How to Rollerblade for Beginners

Rollerblading is one of the coolest and most rewarding activities that you can enjoy outdoors. Besides being tons of fun, it’s also an excellent way to stay in shape because roller skating has some serious health benefits.

According to various studies, rollerblading is one of the activities that can raise your heartbeats, which has a huge impact on your health and well being.

In today’s article, I will go over how to rollerblade. You’ll find everything you need to learn inline skating, including an in-depth guide that walks you through every step.

I am an avid roller skater who has been skating for over 30+ years. I have tried to condense everything a beginner needs to know to learn how to rollerblade into this article. I hope you use the information and drawings here to learn this great activity.

So without further ado, grab your rollerblades and lets go!

How to Rollerblade: A Step by Step Guide for Beginners

The following guide includes everything from gearing up to mastering casual basics, such as walking, gliding at speed, stopping and falling down.

Some of these steps might be trickier than others, so you’re encouraged to take things at your own pace. It’s okay to go slow.

Here is what we will cover:

  1. Find the Right Practice Spot
  2. Get the Right Gear
  3. Start on the Ground & Lace Up
  4. Learn to Stand on Rollerblades
  5. Learn to Fall Down Safely
  6. Practice the Right Stance
  7. Walking on Rollerblades
  8. How to Stop on Rollerblades
  9. Gliding on Rollerblades
  10. Steering
  11. Pick up the Speed
  12. Crossovers
  13. Turning
  14. Rollerblading Backwards
  15. Still Falling? Try these Balance Exercises
  16. Q&A
  17. Wrap Up
[illustration of a beautiful clean path in a park]

1. Find the Right Practice Spot

A lot of beginners are so excited about rollerblading that they overlook many essential aspects and guidelines that they should follow. Mainly, skate in a safe place.

First, make sure that your spot is a flat area with no noticeable bumps, debris, cars and other people around. All of these items can throw you off your footing.

One of the best surfaces is concrete. A garage floor is a great first place to start. It is where me and my sister first learned as kids. A wood or sportcourt floor (like found in most roller rinks) are also great surfaces. The floor where you rollerblade should be made of a hard and smooth surface.

The surface should also be level. Stay away from hills. Because you may not be able to properly stop yourself in the beginning.

It’s best to stay on a flat, smooth surface that is made out of wood or concrete. Asphalt is okay, but it often has a lot of loose stones that can make beginners trip.

And, again, it goes without saying that a beginner should never try to use their rollerblades downhill. Even a lot of experienced skaters struggle with hills.

[illustration of rollerblades and safety equipment]

2. Get the Right Gear

Next, you need a good pair of rollerblades and some safety equipment. Lets go over that next.

My Top 4 Tips for Picking the Right Rollerblades

When you are just getting started, you’ll want to start with a good pair of rollerblades that don’t cost a lot and have all of the necessary features. Here are the 4 most important features to consider for a beginner pair of rollerblades:

  1. Comfort: The most important feature. Boots that aren’t comfortable suck. You will need to practice a lot so boot comfort is key. You will quit pretty quick if you are getting blisters.
  2. High Top Boots: You want a pair of rollerblades with high top boots. There are some aggressive inline skates used for speed skating that are not beginner friendly. Go with a boot that has a high top, laces and locking straps. All of this is to make you feel stable on your blades.
  3. Soft Outdoor Wheels: Buy a pair of blades that has a good, soft outdoor wheel. Softer wheels go slower but are much easier for beginners. Softer wheels are also better for stability and for the outdoors. Soft wheels have an easier time gripping the surface and can go over small pebbles you may encounter outside with ease. For more information on wheels, check out my roller skate wheel tips. They are mostly about quad wheels, but the same tips apply to rollerblades and inline wheels.
  4. Brake Pad: Make sure your rollerblade has a brake on the back heel of at least one of your blades. Some more advanced rollerblades and inlines do not have this brake. It is essential for beginners.

Best Rollerblades for Beginners

A great rollerblade for beginners is the Bladerunner by Rollerblade. Here is the BladeRunner for women, men, boys and girls. It’s the same rollerblades for each, just different colors and boot sizes.

Its a great all around pair of rollerblades for a beginner and has all of the features I outlined above.

I have written several articles about the best rollerblades in detail. Here are my articles on the best rollerblades for men, women and kids. Check them out if you want a lot more detail.

Stay Safe

It’s important as a beginner to protect yourself. The #1 reason most people stop skating is because they are tired of hurting themselves when falling. The best way to prevent injuries is to have the proper gear.

I know you may not think you look cool in all this gear, but you can eventually ditch it when you are a pro. I still wear mine when I am skating outdoors sometimes and I’ve been skating for decades. (Yes, I’m old).

Helmet

The most important thing to protect when you are doing any kind of activity is your head. A great helmet for beginners is the Triple 8 Sweatsaver Helmet (Amazon). You are going to fall when you are first learning to use rollerblades, so please get a helmet. I hope I don’t have to explain that your brain is important. 🙂

Check out my best roller skate helmets article for more my full reviews of each.

Knee Pads, Elbow Pads, Wrist Guards & Padded Shorts

The next thing to do is buy yourself a good pair of knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards. You can get the Triple 8 pads pack (Amazon) that has all of those pads and is great for beginners. I also recommend a butt pad (or padded shorts) and even a mouth guard (Amazon) for beginners who know they are going to fall a lot. Your tailbone and teeth will thank you for it.

Check out my best roller skate pads article for reviews on multiple products to protect yourself.

[Illustration on the ground lacing up skates]

3. Start on the Ground & Lace Up

Now that you have your rollerblades, helmet and pads, you are ready to get started!

Next, sit on the ground and lace up your skates. Make sure your feet are snug in the rollerblades. They should feel like a good pair of shoes (only heavier). Tighten the strap on your rollerblades until your ankle is snug. Tie the laces all the way to the top in a nice bow. I often double knot my laces just so they don’t come undone while I’m skating.

When your skates are laced and feeling good, move to the next step.

[Illustrate the 5 step process below in one image]

4. Learn How to Stand Up on Rollerblades

I have taught hundreds of people how to roller skate in my lifetime. The most common question I receive from beginners is, “Why do we have to start on the ground? I want to skate!”

And the answer is always the same. You will skate, but first you have to learn how to stand up and fall down. The main reason you need to start on the ground is because you need to learn how to get up from a fall the correct way.

Here are the steps to get up correctly from the ground in roller skates:

  1. While seated, spin around and kneel on both of your knees.
  2. Note: When you spin around, try not to use your hands. If you must use them, then at least don’t put your hands behind you to push yourself up. Most beginners put their hands behind them when they get up. This is fine if you are outside by yourself with no one around. However, if you are at a crowded skating rink, say goodbye to your fingers as someone is likely to roll over them. If you must use your hands, look around before putting them down and put them in front of you so your body blocks them.
  3. Now that you are on two knees, lift one foot up and place the blade on the ground while keeping your other leg’s knee on the ground. In football we called this “taking a knee”. Tim Tebow style.
  4. Now, the moment of truth. From this one knee position, use your hands to push down on your front leg’s quad/knee and push yourself up to a standing position.
  5. Place both feet firmly on the ground. If you begin to roll accidentally, use your heel brake by pushing the heel with the brake down. Or, you can put one foot behind the other in the shape of a T or L to stop yourself. If you are struggling balancing, put your hands out in a T shape to stabilize.
  6. Congratulations! You have successfully stood on skates. Way to go!

5. Learn to Fall Down Safely

Next, we need to learn how to fall down safely. I know you are anxious to move, but this step is crucial to not getting injured. Failure is common in anything new you are trying to learn. And failure in skating is falling.

The goal here is not to eliminate falling down. You are going to fall sometimes. The goal is to keep you skating because we are trying to minimize the severity of your falls. That way you do not injure yourself and you can keep rolling!

3 Ways to Fall on Rollerblades

It goes without saying, but beginner roller skaters need to go slow, avoid hills, debris and other objects (like cars and pedestrians). Carpet or grass is a perfect place for a beginner to practice with skates on. This allows you to get used to walking in your rollerblades and practice new stances, postures and moves.

For practicing all of these falls below, please make sure to put on your pads and helmet. Then, move onto carpet or a nice patch of grass. This helps to control your skates and gives you a softer place to fall.

[Illustration: Take a knee fall]
Take a Knee

When you first learn to rollerblade, you’re going to lose your balance often. If you have ever fallen, you know that shaky feeling you receive when you are about to fall. This is usually followed by that sensation of falling and then you actually fall.

One safe way to fall when you are going slow is to drop down and take a knee. Of course, you need knee pads on to perform this step. As you are feeling shaky and feel like you are about to fall, get low to the ground on your rollerblades and drop down slowly to one knee. This will slow you down until you come to a complete stop.

Take a breather in this one knee position. If you need a break, go down to two knees or go all of the way back to a seated position on the ground and have a rest. Then follow step 4 when you want to stand back up.

[Illustration: falling forward]
Falling Forward

Taking a knee is great and all, but many falls come without much notice. This will happen especially once you have gotten past the beginner days. You will start to pick up your speed but your balance will still not be perfect. This will cause more sudden falls that you can’t control as easily.

When you fall forward, try to have your pads take the brunt of the force. Wrist guards 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.

[Illustration: falling backwards]
Falling Backwards

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 blades 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.

The key to falling backwards is to try and turn slightly as you are falling. If you are falling straight back, you want to turn slightly to one butt cheek or the other to absorb the fall.

Falling on a fatty part of your bottom is much better than falling straight back on your tailbone. Falling on the tailbone can easily put you out of commission for weeks. And, it takes longer for me to recover from my injuries as I age. So, when in doubt….go slow.

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.

For those super scared of falling backwards and bruising their bottoms, check out the padded shorts I recommended earlier. They do look funny, but they can be worn under some sweat pants with a lot of room in them. They do work and will keep you from bruising your tailbone.

Final Beginner’s Tip on Falling

If you are falling a lot, stay in the grass and carpet until you get better at balancing on your skates. Balance is the key to roller skating, whether it is on blades, inline skates or quads.

There is no quicker way to quit rollerblading than to fall and get injured. If you stay safe and minimize your falls, you’ll want to practice more and you will improve your skills much faster. Plus, you’ll just have way more fun!

[Illustration: show the right stance]

6. Practice the Right Stance

Now, that we have all that falling out of the way, lets get to skating! In a standing position, place both feet facing forward. Bend both knees and lean slightly forward. Your back should be upright with a slight bend forward. This is the proper skating stance for rollerblading.

You want to keep your weight centered when skating. Balance is about finding your center. Most people fall because they lose this stance and posture. Practice it and remember that when you are first starting out, you always want to come back to this basic stance.

In the following steps, you will push out of this stance to get you rolling. However, you will always come back to the stance of two feet, facing forward with your knees bent and your weight shifted forward.

[Illustration: walking on blades]

7. Walking on Rollerblades

Next, we are going to practice walking while in our rollerblades. This again is best to practice on carpet or grass to keep you from rolling. Plus, if you do fall at this stage, you have a nice, safe, padded spot to fall.

While in the proper stance on your skates, pick one foot and take a single step forward. Place the blade in front of the other. Then, take another step to bring the two skates back together and back into the proper skating stance.

Stay focused on your weight distribution while stepping forward so that you don’t apply too much weight on your foot until it’s resting flat over the wheels.

Since taking a step forward is the first part of gliding with skates, being able to freely walk around with the rollerblades means that you’re ready to glide. 

Don’t feel disappointed if it takes you awhile to properly do that because this is one of the most challenging parts of the training. Just getting used to all that extra weight on your feet is challenging at first for beginners.

Don’t stop! You are almost there. Just stick with it. If it feels weird to walk on skates, then practice for several days on grass or carpet until it seems more natural. It’s okay to go slow. That is normal. When you are ready, move on to the next step.

8. How to Stop on Rollerblades

Before we begin actually blading, we need to make sure we know how to stop. I am going to show you 3 quick ways to stop from easiest to hardest. I cover almost a dozen ways to stop on roller skates which most work for rollerblades, too. However, these are the three that I would focus on as a beginner.

[Illustration: Use the Heel Brake]

Use the Heel Brake

All of the best beginner rollerblades come with a brake on the back of at least one of the blades. This is a small rubber toe stop. You should practice using it on the grass or carpet so you know how it feels to stop before you get rolling.

To apply the brake on a pair of blades, tilt the foot with the brake back so that the brake makes contact with the ground. When you are rolling, this will slow you down. Practice applying the brake and then coming back to the proper skating stance.

[Illustration: Take a Knee]

Take a Knee

I mentioned this already in the how to fall section above. Taking a knee is another good way to stop if you are going at a slow speed. Simply bend down and place your knee pad on the ground and allow it to bring you to a stop.

[Illustration: T Stop in phases]

The T Stop

This move is a little more advanced, but still one beginners can easily do once they find there balance. Take one foot and turn it 90 degrees perpendicular to your other foot. Then, place this foot behind your blade that is facing forward. Your feet will make a T (or L) shape on the ground. As your front foot is rolling forward, the back foot is placed in this T stop shape and is dragging across the ground. This brings you to a stop.

Check out my article on how to stop on roller skates for a lot more ways to stop. However, the three above are the ones I recommend most for beginners.

[Illustration: Gliding]

9. Gliding on Rollerblades

Now we are finally ready to glide or roller skate. Stand in the proper skating stance. Next, move off the carpet or grass surface onto a hard, flat surface. Next, take a step forward. Your wheels will roll. Maintain your balance. Put your arms to either side of you to help keep you upright.

While standing, take a step forward with a single skate. Then, place the skate down and you will begin to roll or glide.

To take the next step, use the planted foot (the one you didn’t step with) to push off to the side. This will propel you forward. Continue taking a step and pushing with the other foot.

Now, don’t get too carried away. Otherwise, you’ll build up too much speed and lose your balance. Expect falling several times in this step, but hang in there and it will come to you!

[Illustration: Steering]

10. Steering

Now that you know how to glide and stop, you can advance to using your body weight to steer the rollerblades. 

To steer in rollerblades, you need to keep yourself balanced and slightly lean to the left or right. As you skate, your rollerblades need to both be leaning in the same direction.

Simply shift your weight ever so slightly towards the left and extend your ankles to make a left turn, and vice versa for the right side.

[Illustration: Pick up Speed]

11. Pick Up the Speed

Now, lets pick up the speed. Now that you have balance, stopping, gliding and steering down, its time to move! As you travel at a higher speed, you need to stay even more balanced. It’s critical that you bend your knees and keep your posture strong while pushing faster. Alternate arm swings with each foot as your take each step (put the right arm out in front of you when you take a step with your left foot and vice versa).

Remember to go at your own pace. If you start to fall or feel out of control, slow down.

12. Advanced Techniques

[Illustration: Crossover steps]

Crossovers

Crossovers is a technique used to go in a circle and create tight turns. You will see advanced skaters use crossovers to quickly change direction. To crossover, you take the foot on the outside and cross it over the other foot.

For example, if you are leaning to your left, you would take your right foot, pick it up off the ground and cross it over the left. Then, you pick up your left foot and place it next to your right. Doing this in rapid succession can allow a skater to quickly turn and pick up a lot of speed.

[Illustration: Turning Steps]

Turning

This advanced technique has you doing two feet turns and a one foot turn on your blades. This allows you to quickly turn backwards and then forwards again without using our brake.

To do a two foot turn, stand on one blade and then take your other blade and lift it off the ground. Turn the blade to a 180 degree angle so that your two heels face each other. Place the turned skate on the ground.

Then, pick up the front skate and turn it 180 degrees and place it next to your new plant leg. You are now skating backwards.

Reverse this process to go from backwards to forwards.

[Illustration: Scissors going backwards]

Going Backwards

Going backwards is really similar to skating forwards. You roll. You glide. Typically you use a scissor motion when first learning how to skate backwards. Start with your feet close together and push both rollerblades out wide while keeping all of your wheels on the ground. Then, pull your feet back together. Repeat this scissoring motion to build up speed.

Still Falling? Try these Balance Exercises

If you have tried all of the above and are still really struggling and falling a lot, try some of these tips to help grow your confidence and abilities.

[Illustration: Balance on one foot]

Practice Standing on One Foot without Blades

Falling sucks. And its the biggest reason so many people quit skating or never get started.

Many people who try to start rollerblading and fall a lot just have poor posture and balance without a 5+ lb. weight strapped to their feet. A big reason so many people struggle when starting out is because they are not used to all that extra weight on their feet.

So, take off the rollerblades and stand on the ground with your feet next to each other. Next, raise a foot off the ground and count. How many seconds can you stand on each foot before putting it down? If you can stand on a single foot easily for 10+ seconds, you can move on to next step below. If not, work on this step until you can do it.

Yoga is a great way to work on balance, flexibility and overall well-being. I recommend Yoga with Adriene free on YouTube. She is funny, awesome and if you stick with her videos every day, your balance will improve. Here is a great video on balance.\

[Illustration: Balance on one rollerblade]

Practice Standing on One Blade

Now that you passed that test, lets strap on the blades and do the exact same thing as the above step but with rollerblades on. The exact same exercise.

This will be harder because you will be balancing on one blade. Once you can balance on rollerblades easily for 10 seconds on each foot, then you are ready to move on.

[Illustration: Practing on skates on the grass or carpet]

Practice on Carpet and Grass with Skates

Next, with your blades on, move to carpet or grass to get started. Walking on the carpet or grass until you feel comfortable and are not falling is key. After you get walking in skates down, you will feel much more confident on a harder surface.

[Illustration: Someone taking a roller skating lesson]

Find a Local Rink and Take a Lesson

If you are lucky enough to have a roller skating rink in your area, then go there. Many rinks offer free skating lessons for beginners. Many of the tips and techniques in this article are from my years of teaching others.

Q&A

Is rollerblading the same as roller skating?

Although they’re pretty close in terms of concept, rollerblading and roller skating are two different things. For instance, they both use boots that are usually fitted with four wheels.

However, roller skates arrange the wheels so that they’re two front wheels and two rear wheels while rollerblades simply arrange 2 to 5 wheels in a line that’s exactly at the middle of the boot, which is why it’s also known as in-line skating. 

Will previous experience in ice skating help you learn rollerblading quicker?

Ice skating is extremely similar. In both sports, your center of gravity is exactly at the same spot. So, mastering your balance in one means that you’ll be able to keep your balance in the other.

Learning how to maintain your balance on rollerblades is probably going to be the easiest part if you know to ice skate. However, there will be some slight variation in techniques because of the exterior design of both boots.

One of the main differences in the two techniques will probably be stopping. This is because rollerblades use a built-in brake on the heel area that you use to slow down. 

Yet, this part is absent in ice skates. But all in all, you can easily carry over much of your skill from ice skating into rollerblading!

Can you learn rollerblading as an adult with no previous experience?

Of course, learning to blade is a lot easier when you’re young because kid’s bodies are far more flexible and their muscle memory is already set to the learning mode. The ideal age to start rollerblading is between the age of 7 to 10 years old.

However, as a wise man once said “if you’re able to walk properly, then you probably can skate”. That’s why you’ll find a lot of training centers and rinks having people as old as 70 years old!

Even with no prior experience, if you have a healthy body, all you need to do is to be patient, understand the basics, and continue practicing!

How much time does it take to learn how to rollerblade?

The answer to this question depends mainly on each individual. Personal differences, previous experience, and other factors would also affect your learning period length.

However, a lot of late learners said that it took them anywhere from 3 to 6 months of bi-weekly training for one or two hours to be able to skate freely.

Wrap Up

Well, after reading through this article, I hope you are well on your way to rollerblading like a pro. Now, strap on those blades, get your protective gear and get out there and skate!

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