At face value, rollerblades and roller skates do not seem very different. Both involve wheels on the feet and both involve skating motions to propel the body forward. Although these two sports are similar, they have many differences between them. Physically, the skates are constructed differently. Each activity involves different muscles and therefore requires different maneuvering skills. Additionally, rollerblades and roller skates are used (not interchangeably) in several specific sports.
The most noticeable difference between rollerblades and roller skates is the wheel pattern; however, there are a few other key differences, including wheel shape, stopper placement, and fasteners.
Most rollerblades are typically higher tech than roller skates. They often contain air vents to let the feet breathe, and many include shock absorbers.
The different wheel placements and thicknesses of rollerblades and roller skates greatly affect the muscle groups involved in each activity. Roller skating works the glutes, calves, hamstrings, quads, and lower abdomen. Rollerblading also works these muscles, but it also involves more hip movement. Roller skates are more stable due to the thicker wheels placed side by side, so rollerbladers have to exert more effort to stay on balance. Because of this, they also use more of the abdominal muscles and the arms.
The wheel placement plays a role in maneuvering. Roller skates are very stable and do not require a lot of balance, but they also tend to be less flexible. Rollerblades require a lot of balance, but the slimmer wheel placement also leaves a lot of room to do quick turns and tricks. The rear stoppers also allow rollerbladers to stop more quickly.
Gear is one area where rollerblading and roller skating are more or less the same. Rollerbladers and roller skaters alike should always wear skate helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards while engaging in their respective sports in order to prevent injuries.