There are a wide variety of roller skate brands.
Some sell skates for as low as $70, and others steadily increase up to $500 or higher
Whether looking to visit an indoor skating rink or the sidewalk around your neighborhood, you can find a pair of roller skates to suit your needs.
How many parts of a skate can be customized, and why does it cost so much?
Why Are Roller Skates So Expensive? (10 Reasons)
1. Popularity Increase
As each generation can attest, there is usually a specific activity that stands out as being popular.
Roller Skating seems to be one activity that is consistently popular among youth, young adults, and even mature adults.
Professional sports exposure and social media also play a role in the popularity of roller skating.
Popular skate brands also create clothing, shoes, and other accessories that appeal to their target markets.
Examples include Vans, Converse, and Element.
As popularity and demand increase, so do the prices to support production and inflation.
2. Variability In Roller Skate Types
When shopping for a pair of roller skates, it is important to understand that there are a variety of types designed for various uses.
Roller skates designed for a casual skater or the newbie will likely be found at a lower cost than those who skate for a professional or adventurous purpose.
Outdoor skating, whether a casual skate down the neighborhood sidewalk, speeding down the street alongside bikers, or at a skate park performing tricks, requires a different type of wheel and wheel size.
Indoor skating tends to be on a smoother surface, with less damage to the wheels.
Therefore, the wheels necessary are not as durable or tough.
Examples of indoor skating may be derby skating, jam skating, and roller dancing.
3. Overseas Manufacturers And Pandemic Related Delays
The coronavirus pandemic caused supply chain shortages in products across the globe.
During this time, prices increased exponentially due to limited supply.
These issues seem to have been resolved for the most part.
However, additional expenses are incurred due to shipping and handling costs from overseas manufacturers.
Customers purchasing from big-name retailers may continue to experience longer wait times and inflated prices due to the demand since the halt in production caused by the pandemic.
4. Wheel Hardness Determines Function
The different types of skates (outdoor, indoor, sports) have different wheels to better suit the activity.
Most often, roller skate wheels are made from polyurethane.
Wheels also come in a variety of sizes and levels of hardness.
A durometer rating scale is a measurement tool used to identify the hardness of the wheels, with measurements ranging from 72A-102A.
72A is softer and 102A is the hardest wheel.
Whether indoor or outdoor skating, the hardness of the wheel plays a role in the difficulty and effort required by the skater.
For example, an outdoor skate will likely fall towards the lower end of the durometer measurement scale with its softer wheels.
The softer wheel allows the skater to bounce along the pavements.
These wheels also tend to look bulkier, because they need to roll over obstacles like leaves, sidewalk cracks, and gravel.
Indoor skates tend to fall higher on the scale with a harder wheel.
These wheels range in the 90s and 100s, making them ideal for indoor skating and some outdoor skate parks.
The advantage of a harder wheel is that the skater can fly across the pavement much faster than with softer wheels.
This makes indoor skates ideal choices for roller dancing, which require fluid and quick movement.
Some roller skates are also equipped for indoor-outdoor use.
These skaters enjoy cruising along neighborhood sidewalks or beach paths.
On the durometer rating scale, the ideal wheel for this type is within the 80s.
These wheels, called hybrid wheels, tend to be harder and smaller than the typical outdoor wheel.
The advantage of a hybrid wheel is that the user can experience both indoor and outdoor skating with one pair of skates.
A hybrid wheel may help the first-time user feel more in control while adjusting to rapid inclines and declines.
5. Materials Of Wheels And Their Impact On Lifespan
Usually, roller skate wheels are made from polyurethane.
Harder wheels, specific to indoor use, are typically made with fiberglass or wood.
These are both firm materials that allow the wheel to slide along the pavement.
Cheaper, low-quality wheels that are made of thick plastic wear down faster than high-quality wheels.
Therefore, those who enjoy the sport frequently are wise to invest in a better quality polyurethane wheel that will last for a longer time.
The easiest way to determine when your wheels need to be replaced is by looking for pits or small holes.
Another way is when the wheel looks like a cone or is lopsided from repeated wear.
6. Shape And Fit Of The Boot
The boot of the skate is considered to be the foundation.
Without this, we wouldn’t be able to stand on the skates without falling.
These foundations can be specialized depending on the skill level or requirements of the skater.
Skate boots are often made out of leather or vegan vinyl.
The better the quality, the longer the lifespan.
With care, roller skates can last up to 10 years, not including any wheel replacements needed during that time.
There are a variety of options for how the boot of the skate can be fitted, whether snug, stiff, or looser.
A. Snug Vs. Loose Boots
Snugly fitting boots feel like they are a part of the body.
They are easier to maneuver because your feet do not slide around.
It is important to note, however, that if the boot is too snug, it can cause numbness and tingling.
Additionally, if the boot is too loose, the foot slides around leading to blisters.
B. Ankle Support
The level of ankle support a boot offers impacts ankle safety and mobility.
A stiff boot provides more ankle support when performing tricks in a skate park or roller dancing.
Without the proper support, the skater may twist an ankle.
7. The Plate Of The Roller Skate
The plate connects the wheels to the boot.
All roller skates come equipped with a standard plate, which can be customized.
However, these plates are quite expensive when customized.
The different aspects of plates are often what materials they are produced with.
Many plates are produced with reinforced nylon, aluminum, or magnesium.
A beginner skater purchasing cheaper skates will likely have a plate made of nylon.
These are not as heavy-duty but can still last for a few years with casual use.
Another important aspect of plate materials is the weight they can safely support.
A typical nylon plate can be expected to support 300 to 400 pounds.
It is important to check with the brand of skates before purchasing.
Plates made from magnesium tend to be lightweight but made with a high-quality material that costs more.
8. Additional Hardware Options
Toe stops, cushions, trucks, and bearings are all automatically included, whether customizing your own pair or buying as is.
However, experienced roller skaters may quickly realize that they have a preference for a specific type of hardware.
With each additional customization and purchase, the price of the overall skate has the potential to increase dramatically.
A. Toe Stops
Toe stops, the primary braking tools, are also used when needing to walk across a stretch of pavement that is uneven.
For example, going over a sidewalk fissure or up and down curbs or steps.
Toe stops on low-quality skates are typically bolted down.
However, these can be designed to be adjustable.
Adjustable toe stops allow the user to control the height which is the safer option.
These can also be customized to be long-stem or short-stem toe stops.
It is important to note that some types of skating activities, like roller dancing, do not require toe stops at all due to the fluidity of the movements.
In these cases, toe stops can be a potential danger for the skater, so they are removed and replaced with a jam plug to fill the hole that the toe stop fills.
Trucks are the metal or plastic pieces attached to the plate that enable your skates to turn.
These can be loosened to allow the wheels to turn easier, but then, the skates are more difficult to balance.
They can also be tightened, which makes the skates feel more secure but inhibits agility.
The wideness of trucks can also be customized for comfort.
The cushion sits over the kingpin, which is a bolt in the plate that adjusts the trucks.
These cushions can be produced with rubber or urethane.
Overall the purpose of the cushion is shock absorption.
The softer the cushion, the more agile a skater can be.
The harder the cushion, the more stability experienced.
With frequent use, cushions tend to break down at a faster rate than other hardware.
Therefore, it is important to be aware of cracking or scratches on this piece, indicating that replacement is needed.
Bearings are inside the wheel hub and help the wheels spin.
Each wheel has two bearings, so a normal pair of roller skates with four wheels each will have a total of 16 bearings.
The bearings installed on the majority of cheap, beginner skates are not typically made of quality material and make it more difficult to propel forward smoothly.
A smoother pair of bearings can be purchased or added on as an extra.
The typical price range for bearings is $20–$35 depending on the brand selected.
Bearings are similar to cushions in that they fall into disrepair relatively quickly, due to dirt or grime accumulated over time.
If not appropriately cleaned, they will rust.
9. Add-On Options And Safety Gear
Many online retailers provide a bonus to the shopper once they’ve hit a certain threshold of money spent.
For example, as you go to checkout, you receive a pop-up message asking if you want to add to your order for only a few dollars extra.
They’ll proceed to list a few options of things that pair well with your purchase.
These retailers know how enticing these extras are to the shopper.
Unfortunately, these add-ons will increase the price of the overall order very quickly if the shopper isn’t paying attention.
In the world of roller skating, this marketing method is used frequently to encourage shoppers to add colorful insignias, patterns, jewels, chains, boot patches, brightly colored laces, etc.
Before you realize it, your order has almost doubled in price due to these extra, fun options.
These add-ons are sneaky, as they are often cheap in comparison to the bigger customizations (e.g., the plates, boot, etc.).
How problematic could an $8 pair of neon laces be after all?
It is when you have multiple add-ons that the money begins to add up.
B. Safety Gear
Additionally, it is common for shoppers to purchase their safety gear at the same time as their skates.
There are many options, colors, and designs of helmets, elbow pads, and wrist guards to choose from.
When it comes to safety, we want the best quality.
As we know, the best quality also tends to mean the highest price.
Safety is an essential, and costly expense.
10. Personalized Touch That Can’t Be Replicated
After doing your own research and determining all of the customizations and add-ons you would like on your roller skates, you will also quickly realize the lack of manufacturers that can complete your order to the full extent.
Therefore, shoppers must seek out a smaller, locally owned skate shop that specializes in customizations.
Oftentimes, these types of retailers are one- or two-man shops.
These professionals have mastered the art of customizing epic roller skates, which come at a cost.
This cost is not just the overall price of the job.
Rather, it is also the time necessary to complete and the location of such shops.
California is a central hub of roller skating, and therefore, has more skate shops available to complete custom orders.
Customers living in other states where skating is less common will have to seek out these skate shops, which will likely include increased fees in shipping and handling.
The advantage of these local shops is the personalized touch they provide.
These professionals value their craftsmanship and want to provide their customers with the most unique experience possible.