Learn How to Roller Skate: The Ultimate Step by Step Guide
Roller Skating for Beginners in 9 Easy Steps
Have you always wanted to learn how to roller skate but were either too afraid to try or just didn’t know how to get started? Then, this blog post is for you!
Today, I will go over everything you need to do to go from roller skating newb to a pro skater. Okay. Maybe you won’t be a pro when you are done reading this, but you will be ready to lace up those skates, head to your local roller skating rink and have some fun, too!
In this article, I go over step-by-step how to roller skate for beginners. I have a description of each step below along with skating videos of me performing each step.
Wanting to learn how to roller blade on inline skates? Check out my How to Rollerblade article. It’s very similar to this article except geared towards inline skating.
Picking out the Right Roller Skates
Before you can get started roller skating, it’s important first to have a pair of roller skates. If you already have a pair of skates, then you are good to go! If not, then check out my article on the The 10 Best Roller Skates for Beginners. In it, I go over all of the parts of a roller skate and what to look for in a good beginner roller skate.
When you are first starting out, any good pair of skates will do, but if you want to make an informed choice, then check out the article above. Don’t spend a fortune on your first pair of skates (unless you just have money laying around). Just get you a decent pair of skates and get started. You can always upgrade later when you have been skating for awhile.
Protect Yourself – Getting the Right Roller Skate Protective Gear
The Trinity of Roller Skate Pads
Now that you have your roller skates in hand, lets talk about protecting yourself. We’re going to cover all of the protective equipment that every beginner roller skater needs to get started. Let’s go!
One of the most important roller skate safety items to get is a pair of knee pads. This will protect your knees from roller derby blocking, hockey checking and, for beginners like you, general skating falls / bumps.
Next, it is really good to have elbow pads. I have broken the radial bone in my elbow before from falling while skating and I can tell you it’s a whole lot cheaper to buy a pair of pads then going to the doctor to fix you up.
Finally, get a pair of wrist pads. This keeps you from skinning up your hands when you fall and protects you from spraining your wrists.
Butt Pad (Optional)
Lastly, if you really are scared of hurting yourself when falling, you can go with a padded pair of shorts (or what I call a butt pad). These are super padded shorts that are often used by skiers. They are bulky (and pretty dorky looking), but it does keep you from getting hurt. If you want maximum safety, then go for the butt pad. I won’t snicker too loudly.
There are many roller skate padding options out there but I recommend going with something that has some really good shock absorption. I really like the 187 Killer Pads and the Triple 8 brand because both offer a kit that have elbow, knee and wrist guards all together. 187 Killer Pads are really loved by derby players, so they will do great for you as a beginner.
The roller skate helmet is a roller skater’s second most important piece of safety gear. It should be comfortable and fit you well, but not feel too tight or too loose.
I really recommend a roller derby helmet for beginners. It’s just a better helmet. Yes, it will set you back a little bit more money, but this is your head we’re talking about here….kind of an important body part….well, at least it is to me. :-)
First, start by sitting on the floor. Grab your first skate and put it on. Next, lace up your skates. I like to make my skates tight enough so the skate feels secure but not so tight that the circulation gets cut off and I can’t feel my foot anymore. :-)
Seriously, though, you want your skates tight so you feel secure when you are skating. Tie them just like a pair of shoes. If you have high top skates, which I recommend for beginners, then make sure that as you lace to the top of the skate it is tight. Then, I usually tie a nice bow and double knot it just so it doesn’t come undone.
2. Practice Getting to Your Feet & Falling Down
Now that your skates are on, lets practice standing up and falling down.
Practice Standing Up
First, head over to a carpeted area in your house or onto a nice patch of grass. Make sure the space is flat.
Next, spin your body around and kneel on both knees.
Then, take a knee – all Tim Tebow like. Bring one leg up and have the other knee on the ground.
Next, put your hands on your lifted leg and push down on your leg as you stand.
Now, make sure you keep your knees slightly bent and lean slightly forward. If you fall, you want to fall forward – never backwards if you can help it.
If you are rolling unexpectedly when you stand up, stand instead in a t position. The T position looks just like it sounds. You turn 1 leg 90 degrees and place it behind your front foot with one foot facing forward and the other skate facing out. This position will keep you from rolling.
Stand straight keeping your upper body centered over your skates with a slight lean forward and your knees bent.
Next, practice putting yourself back into a kneeling position by bending one of your legs and slowly moving down to 1 knee.
Repeat this process over and over again on carpet or grass outside where you will not roll. Skating is all about balance. Once you master balance, it gets a whole lot easier.
Practice Falling Down
You may ask, “Why do we practice falling down?” Simple. Because the more you practice falling down the better you’ll get at it. Everyone falls sometimes when they skate – even me and I have been skating for almost as long as I have been walking.
Drop to One Knee
Stand up on your skates.
With your knees bent and your feet shoulder width apart, slowly drop down to one knee.
Now, in the one knee position, stand back up.
Fall Forward on 2 Knees
When you are roller skating, you are going to fall. It’s just going to happen. And while preparing for a fall by taking a knee sounds great, it just isn’t going to be possible to predict every fall. So, lets talk about and practice falling forward.
Stand up on your roller skates
Next, stand in the skating posture (knees bent) and lean your body slightly forward.
Then, fall down onto both knees and lean forward as you fall.
Your hands will come down onto your wrist guards. If you fall haphazardly, you may also bang an elbow pad onto the ground.
When you fall forward, try to have your pads take the brunt of the force. Wrist and knee pads are pretty much a necessity when you are first learning because most people fall forward on their hands and knees.
Falling forward is similar to taking a knee except you are going to want to try to fall down onto both knees at one time. When you can’t control your fall, Your body also will come down on your hands, too. Try to remember to keep your elbows bent when you fall so that you don’t hyperextend your elbows when your hands hit the ground.
If you are going even faster, then controlling the fall becomes even harder. If you are falling forward, your body will often spin to one side after you fall to your hands and knees. This is where elbow pads come in handy. You will likely bang an elbow as gravity pulls your body down. Try to fall to one side and roll to your back. Your helmet will protect your head but try to keep your chin tucked.
You want to fall forwards. That is the best way to fall. Keep your knees bent and shift your weight a little forward when skating. This will ensure that when you fall it will be forwards.
This is by far the worst way to fall. I have had multiple falls going backwards in my skating career, and they are by far the scariest and most injury prone.
I have bruised my tail bone, broken the radial bone in my elbow and received stitches multiple times in the past 30+ years. These were all falls I had while travelling at high speeds and without pads – something you should never do on roller skates – especially when you are first trying to learn.
So, don’t worry too much. If you are going slow and pacing yourself, you should not have any injuries to that magnitude. Maybe a few bumps, scrapes and bruises, but hopefully no breaks or stitches.
Practice Falling Backwards
Stand up in the skating posture. Bent knees and such.
Next, try falling backwards towards your butt.
As you fall, turn slightly to land on one butt cheek to absorb the fall. This is to help protect your tailbone. Of course, if you have on your super dorky butt pad, then this isn’t going to be an issue for you. Sure, you look big and bulky, but your tushy (and more important your tailbone) is thanking you kindly for it.
If you are falling backwards a lot, then you are not bending your knees enough and you are not leaning forward. If you are standing straight leg like a mummy all the time, then you are going to have a hard time. Bend the knees and lean slightly forward. This will help to prevent backwards falls.
3. Getting Up from a Chair or Bench
Next, let practice getting up from a seated position from a chair or bench.
Turn your legs to the side of the bench or chair.
Use the back of the chair or bench as support to balance yourself as you stand.
Continue to use the back of the chair or bench for support.
4. How to Use Your Toe Stoppers
Next, lets practice the toe stop drag without rolling.
First, get onto some carpet or grass. If that’s not available, stand in a T position to keep your feet from rolling.
Then, take your back leg, lift your heel and point your back foot down until your stopper touches the ground.
Next, return your back leg to it’s starting position.
Practice this over and over again. You want to get good and understanding this feeling when you are not rolling first.
Later, after you get rolling, practice dragging your stopper as you roll. It’s the exact same motion as before, except now you are rolling. Drag your toe stop until you come to a complete stop.
5. Posture and Taking Your First Steps
Next, lets practice the right posture or what I like to call skating posture.
First, bend your knees. Put your skates next to each other a little closer than shoulder width apart.
Next, lean slightly forward. Keep the muscles in your core tight. You want your body weight to be towards the front center of your skates (more leaning forward than backwards). You should feel your thigh muscles engaging from the bend and slight lean forward. Do not stand like a straight legged mummy please!
Next, you can turn your toes inwards slightly if you are rolling. This will also insure you don’t roll backward.
Feel free to shoot your arms out from your side in a T shape for balance.
Next, walk around in your skates on the carpet or grass. Get comfortable walking in your skates without them rolling. If you can’t find carpet or grass, you can always tighten the nut on the end of your wheel. The tightening of this nut on most skates will keep the wheel from rolling.
6. Balance is the Key
Practice Standing on One Foot with Skates
Balance is the key to being good at roller skating. Practice standing on a single foot with your roller skates on. Again, do this on carpet or grass so you don’t roll.
Stand in the skating position with bent knees and a slight lean forward.
Now, pick up one skate from the ground and lift your foot.
Balance on your other leg for a count of 5 seconds.
Then, place your foot down and switch to the other foot.
It is completely normal for this to be hard when you are first starting out. Many people just do not have good balance. If this is you, don’t worry. It just may take you a little more practice to get good at balance. So, instead, practice all of the above but without skates on. When you get good at balancing without skates, then try it again with skates on.
7. Gliding – Forward Skating like a Pro!
Now, lets get to gliding – or what we call skating.
Stand in the skating position with bent knees and leaning slightly forward.
Now, stand on your dominate leg and push with your other leg.
Take a baby push to start. Turn your leg 45 degrees, have all 4 wheels on the ground and push.
Put the leg you pushed with back down on the ground. You should now be rolling slowly forward.
When you start to lose momentum, repeat the steps above and push again.
Keep paying attention to your body posture. If you start to shake, you can always use your toe stop to slow down. Also, feel free to take a knee if you get tired.
Keep practicing pushing side to side and rolling forward. As you get more comfortable, you can use more power in your pushes to go faster.
8. If You are Completely Out of Control on Your Skates
If you have been following along and you are just completely out of control on your skates, then these tips may help:
Move to the carpet or grass – When your wheels can’t roll, its really a lot easier to get used to your skates and not get hurt. Move to carpet or grass when you first start and you will get more comfortable in your skates faster.
Tighten Your Wheels and Walk in Your Skates – Another trick is to tighten the nut that secures your wheel to your plate. If you tighten this nut on most skates, your wheels will eventually stop rolling. Now, your skate is just a big, tall, heavy shoe. Practice walking around in your skates to get used to them. I have taught 1000s of little kids (2-3 year olds) to skate using this trick. It works.
Bad Balance – If you have tried everything, then I have one word for you. Yoga. Yep, it works. And trust me, I didn’t like yoga. Not me. I’m a manly man. It may take you months (or even years), but start practicing and you will find balance (in more way than one). It’s free, check out Yoga with Adriene on YouTube, and it’s totally awesome for you. This will go a long way in helping you out in a lot of things in life including stress reduction, balance, flexibility, better mood, weight control, etc. etc.
Find a Roller Rink (or an Experienced Skater) and Ask for Help – If you are really struggling and thinking about quitting, please reach out for help. I know not everyone has a roller skating rink around them, but if you do, they are usually a great resource for roller skating lessons. My local rink offers free roller skating lessons on Sunday with the price of admission. While the Internet is a great place to learn so many things, there is no substitute for face-to-face instruction. You can also always reach out to me (see my contact page) and I do my best to help you out, too.
9. Practice Regularly
As with every new activity in life, practice make perfect. Many beginners want to know how often they need to practice to get good. The simple answer is practice as often as you can. Most beginner skaters will be surprised and how sore their body will get after just one skate session of a couple hours. This is normal. Skating uses so many parts of your body that we don’t use when walking. So, practice when you are not sore and feel good. More practice is always better.
Learn More Roller Skating from the Roller Skate Dad Newsletter!
If you are interested in more advanced roller skating, then be sure to sign up for the Roller Skate Dad newsletter. In my regular newsletter, I send out roller skating tips and tricks. Learn backward skating, how to do crossovers, backward skating crossovers, two foot turns, one foot turns, shoot the duck, spins, waltz jumps and more.
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How often and where should I practice?
You should practice as much as possible. The more you practice, the better you will get and the quicker you will improve. Great places to practice include your garage, the sidewalk, the park, a skate park and my favorite, the skating rink.
What are the best roller skates for a beginner?
My favorite beginner roller skate are the Sure-Grip Boardwalk skates. These are my favorite for a few reasons. They are affordable. They have soft, outdoor wheels on them which are better for beginners. They have high-top boots that are also better for beginners. Please check out my 10 Best Roller Skates for Beginners article for more information where I go into not only which pair of skates are best for beginners but also why they are the best. Also, check out our Best Roller Skates article for the best skates on the market today.
How do you stop on skates?
In this article, we talked about how to use your stoppers to stop on your skates. You can also stop by dropping down to one knee or falling in the grass. However, there are so many more ways to stop. Learn more about How to Stop on Roller Skates with step-by-step videos of each stop.