What You Need to Know About Freestyle Slalom Skates
Freestyle slalom skaters perform tricks, edge stunts and dance-like maneuvers—either alone or as a team. This skating is done around cones set in a straight line spaced 1.64 feet (50 centimeters), 2.63 feet (80 centimeters) or 3.94 feet (120 centimeters) apart, depending on the event—a skate setup designed for a high level of precision and control. Most freestyle slalom skating is performed on freestyle slalom— sometimes called artistic—inline skates, but a few skaters still use quad roller skates.
Popular Freestyle Slalom Skate Models
The skaters who wear inline skates use a rocker wheel configuration and a short frame (230 to 245 millimeter) to maximize the maneuverability of the inline skates. Slalom skates have a close fit and a firm cuff for ankle support. Popular skate models used to include the FSK skate range by Salomon (now unavailable), Seba skates (designed by a world-class slalom skater), and other well-known skate brands such as Powerslide, Roces and RollerBlade. Many inline figure skates can be used for slalom if the extended toe stop is replaced with a toe plug.
What to Look for in a Good Slalom Skate
In order to satisfy the needs of freestyle slalom activities, these skates need some adaptations to the boot, cuff, the frames, the wheels and the closure system. When choosing slalom skates, consider the following:
- Freestyle skating requires a strong rigid boot with comfortable foot support.
- A good slalom skate needs a short lightweight frame that is easy to maneuver.
- These skates must be quick and responsive which can be enhanced via rockering.
- Smooth precision and the correct wheels are very important.
What to Expect in a Slalom Boot
There were not many inline slalom skates with soft/hard boots a few years ago. Most had rigid boots to get the support needed for precise movements.
Since Seba skate technology came into the market, you can expect to see many skates that combine firm, precise support and comfort. Today many boots are manufactured using composite carbon or glass fiber materials—instead of just plastic—to make them lightweight and supportive, too. These boots have a removable liner, like most inline skates.
No Heel Brakes
Heel brakes are seldom installed on most slalom skates. Freestyle slalom tricks do not work very well with a heel brake in the way of performance. A heel brake will block the ability to do heel balancing moves, bump cones, trip the skater or cause unwanted stops. Slalom is not done on an incline, so safety on hills does not apply. Slalom skaters are experts at changing direction to avoid things in their path, so they rarely need to stop—and when they do, there are plenty of alternative stopping methods like t-stops and snow plows that are easy for a skater with slalom skating skills.
Beginner and novice skaters should not train with skates that do not have a built-in braking system.
Slalom Skate Designs Have Evolved
Slalom skates have evolved from the stiff plastic skates of the 80s. Today’s skates provide more support, comfort and customization opportunities than ever before. But, simple freestyle can be learned in almost any skate—quad, recreational, hockey or even aggressive skates. Using the correct type of skates just makes freestyle slalom much easier.