Is Ice Skating Better Than Roller Skating?

The two most well-known and popular forms of skating are ice skating and roller skating. How these different, yet similar activities stack up to each other depends on the individual, but you may be wondering which is the better choice specifically for you.

Whether ice skating is better than roller skating depends upon an individual’s goals, as ice skating has more complex skills to learn and a greater scope for advancement. Roller skating is easier for the novice because an icy surface adds a layer of difficulty that roller skating doesn’t have.

Which one is better largely depends on what you want to do, as there are tons of factors to analyze. They’re both forms of skating and use similar techniques, yet they differ drastically. If you’re struggling to decide, below we’re going to examine the similarities and differences. 

Ice Skating vs Roller Skating

When comparing ice skating and roller skating, it’s important to look at the differences and similarities between the two. Generally speaking, the big differences are in the boots.These boots work very differently because they’re designed for different environments.

Ice skating boots have a thin metal blade at the bottom, as they’re designed to create friction or used to glide along a frozen surface. There’s a higher skill requirement to simply balance on ice skates that will leave beginners intimidated.

Roller skating boots, on the other hand, have four wheels attached to the bottom and they also come with a brake. Roller skates will feel a lot more stable to a beginner, as it also won’t take as long to learn to balance while wearing them. Roller skates are built to traverse man-made environments like concrete and asphalt.

The History

Ice skating is very old, with the possible origins of ice skating linking back to Scandinavian countries. Humans have likely ice skated in rudimentary ways across large bodies of frozen water for thousands of years.

Roller skating, on the other hand, is relatively new. Roller skating goes back roughly a century or so,with records starting in the 1880s. It had a burst of popularity in the 1930s and 1950s and was also associated with disco in the 1970s.

Roller skating is also a form of transportation, as its most practical use is to traverse concrete and asphalt surfaces. Historically, roller skates were originally intended to be used as transportation in urban environments for workers and soldiers.

The Present

Both have competitive sports scenes, but it’s safe to say that ice skating has more of a global appeal. Ice skating’s long tradition, prestigious history across the world, and the popularity of the Winter Olympics are among the reasons for this appeal.

One thing that roller skating has over ice skating is accessibility, as ice skating needs specialized venues or cold winter climates. Roller skating can be done year-round, with the only things needed being some concrete and a bit of space.

Ice Skating Vs Roller Blading

Rollerblades are similar to ice skates, but instead of a blade, wheels form a line down the bottom of the boot, hence the name roller “blades.” The key differences are in the positions of the wheels.

One crucial difference between ice skates and rollerblades lies in their function. The contact points of ice skate blades vary depending upon what you’re doing, as when you push yourself across the ice, only parts of the blade make contact.

Rollerblades usually have all of the wheels in close contact with the ground, because of the way the boots are made. Also, you wouldn’t be able to balance properly on concrete without all the wheels on the ground.

The History

Rollerblading has a long history, with it going back to the 1700s, but gaining popularity in America in the 1900s. Waitresses would wear rollerblades while bringing meals to customers. Rollerblading tends to be popular in music videos, so there are some cultural associations, but its popularity has fallen off in modern times.

The techniques used in rollerblading are similar to ice skating, and so the two pair very well together. If you’ve got experience on rollerblades, then you’ll probably pick up ice skating quite quickly. Rollerblading can be an excellent way for beginners to learn some of the balancing skills needed to ice skate well.

The Present

Ice skating requires more complex techniques than rollerblading. There’s a lot more friction on asphalt surfaces, which will limit your speeds when rollerblading, and you won’t be able to hit as higher speeds as ice skaters do.

The two complement each other so well that ice skaters can cross-train with rollerblading and vice versa. The only issue is that you can’t perform as complex movements on rollerblades. If you’re used to only rollerblading, the increased balance requirements of ice skating might surprise you.

There’s also some history that shows us rollerblades were invented to enable something similar to ice skating when the winter was over. The only available naturally occurring ice rinks would thaw in the spring. Rollerblading would give people an activity similar to ice skating, but you could do it in warmer months.

Ice Skating Vs Skateboarding

Skateboarding has both keen differences and close similarities to ice skating as well. In terms of similarity, both are very complex sports that require lots of dedication to compete in professionally.

Ice skating is more about manipulating your body weight. You’re using the lower friction of the ice, and a keen sense of balance to reach high speeds or perform dexterous skills, either as an individual or with a partner.

Skateboarding is more about balance and mastery of the skateboard. It’s all about showing your ability to remain stable, but there are also jumps and complex skills involved, and you require a keen sense of balance. However, the objectives of the sport differ from that of ice skating.

The History

Skateboarding was created roughly around the 1950s. It’s widely acknowledged that it was created by surfers, who wanted something similar to their favorite sport in the off-season. It’s easy to see the similarities between skateboarding and surfing.

Skateboarding is very recent compared to ice skating and is considered to be an up-and-coming sport. It’s also been approved for the 2024 Olympic games in Paris. While they are both complex sports requiring years of training and dedication, the similarities end there.

The Present

Overall, ice skating and skateboarding don’t compare as evenly as the others.However, skateboarding is recent and is considered one of the activities to fall under the “skating” umbrella. The skills developed from skateboarding are unlikely to carry over to ice skating and vice versa.

Is Ice Skating Easier Than Roller Skating?

Ice skating is not easier than roller skating, rather it’s a lot more challenging. It’s not as accessible to beginners and is a lot more unstable when skating. However, it is easier to get help learning as a beginner, due to a lack of stigma around it as compared to roller skating.

Ice skating is much more difficult than roller skating, as roller skates generally feel much more stable than ice skate. Ice skating is much more dependent on skill than roller skating. Roller skates also have inbuilt brakes so you can stop whenever you want, whereas ice skaters will have to learn techniques just to stop.

Roller skating is more accessible to beginners,while both will feel wobbly at first, you’re on solid concrete, which means it’s much faster to develop the balance and coordination required to roller skate.

Ice skating isn’t inaccessible to beginners, as there are plenty of rinks offering lessons, and lots of qualified instructors are willing to teach. However, it takes significantly longer to develop your balance and skill as an ice skater. For an absolute beginner who’s never skated, ice skating will be significantly harder to learn than roller skating.

Getting Help With Learning

While ice skating is intimidating for a beginner, it’s also easier to get the help you need. Ice skating has a tried and true method of teaching beginners. While the ice can make things more difficult, these are problems that instructors anticipate.

Roller skating, on the other hand, doesn’t have as much formal support. If you’ve never skated as a child, then you’re unlikely to find trustworthy instructors. It’s even harder as an adult, as most wouldn’t think to try to find roller skating lessons.

In contrast, an afternoon spent learning ice skating is much more socially acceptable. Also, many adults dismiss roller skating as an activity for younger people.

Does Roller Skating Help With Ice Skating?

Roller skating can help people with learning to ice skate. A lot of the essential skills related to balancing and coordination carry over from one hobby to another, and it can be a good way to prepare one’s nerves for handling the difficulty that comes with learning to ice skate.

Ice skating and roller skating are different in many ways, but roller skates generally are much more stable than ice skates. Your balance is not challenged nearly as muchas it would be on the ice.

It’s also important to note that the terrain is very different because concrete has a lot of friction due to being a rough surface, whereas ice is completely smooth with a lot less friction. Roller skating requires a lot more power to maintain quicker speeds, and this could build bad habits in ice skating.

It can be a bad idea for a beginner to put tons of power into their movements. While normally beginners don’t have too much power, someone accustomed to lots of time on roller skates could misjudge how much ‘oomph’ they need on the ice.

Roller Skating Can Help You Ice Skate

Roller skating can be a great way for a beginner to learn some of the balancing skills you need to ice skate. It can also help you build up some of the strength and stamina you need in your legs, to glide and propel yourself forward across the ice. 

However, it’s important to note that it is not a substitute for the real thing, as balancing on ice is not the same as balancing on concrete. Roller skating can help a beginner build up some confidence to approach the ice, as the majority of skating is built on a similar foundation.

If you plan to do some ice skating in the future but feel a bit overwhelmed or put off by the harder balance requirements, a little bit of roller skating will give your brain an easier experience to practice with. In many ways, it’s like learning to ride a bike with stabilizers.

For any roller skaters who are offended by this comparison, it’s not to belittle your sport. It can’t be understated how many are shocked by the difficulty of balancing on ice skates, even experienced roller skaters. Sometimes there is a great deal of carryover, but it doesn’t always happen, and the best way to learn to ice skate is to just jump in and try it.

Is Ice Skating More Dangerous Than Roller Skating?

Ice skating is not more dangerous than roller skating and is the safer of the two. This is due in large part to the uncontrolled environments that come with roller skating, roller skating’s lesser focus on safety, and ice skating’s greater focus on teaching people how to fall correctly.

Skating of all forms does carry a risk of injury, but then the same can be said of any sport you could think of, as even playing darts can get you hurt. However, while there are certain dangers to both kinds of skating, one is certainly more dangerous.

Ice skating is done on a frozen surface with less friction, which means you can go a lot faster. It’s not unheard of for an experienced speed ice skater to reach well over 56 kph. That said, your average person ice skating recreationally is not going anywhere near those speeds.

Roller skating is done on concrete, so there’s much more friction, which slows you down significantly. You also need to put in a lot of effort to maintain higher speeds. While it may seem like roller skating is safer because it’s slower, this is not the case.

The Concrete Disadvantage

Concrete surfaces can cause significant injury if you fall on them, as even at moderate speeds you can still really hurt yourself. The nature of roller skating means it’s usually done on public pavements, but crowded public spaces present an injury risk to yourself and others.

Concrete surfaces can hide tons of dangers that open even experienced roller skaters up to nasty falls. These include potholes on roads, busy public spaces, and obstacles on pavement.  Urban parks designed specifically for roller skating can fall into disrepair, or be littered with holes that can cause broken wrists, asphalt burns, and even head injuries.

Finally, as roller skating is often done in metropolitan areas, it must be pointed out that there is a risk of collision from vehicles on the road, and children are particularly susceptible here, especially if someone loses control of their skates.

The Ice Advantage

Ice skating rinks on the other hand are generally very well maintained, as the owners of a rink can get into significant trouble otherwise. Ice rinks are required to have members of staff on-site who are trained in first aid. Ice rinks also often host multiple sports events which all but ensure the rink is in optimal conditions.

Whereas roller-skating is often done in chaotic environments with little management, ice rinks are carefully controlled. The number of skaters will never reach a point where it becomes overcrowded and dangerous. There are also rules to stop people from putting their belongings on the ice, thus preventing hidden obstacles from causing falls.

While ice skaters can reach dangerous levels of speed, this is only the case when you’re at a very advanced level, as most beginners will learn how to fall properly on the ice. Due to the balance requirements of ice skating, falls are very frequent among new skaters, but they very rarely cause significant injury.

Overall, ice skating is safer than roller skating, but this may come as a surprise given the increased speed only possible on the ice rink. The more carefully managed environment,an emphasis on safety, and learning to fall correctly make ice skating much less dangerous than roller skating.

Is Ice Skating Better Than Roller Skating?

Ice skating is only better than roller skating if it’s more in line with your goals. While ice skating is more difficult to learn for a beginner, it also has a much greater sense of community, whereas roller skating is much easier for a beginner but lacks a sense of community.

As mentioned, whether ice skating is better or not depends largely upon your goals. Of the two, ice skating is more difficult to learn for an absolute beginner. Roller skating, while easier, doesn’t have the same level of complexity as ice skating.

Roller skating might seem more appealing, but its lack of depth often puts many adults off from maintaining any serious interest. Its practicality often falls short, as while it may seem like roller skating is a quicker way to get around town, constantly having to take off your skates to put on shoes blunts its utilitarian side.

It’s a rare sight to see a group of adults roller skating to work or to meet their friends at a bar. Many would rather drive or just walk to their desired destination, meaning even learning roller skating for practical purposes is quite limited. This is most likely why roller skating is seen as a child’s activity.

Is Ice Skating The Better Hobby?

The complexity of ice skating and the fact that it requires a dedicated venue help its cause. Having a place that you can go to specifically just to ice skate will help your motivation in the long run. By showing up to a specific place and practicing, you’re telling your brain that what you’re doing is important.

The fact that ice skating has an enormous skill ceiling also helps with long-term motivation, there are always ways you can refine a technique. It’s often very easy to feel improvements, you skate more easily, and you feel more confident on the ice week by week. This constant feedback loop does wonders for long-term motivation.

While roller skating has a hard-core community, it’s very fragmented, making it much harder for a beginner to get into. The ice skating community is more widespread and populous. There are people of all kinds of skill levels at any given rink, and it’s easier for you to find a group of people at your level. Having easier access to groups can seal the deal for many would-be skaters.

However, that said, both ice skating and roller skating come with a host of benefits that deserve due consideration. Depending upon who you are or what your goals are, you might find that one is much better for you than the other.

Benefits Of Roller Skating

Roller skating is a fantastic workout because concrete has more friction, therefore it requires more effort to propel yourself forwards. For the average person, the calorie burn per hour is higher in roller skating than in ice skating.

Roller skating can be a fantastic way of encouraging kids to be more active. If they’re full of energy, it can be a great way to tire them out on hot summer days. Roller skating teaches kids about balance, helps build their stamina, and helps develop strong muscles.

Roller skating is a lot easier to learn, as a lot of kids might not have the patience to stick with ice skating, especially if they’re falling over a lot. However, most people can learn to balance on skates in an hour or less.

Roller Skating And Injury Risk

While many people find the more chaotic nature of roller skating fun, some may find it off-putting. It’s much easier to get caught by difficult-to-see dips and bumps in concrete. Skating in public spaces can be stressful, as it takes away some of the enjoyment,especially if you’re not a skilled and confident skater.

Overall, roller skating is a great option as a casual fun activity for kids and adults, but the risk of injury from falling can get increasingly serious as you get older.

Elderly people and even adults may have to think twice about strapping on roller skates. If you’re not used to physical activity, a quick fall onto concrete could cause anything from a bad bruise to a broken bone.

Benefits Of Ice Skating

Ice skating is a great activity for anyone to learn, as there is always an emphasis on safety, and falling on the ice is nowhere near as bad as falling on concrete. As a beginner, you’ll be too preoccupied with balancing to go fast, and reaching the highest speeds possible in ice skating is only possible for elite athletes. 

Ice skating is a fantastic group activity. While you can learn on your own, learning with a group of friends is a priceless experience. There are few activities where adults and the elderly can go to learn a completely new activity and have a ton of fun, with the only thing similar being a dancing club.

Ice skating has a host of fitness benefits, being a fantastic workout just like roller skating. It also strengthens the legs and core muscles to a high degree. It’s not unheard of to develop defined abdominal muscles just from ice skating.

Ice Skating And Accessibility

Ice skating can be fantastic for kids, it teaches them resilience. Watching an advanced skater execute turns and pirouettes is incredibly inspiring to kids and shows off a good example of the capabilities of the human body.

Ice skating is also accessible to the elderly, as there’s always an emphasis on safety and balance. If you don’t feel comfortable balancing without support, you can always hold onto the barrier and build up your balance and strength. There’s no pressure and you can take things at your own pace.

Finally, ice skating is incredibly fun, as gliding along the ice can almost feel like flying, eliminating any sense of exertion. Ice skating also has a long history and a huge pedigree. While not as popular as football or basketball, it’s recognized as an Olympic sport and has a large global audience.

Roller skating has experienced a sharp decline in popularity, as dedicated roller skating rinks have been shutting down from coast to coast since the 1990s. Roller skating enjoyed a brief resurgence in 2020 but has quickly dwindled again. However, there’s nothing stopping roller skating from becoming popular again.

Final Thoughts

Ice skating is only better than roller skating if it meets your individual goals. While ice skating is harder to learn than roller skating, it has greater lesson options for newcomers. Roller skating offers a good set of skills both practically and for fun, but it’s also more dangerous.