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The Evolution of Inline Roller Skates

The Evolution of Inline Roller Skates - Late 20th Century Evolutions


The Evolution of Inline Roller Skates
Photo © Liubov Grigoryeva, iStockPhoto.com

The Olson brothers adopted and adapted the Chicago inline design over the years, and caused a public attraction to roller skating that has been hard to match in the sport’s history. The name Rollerblade has become inline skating to most people, overshadowing many other inline skate manufacturers and leaving out a lot of the previous history of roller and inline roller skating.


In 1982, Scott Olson adds the toe stop to his inline skate, but found that it didn't work well.


In 1984, Scott Olson adds a heel brake to help beginners get over the fear of being unable to stop.

Minneapolis businessman Bob Naegele, Jr. purchased Olson's company, and it eventually became Rollerblade, Inc. This was not the first company to manufacture inline skates, but Rollerblade expanded inline skating to include more than just hockey players by offering comfortable skates with dependable, easy-to-use brakes. This introduced millions to inline skating sports.


Rollerblade, Inc., begins to market skates as fitness and recreational equipment.


Rollerblade, Inc. produced the Macro and Aeroblades models, the first skates fastened with three buckles instead of long laces that needed threading.


Rollerblade, Inc. switched to a glass-reinforced thermoplastic resin (durethan polyamide) for their skates, replacing the polyurethane compounds that were previously used. This decreased the average weight of skates by nearly fifty percent.

In 1990, inline skate developers once again turned to efforts to find designs and materials that would allow skaters to simulate more of the ice and quad roller figure and dance skating maneuvers. Roller skaters discovered the competitive advantages of inline skates, especially increased speed. Skate designers also began to explore wheel sizes and frame alignment. However, the majority of the development during this decade was intended for ice hockey and ice speed cross training for skaters.


Rollerblade, Inc. developed the ABT or Active Brake Technology. A fiberglass post was attached at one end to the top of the boot and at the other end to a rubber-brake and hinged to the chassis at the back wheel. The skater had to straighten one leg to stop, driving the post into the brake, which then hit the ground. Skaters had already been tilting their foot back to make contact with the ground, before ABT, so this new brake design improved safety.

Pat McHale secures United States and European patents for a multi-purpose inline skate in 1993. This skate design features offset inline wheels that create an inside-outside edge with lateral stability for control of edges that is similar to ice blades.

In 1993, two other inventors, Bert Lovitt and Warren Winslow, work together to invent an all terrain skate that uses 2 angled wheels.


The Italian firm Risport introduced the 3-wheeled “Galaxie” figure frame and an entry-level cheap 3-wheels inline figure skate all-plastic: “Kiria” in white and “Aries” in black. Another model with a metal frame and plastic boot was called “Vega”. All of these inline skates were designed with toe stops. Risport also discovered that a flat 3-wheeled frame can behave as a rockered frame just by using a much harder wheel in the center, thus splitting unevenly the skater’s weight among them.

Sporting goods company K2, Inc. comes up with a soft boot design which in most aspects of the sport (except Aggressive Skating) has become the most common design. This company also heavily promotes the soft boot design for fitness. By 2000 most skate manufactures follow suit, although the hard boot is still preferred by aggressive skaters.

Diederik Hol sees a bulletin board announcement that Dutch manufacturer offers a six-month research training into designing a clap skate. He saw an opportunity to develop something with the potential of setting new world records, and he used the project as a springboard for his career in design engineering. He graduated having worked on the Rotrax skate, a multiple-hinge frame that ensures a more powerful push-off and thus higher speed.

John Petell, President of Harmony Sports Inc., contacts Nick Perna, a PSA master rated coach, to test a retro fit product called the PIC. The Pic device attached to conventional inline skates to enable figure skaters to perform figure skating moves requiring a toe pick that were not otherwise possible on conventional inline skates. 

A French inventor named Jean-Yves Blondeau gets a patent for his 31-wheeled Rollerman suit (also known as the Wheel Suit or Buggy Rollin) in 1995. This suit is designed with wheels that are very similar to inline skate wheels carefully placed on most of the major joints of the body, on the torso and even on the back.


Inline skates and skating accessories become a billion dollar international industry, with nearly 26 million Americans participating.

Lovitt & Winslow file their first Patent Application for their all terrain skate invention with 2 angled wheels.


A collaboration between Nick Perna and John Petell results in the development of a rockered inline figure skate, and their Pic skate was issued a patent April 14, 1998.

The Rollerblade Coyote™ skate was introduced in 1997 as the first true off-road skate in the industry. The air filled tires were designed for shock absorption, traction, and terrain versatility.


Lovitt & Winslow incorporate the new LandRoller company to manufacture and market their new skates with angled wheels.

Sportsline International offers Diederik Hol a chance to design a whole new product line of skates. After less than a year of dedicated thinking and drawing concepts, he designed what is now known as the Mogema Dual Box.

The National Museum of Roller Skating
is your About.com guide's resource for many
of the historical facts in this article.

You can contact the museum by writing to:

The National Museum of Roller Skating
PO Box 6579
Lincoln, NE 68506

Or email:
Roller Skating Museum Curator

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