping techniques. Roller skates or inline skates usually have a built-in mechanism for brake on the heels. You can use these brakes to stop or turn sharply by dragging on your back foot. Ice skates do not have any built-in brakes or other stopping mechanisms. This makes stopping on ice skates even more difficult. You must maintain your weight towards the center so that you can use the middle of your blades to shave off the ice for stopping. You may witness a nasty fall if you shift your weight either too forward or too backward.


Roller skating tracks such as skate parks and pavements may have potential hazards such as holes, cracks, litter, uneven patches, vehicles or passersby. Any of these obstacles may hinder your way, trip up your skate wheels, and result in toppling over. On the contrary, the surface at an ice rink is smooth and clear of debris. As a result, you do not hit as hard when you slide and fall. However, if you skate on a natural surface outside like a frozen lake, you may encounter some rough surfaces or may likely fall through the ice.


The wheels of your roller or in-line skates stay completely in contact with the ground in a default setting. This full-contact helps you maintain better balance even on ice. However, the skaters have to push hard due to more friction between the wheels and the skating surface. On the contrary, only a few inches of the blades of your ice skates remain in contact with the ice. Further, the contact point keeps moving while you skate.

Health Benefits

Both ice skating and roller skating show comparable aerobic values in terms of muscular activity, respiration, heart rate, and stroke frequency. Both sports involve similar movements, technique, and stroke production. However, you can achieve better speed on the ice. You can use roller skates anywhere in your house or vicinity. You can include regular roller skating session into your daily exercise regimen. You can ice skate around the year inside indoor rinks to enjoy the sport as a cool fitness escape during summer.

Related Questions

What does ice skating involve? Ice skating is a recreational sport, which involves making gentle moves, spins, and jumps on an icy surface wearing special shoes called ice skates that have attached metal bars at the bottom. These skates help in smooth gliding over ice. The performers usually wear comfortable stretching dress to help make turns and runs. Many people also ice skate as an exercise or a hobby. The sport serves as a great workout to get back in shape.

Can a person suffer severe injuries during ice skating? Ice skating does not pose much danger due to a flat surface. However, you need to stay careful as the ice can be slippery and you may suffer serious injury when you hit against the hard surface of the ice. Using a proper gear is highly recommended when you skate over ice.

What are the advantages of ice skating? Ice skating leaves an overall positive impact on your physical, physiological, and emotional well-being. Active participation in the sport improves your respiration, prevents recurrent stroke, improves heart rate, and keeps calories in check. It is also a good stress reliever. Ice skating involves complete concentration. It is a good medium for developing the habit of perseverance in kids. The lessons learned can help them throughout their life.

What does roller skating involve? Roller skating is a fast sport, where the skaters use boots having wheels with an elaborate brake system. One must practice enough to learn to push brakes at a high speed before hitting the rink.

Does roller skating serve as a good workout? Yes, roller skating indeed provides various health benefits. It serves as a low impact cardio workout for the body. The vigorous movements involved in skating help in toning up the muscles and shaping up the body. Also, strength training exercises combined with aerobics help the body in controlling the insulin levels, managing diabetes, and strengthening the bones.

How do roller skates differ from ice skates? Roller skates have rollers or wheels to grip the surface and aid movement with minimal effort. Ice skates have blades under the boots. The two primarily differ in shape, design, and braking mechanism.

The following table explains the differences:

Roller SkatesIce Skates
Have wheels at the bottom of skates to support easy gliding.Have steel blades fitted at the bottom of leather boots and pointed toe picks to provide better grip on ice.
Provide greater balance and offer better control in sliding over the hard surface due to broader wheelbase.Blades do not dig into ice and allow easy gliding. However, thin blades are hard to control and manage.
Bearings in the wheels reduce friction and support free movement.Blades offer less friction on an icy surface.
Stopper brakes help the skaters come to a halt. Further, multiple locking systems keep your feet in place.No in-built braking mechanism. You must keep your weight towards the middle of the skates to shave off the ice and stop. It is easy to fall off-balance.
Done on any hard surface like wooden pavements, parking lots, streets, sidewalks, or even ice.Done only on ice.
Ankle support is minimal to good in different models.Offer better support to feet and ankles.
Easy to maneuver.Difficult to maneuver.
Skating surface may have obstacles such as holes, cracks, or uneven patches.Skating surface is smooth and free of debris.
Limited during hot weather conditions.Mostly preferred during cold seasons.
Your legs may feel sudden shocks due to obstacles.Easy on feet as the legs smoothly glide on the ice surface.
Other forms include vert skating, off-road skating, speed skating, freestyle skating.Other forms include ice hockey, bandy, figure skating.


Hi there, my name is Tom and I have been roller & inline skating since I was a little kid. Learning the sport at such an early age allowed to me gain a lot of experience and try different types of skates. It took me a lot of trial and error to learn some of the roller skating tricks so I decided to share my journey with you guys!

Recent Posts