Speed Skates Vs. Regular Skates: What’s the Difference?

Speed skates VS regular skates

There are various kinds of skates out there that prioritize different specifications. With so many options to choose from, it can be quite daunting to decide what skates you should buy. There is a lot of hype over speed skates, and many people can’t decide if they should get one of those or a regular pair. When it comes to Speed skates Vs. Regular skates, here is the basic difference between the two –

Speed skates have a superior max speed compared to regular skates. These skates are designed to be lighter and tougher for optimal performance. Regular skates focus more on balance and comfort, whereas speed skates trade those attributes to some extent for more speed.

While it is true that speed skaters are stronger and more durable, they are also harder to maneuver. Depending on your skill level, you might even get more value out of a pair of regular skates. I’ll explain all the differences between regular skates and speed skates so that you can decide whether they are worth it for you.

Also check: How Fast Can Inline Speed Skates Go?

Speed Skates and Regular Skates – What Are they?

Most people out on the skate parks and streets use recreational skates or fitness skates, and the newly popularized street skates. These are considered “Regular” skates because people generally tend to use these. But speed skates are usually used by enthusiasts for their speed. Let’s learn a bit more about these skates, shall we?

  • Regular skates: When it comes to regular skates, recreational skates are the most common because they are geared towards comfort and stability.

Both beginners and intermediate level skaters use these for their daily skating needs. You can effortlessly keep your balance on these skates because they are designed for comfort while you ride for a long time.

Fitness skates are another common variant of skates that you would see fairly regularly. They are essentially an upgraded version of recreation skates, but they can go faster. People who want to have fun riding around casually but also want to get some exercise done, tend to use these skates.

Street skates are a wild mix of speed skates and fitness skates. These skates have insanely good adaptability and control. They are good for making sharp turns in urban areas while also being fast enough to feel the wind. They are relatively common nowadays, and quite popular among young people. 

Freestyle skates are similar to street skates but are more precise. These are easy to learn but hard to master. I’ve seen many beginners start with freestyle skates in recent years. They prefer these over recreational skates because they can continue using these skates even after they’ve mastered skating.

  • Speed Skates: Speed Skates are a type of inline skates. They are geared for speed and performance. Usually, veteran skaters use them because of their rigid learning curve. These skates are so focused on performance that most regular skaters won’t find them too comfortable

It’s harder to keep your balance on these because of their rigid structure, and they are hard to maneuver. But once you have sufficient skills, you can have a ton of fun with these skates. They may be a bit on the expensive side, but they tend to last for a very long time.

What Sets Speed Skates Apart from Regular Skates?

So far, we discussed how different types of skate’s function, but we still don’t know why that happens. What are the technical and material differences between regular skates and speed skates? Let me explain what it is that sets them apart.

  • Wheel Size: Wheels are arguably the most crucial part of a speed skate. It is also one of the most defining factors. Most speed skates have wheels that are on the larger end of the spectrum. They are usually around 90mm to 110mm wheels. Most speed skaters prefer to use bigger wheels because the bigger the wheel, the more speed you get.

Most street skate wheels are 54mm to 64 mm. Fitness and recreation skates have slightly larger wheels that are around 70mm to 100mm. The bigger the wheel, the harder it is to control the skates. So, most beginners stick to skates with around 70mm range.

  • Frame and Wheel Count: Other than the wheel size, you can tell whether or not it’s a speed skate by the number of wheels. Most speed skaters prefer to use four wheels on their skates because it offers more directional stride than a three-wheel setup.

No matter if it’s a four-wheel or a three-wheel setup, speed skates have the largest frames out of all the skates out there. Longer length generally means more power from each stride. For competitive formats, speed skates generally tend to use a 4×110 setup.

Even though the Wheels on speed skates are huge, the frames tend to have a low center of gravity. Having a low center of gravity offers more stability and control without sacrificing any performance.

Regular skates have a wheelbase made of aluminum or copper. They tend to weigh a lot, but they are also stable. Speed skates these days almost exclusively use carbon fiber and other lightweight materials. They try to reduce the weight as much as possible while still keeping the rigid structure intact.

Most of the regular skates will have a much shorter wheelbase than speed skates. Most people use a three-wheel setup for recreational and fitness skates because they are more maneuverable and generally feel less rigid.

  • Wheel hardness: Skate wheels have varying hardness levels. Softer wheels have more friction and offer greater control. They are good for stunts and tricks at skateparks. You would see these on street-skates, recreational skates, and even fitness skates.

Speed skates, however, almost exclusively use harder wheels. They offer very little in the way of control and stability, but they dish out the most speed out of any wheel type.

Speed skate wheels also tend to have a pointy profile. That means only a small part of the wheel touches the surface. This further reduces the amount of friction the wheels produce.

  • Bearings and Brakes: Speed Skates almost always come with open bearings instead of the closed ones you might find in a regular pair of skates. These bearings are easy to clean and replace and much more durable. Open bearings generate less friction and maintain speed much longer than their closed counterparts.

Since speed skaters are all about speed, the bearings they use usually have a very high rating. In the case of bearings, a higher rating means lesser roll resistance. Having less roll resistance means faster speed. Regular recreational and fitness skates don’t usually come with extremely high-end bearings.

Most of the regular skates will have brakes attached to the frame. Most Inline skates usually have it at the back, and quad skates have them at the front. Speed skates, however, ditch the brake system entirely.

Most of the time, brake only adds more weight, and speed skaters usually have enough skill that they can do fine without breaks.

  • Boots: Boots are another defining factor of speed skates. Speed skates are all about performance, so comfort sits in the backburner most of the time while manufacturers design a good pair of speed skates.

Most of the regular skates have a high cuff that gives skaters more ankle support and balance. They have comfortable boots that fit well but not too tight. Speed skate throws all of that out the window.

Speed skates have extremely low cuffs, and they fit very tightly. The low-cuffs allow for more ankle movement. More ankle movement means more power from each stroke if you know what you’re doing.

The boots are made out of lightweight material. Some manufacturers even use carbon fiber cuffs that you can heat mold for better fitting. No matter what material they use, these boots are hard as a rock. That hardness allows for better energy transfer.

Now, this energy transfer is very important. Regular skates don’t pay too much attention to it because it’s flexible and comfortable. Speed skates need to be hard to ensure that no energy is lost because of the slight elasticity. Every stroke needs to convert all the power into speed.

Best Entry Level Speed Skate: Atom Pro 3 Wheel Outdoor Inline Skate

Should You Get Speed Skates as a Beginner?

Speed skates are hyped in most skate communities. Almost everyone dreams of eventually moving on from using regular skates to speed skates.

Most people would start with a pair of fitness skates, Recreational Skates, or even street skates because they are cheaper and easy to learn. They are also very easy to break into. So, the question is, even if speed skating is your ultimate goal, is it a good idea to straight-up start with them as a beginner?

The answer is a big flapping no. speed skates may be fun but it’s an extremely poor choice for learning. Even moderately skilled skaters find speed skates hard to handle. Not to mention you need a lot of open space to fully enjoy riding it.

Enjoyment factor aside, speed skates are stiff, and harder to maneuver.  It’s also harder to stop and keep your balance on. In every way, speed skates are the worst choice for a beginner to learn skating. It’s so gimmicky that beginners are more likely to lose interest in skating because of their repeated failure.

Most of us are skating for fun and to get away from the stress for a while. If you can’t even have fun then what’s the point of adding more bruises?

Then what should you be using? Out of all the regular skates, recreational skates are the easiest ones for beginners. These are made for riding leisurely for long periods of time. They usually have very high cuffs that will give you significantly more ankle support compared to a speed skate. Recreational skates have moderate-sized wheels. So, they are easy to turn and stop even.

The second-best option would be fitness skates. Fitness skates have a relatively longer wheelbase than recreational skates but they still provide enough balance and stability for a beginner to feel comfortable.

I would personally avoid street skates as a beginner because they are geared more towards tricks. They, however, still provide an exceedingly good amount of control and precision. Some people end up learning better with these hybrid skates.

How to Switch from Regular Skates to Speed Skates?

If you’ve been skating with fitness skates or any other regular skates for a long time, it will take a while to get used to speed skates. The closest I can describe the feeling is like switching from automatic to a manual transmission. It feels comfy riding the automatic, but manual will let you have a rawer feel.

Speed skates will also be a hell of a lot faster than anything you’ve been riding till now so that speed is the first thing you need to get used to. If you relied on brakes on your previous skates, then I suggest you start using one on your speed skates too. But It’s best if you can learn to get used to not having that.

You could do one better by first learning to comfortably ride your regular skate without brakes. That would make it far easier to get used to your speed skates.

Another challenge that most people face is getting used to the new height. 110mm wheels are big, I kid you not. Most people find the new height awkward for a while. And some people can’t get used to it at all. You can easily swap out the 110mm for 100mm to make it a bit easier but you will be sacrificing a bit of speed.

Then again, if you can’t feel comfortable then speed shouldn’t even matter, so I don’t think it’s a bad tradeoff.

Another thing you need to worry about is the cuff height. I’m assuming your old skate has high cut cuffs that let you support your ankles. Not having that on an awkward new set of skates will feel pretty darn weird. Sadly, it’s something you need to get used to the hard way.

The harder wheels will feel like you’re riding a bike without any suspension, so I strongly advise you not to practice on uneven grounds. Try finding a suitably long paved road.

What to Look for in Good Speed Skates or Regular Skates

As you probably know by now, speed skaters are pretty darn expensive. So, it is important to know what to look for while buying a pair. First of all, choosing the right skates should be a personal preference. As long as you feel comfortable, it’s fine.

With that said, the first thing you need to look at is the size. If you’ve been buying skates for a while, you probably know that different manufacturers use different measurements. Meaning, every time you want to buy skates, you need to recheck your size based on the scale the manufacturer gives. You normally find that on their website.

The thing about speed skates is that you do not want a super comfortable fit. It might feel awkward after wearing a comfortable pair of regular skates, but speed skates need to be tight.

Some people theorize that while buying skates you should either get one up or one down. While that may be true in the case of comfy recreational skates, you should always stick to your actual size for speed skates.

Choose the wheel size based on how comfortable you are with the height. You can go as low as 90mm for speed skates. The upper limit is 120 but that’s too high for most people to feel comfortable.

Now If you’re the type to maneuver around a lot even with speed skates, then you could get the three-wheel setup. It might be a bit harder to control than a four-wheel setup because the front and back support is lower. The four-wheel setup will give you more stability and speed at the cost of flexibility. So it’s entirely up to you.

Check the hardness of the wheel. The more rating it has the harder it is. For speed skates, you want to get the hardest wheel you can get. You should also check if the weight is as low as it should be. It needs to be at least lighter than your old fitness skates.

One more thing to remember is that speed skates should be very customizable. Check if the base can be adjusted sideways or not. Also, check if everything fits and stays together perfectly. 


I hope that answered all your questions about Speed skates Vs. Regular skates and their differences. Speed skates are incredibly fast, so you need to take appropriate safety measures.

Safety rules are not that serious for regular skates. But when you get into speed skating, you need to take them very seriously. These skates can reach up to 20mph+ quite easily under the right conditions. I guess you could say that’s one final difference between speed and regular skates.


My name is Darius. I have started to skate couple years ago in my 20's. From first look it looked pretty difficult to me, but once i learned it i started to love it. Right now i am passionate about inline skating and usually I am skating together with my sister, Rasa. During the years I find out a lot interesting and useful information which i am sharing on this Blog. I hope that you will enjoy my blog same as you enjoy skating!

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