Know How to Choose Roller Derby Skates

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Roller derby is hard on skates, and the skater. The first pair of skates that you purchase will most likely not be your last. So while it is important to follow a few guidelines when choosing roller derby skates, know that your needs will change as you get more involved in the sport.

There are certain things to look for depending on the position you play and the type of surface that you practice and hold bouts on. These are factors that you may not be fully aware of until you start. Learn how to choose roller derby skates by knowing what to look for and what to avoid and you will start ahead of the pack.

Sizing Information

Choosing the right size is not as easy as it sounds. Like many aspects of women’s clothing and accessories, how a certain size fits depends on the manufacturer and their sizing guidelines and the material it is made of.

As a general rule, go down one size from what you normally wear to start. If most of your shoes are size 8, start with a size 7 roller derby skate. You also have to consider the breaking in period. While the roller skate should never feel completely unwearable, a little snugness is expected at first.

If you are already skating with a group of girls, it may help to try on a few pairs of their skates, just to get an idea of what will fit you. Remember that their skates are already broken in though. Your new pair will feel different on your foot.


Roller derby skates are different than figure skates; there is no reason to, or way you will be able to, skate in what is essentially a high heel boot. Look for quad roller skates created specifically for derby girls. Riedell offers a great selection of roller derby skates.

It is possible to purchase the boot, and then the plate, wheels, bearings and toe stop separately. This allows you to create the ultimate roller derby skate for you. If you are a beginner and have no idea what your needs are at this time, look for a skate that is fully assembled. Parts can be substituted later on down the road.

Lower cut roller derby boots allow for more freedom of movement and push power. Look for a little more ankle coverage if you feel more comfortable with the protection.


Which is better leather roller derby skates or vinyl? The answer depends on your needs once again.

Vinyl skates are good for the rookie skater mostly because they are inexpensive. Vinyl skates do not have a break in period, what you see is what you get. They do not have the longevity that a good leather skate will have, but learning in vinyl skates will give you time to consider what position you are going to play and what your particular needs are in a skate. Saving you money in the long run and giving you a decent pair of kick around skates for outdoor training.

Leather skates are more expensive. They generally last longer and fit more comfortably because of the break in period. Leather boots are either made of high quality leather, or inexpensive leather that has been treated with a stiffening agent. It is recommended by several derby girls that if you are choosing leather over vinyl in the same price range, go with the vinyl. Cheap leather boots will not hold up or be worth the aggravation.

Breaking in Your Skates

Leather skates will eventually mold to your foot. You can speed up the process by following this unusual method posted for people who purchase Vanilla Skates.

  • Put on a pair of dry thick socks.
  • Now put a pair of thick socks that have been soaked in hot water over top
  • Slip your feet, with the two pairs of socks on, into your roller derby skates
  • Walk around, carefully, for an hour. The hot water will soften the inside layers of your leather boot.
  • Take them off, remove the laces and insole
  • Use a hair dryer to dry the skates

Or, you could just spend lots of time practicing!

Where to Purchase

Ideally, you will have a skate store in your neighborhood or nearby town that sells a wide selection of quality roller derby skates. If they also have a knowledgeable staff consider that is a bonus and frequent their establishment.

If you do not have access to such a place, then you may be able to purchase roller derby skates at your local roller rink. Most likely their selection and knowledge is more geared toward artistic skaters.

Online shops do offer a lot of possibilities. Before purchasing sight unseen, check their return policy. If the skates do not work out, find out what your options are before purchasing.

Again, roller derby girls will be your best source of local knowledge. They may be able to direct you to a little known shop or tell you which online store they deal with. It is also possible that a roller derby girl will have an extra pair of skates that you can purchase just to get a feel for the sport. They may not last many months, but will give you time to discover what your needs are.


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