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August 17, 2017 8 min read

Strapping on the Derby Skates

You have signed up for FreshMeat at your local Roller Derby League, you go online to buy some skates and you realise...OMG there are so many skates, how do I choose?

We have all been there and done that and if like me, you hadn't skated much since a child you will probably do the same thing as everyone else and look for a cheap deal of pads, helmet and skates.  Great idea...or is it?

As you may have seen, there are so many options as to plates, skates, brands, fit and so on. It can all be a bit overwhelming, so hopefully, here you will find some helpful information to help you on your journey to find the perfect solution to your entry to derby.

No One skate is perfect for everyone or for all styles of skating but the information here will hopefully help you to understand how skates differ from each other and what might be better for you short or long term.


Derby Skates - The Nuts and Bolts of it

You've made the decision to try out for Roller Derby?  Great! This is an exciting time where you will be able to strap on some skates and roll around the rinks like you did as a child or maybe you are total RawMeat and have never been on skates before and thats so cool!

Then you realise, OMG how many skates are there and what do i choose...and how much did you say that skate was? Yes, it can be a costly exercise getting all your gear together but sometimes it can cost even more when you buy a pack that isn't a derby skate and have to buy another pair or something that is not suited to you and your skating style and holds you back from your derby potential and need an upgrade straight after getting in.

A few things you need to think about before delving in and buying an experienced pack or the cheapest pack you can find;

  • How likely is it that is will "Pass" Freshmeat/tryouts?
  • How likely is it i will continue skating (eg, Skatercise, Discos, Street skating) even if i don't pass or if derby is not right for me 
  • How committed am i and how far would i like to go with this sport if i get in.
  • Whats my Budget right now
  • Do i want the best now to set me up for success or get something to get me by and upgrade later when i know more about the sport and skates.

    These questions should allow you to make the best choice as to budget range to upgrade at a later stage, mid range but good quality that i will skate with for longer or the cream of the crop, spare no expense cos i want the best to set me up for success and no looking back!

    The Boots of it all

    Roller Derby is now played on short speed boots as opposed to the old classic retro boots like in the 80's.  Short boots allow for more movement and a better performance for the style of skating that is required for Roller Derby.

    Basic skates are made of Synthetic material and come with nylon plates where as a higher quality skate generally have a leather boot and higher quality plates (i'll explain more about plates later).

    A pair of starter derby skates will set you back between $200-300, a mid range pair between $350-500, and a high range pair will set you back around $550-1200 on average. If you really want to go crazy and you are lucky enough to have the spare cash you can spend over $1300 on a set up.

    For something that we invest so much time and money in spend some time thinking about what is best for you, your feet, your development and the hip pocket of course.

    There are a few elements to consider when buying skates. Plates, wheels, bearings, toestops all affect how your skates will work for you. One of the biggest things though, is how well your boots fit you!

    Short Boots - 

    There are so many, how do I choose?

    There are many entry level "speed skates" around online and they look good or fun but are they really any good?  So many of them are not appropriate for Roller Derby, unless they get a costly overhaul of new wheels and quite often new trucks/plate (the things attached under the boot).

    New wheels can cost anywhere from $60 and a new plate is upwards of $90 so it's something to be ware of when trying to get the best deal.

    Reasons you might want to buy an Entry Level Package

    There are pros and cons to every decision in life and a big purchase like a pair of skates is no different. Looking at all the angles and making an educated decision will make your derby experience much better.  If you buy an entry level skate what are your reasons.

    • If you don't continue with derby, you will have a decent pair of recreational skates.
    • You buy yourself some time to research what skates might better suit derby and your skating style should you want to upgrade in the future.
    • You end up with a spare pair of skates for outdoor skating when you chose to upgrade.
    • Money....

    Reasons you might go straight to Pro Skates

    • You are pretty sure your skills are up there as a skater and want to give yourself the best possible chance in FreshMeat.
    • You have already researched and know what you want.
    • You don't want to waste money and buy two pairs of skates and pads when you can just get the good ones straight away.
    • You don't want beginner skates to hold back your derby progression while you save up to buy another pair.
    • Generally, these skates come with a good Derby wheel.
    • If you don't continue with derby you have a superior pair of skates that you can enhance skills with over time with rec skating, skatercise, etc.

    Professional Boots

    Antik, Crazy, Riedell and Bont are some of the Derby brands you may heard of or seen derby players wearing.  There are some that have extra padding in the heal like that of the Crazy DBX skates and those that don't like most Riedell that are both widely used in Roller derby.

    Some boots like the Antik Skates are a higher ankle boot and others like Riedell derby skates are a low cut "speed boot" and this is a personal preference and you either love it or hate it!

    Professional skates generally come with a derby ready set up,  with a choice of good to advanced derby wheels and a good quality Aluminium plate or a boot only option where you can pick and choose your other components.

    If the Boot Fits 

    One is not necessarily better than the other and is a matter of personal preference but the technology behind the Crazy heel lock is now being used in other skates like the Riedell Solaris, Bont's and skate accessories sold to lock the heel into the boot to stop "heel slippage", so there are obvious benefits found in a skate that fits well and locks the heel into place to reduce this issue.  

    Heel slippage can quite often happen if you allow for too much wriggle room. Boots can stretch a little with wear and your foot will move around too much in the boot if you allow too much space in the width of the heel especially.  This can cause slipping to the front of the skate causing pain to the top of the feet and agility issues due to movement of the foot in the boot.  It is very important to get a boot that fits the foot well.  If you are a little Roller and still have a growing foot you can invest in a footbed which allows you to buy a skate a few sizes larger without having the issue of the foot moving around in the boot as the foot sits snug in the footbed. Adults don't usually have this problem so stick with a tight but comfortable fit as there are problems associated with getting a boot that is too tight also.

    Most leather boots can also be heat moulded if, after skating in your boots you find a few areas that are rubbing or not as comfortable as you would like, you can heat mould those areas to your foot for a better fit and feel.

    Boot Widths

    Every manufacturer has their own measurements and widths of boots so it is important to do your research or come and try them on.

    Every boot that Riedell makes for example, has what is called a last or a mould.  Reidell make all their boots based on 4 main lasts.  248 Alpha D/D Last, 395 Beta D/D last, 965 Gamma D/B last and 965 Delta B/AA last. The letters for example D or B in the last refers to the width.  The higher the letter, the wider the boot. The letters used to determine boot width range from AA (narrowest) to D (widest)

    In Australia, the most common boot width is D/B meaning Wide Ball (toe area) with Regular Heel width.

    Another boot width that is becoming more common in Australia is B/AA, so Regular Ball (toe area) with Narrow Heel width which is more ideal for most skaters as the heel should be snug and have less movement.


    Smashing Plates like its a Greek Wedding

    Nylon, Fibreglass, Aluminium, Magnesium...what does it all mean?

    Well, these are all materials widely used to make up various plates of different qualities and for different purposes like manoeuvrability or cost effectiveness.

    Nylon is a lightweight and affordable material used in basic plates as they are not very responsive or manoeuvrable and are found on base model derby skates for beginners on a budget who weigh less than 90kg.  

    Plates can be upgraded, however if you find a boot you like with a Nylon plate for a price that you can afford, you can always upgrade your plate to a premium plate at a later stage. 

    Fibreglass and Fibreglass reinforced Nylon plates are slightly more costly than standard Nylon and even more light weight.  They are slightly more responsive than straight Nylon and are a good option for beginners on a budget that weighs less than 130kg.

    Aluminium and Magnesium are the materials used more most Advanced Derby skates. Some Aluminium Plates are a low to medium end quality.  

    The low-end Aluminium plates will be very heavy with a lower performance of the Aluminium range and are not as ideal for derby as they are so heavy but they are fine for heavier skaters on a restricted budget.  

    Medium end Aluminium are heavy but they provide a decent performance and at a medium price range.  They are a good sturdy choice for beginner skaters who weigh more than 90kg.

    High End Aluminium and Aluminium/Magnesium are the lightest of the aluminium plates, with great performance.  They are more expensive but well worth the investment if you have the money to spend.  These are a great option for all shapes and sizes and all skill levels.

    FreshMeat Hire Pack

    If you are still undecided or would like to take the time to try on other derby skates from your fellow freshies or other trainers during FreshMeat, then buy something more suitable later then you should totally take advantage of our Roller Derby Hire pack.  It has everything you will need except a mouthguard cos that would be grose!