Whether you’ve been roller-skating for years or just picked up the hobby, there are a few things you’ll need before you can really get moving. A pair of skates is, of course, essential — as is a good helmet. According to the experts we spoke with, anyone who is serious about skating should also invest in some pads for extra protection. Even if you’re not a beginner, roller skater Jas Moore notes, “Wearing pads will keep you safe and give you confidence to take on new moves as you strengthen your skate skills.” To find the pads most capable of preventing sprained wrists and scraped knees, we asked Moore and six other experts about the ones they rely on. Their ten recommended styles below include budget-friendly sets with every pad you’ll need, options designed for plus-size skaters, and heavier-duty gear for the skate park.
Best overall skate pads for most skaters
In reporting this story, we heard about three main types of skate pads: knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards. Kat Espinoza of skate shop Wicked Skatewear told us that “for beginners or people on a budget, we usually recommend packs of pads” that include all three. When it comes to skate-pad brands, the one our experts name-checked the most is 187 Killer, which Espinoza describes as “a leading name in the skate industry with a reputation for durable pads.” She recommends its set of “nice and cushy” knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards because they can “withstand all of the falls you take as a beginner.” Skater Gitana Deneff told us she learned to roller-skate using 187 Killer pads, noting they “offer a lot of support and cushion for when you fall.” Moore agrees and calls them a “great, durable starter pair of roller-skating pads.”
If you’re looking for something with more pizzazz, roller skater Bara Camilla S. told us that 187 Killer collaborated with skate brand Moxi on a more colorful set of its pads. “If you ever spot me on the street skating, you will probably see me skating in these,” they say. Espinoza also told us about the set of pads the brands collaborated on, noting that the Moxi versions are the “same exact pads, just with different branding.”
Best (less-expensive) skate-pad set
Those looking to save a couple bucks might prefer this set of skate pads that skater Lauren Perrino says “comes with wrist guards, knee pads, and elbow pads for a reasonable price.” Perrino especially likes the pads’ “snug and secure fit” and hard outer shell, which, she explains, “allows you to slide more when you fall” and minimizes any impact on your knees. Smith Scabs pads are also the ones that the writer of this story (Dominique Pariso) bought when she first started roller-skating about a year ago. According to her, they’ve taken their fair share of spills and always “protect me from fractured wrists and scraped knees.”
Best low-profile skate-pad set
Moore describes this set of pads as a “lower-profile option” for skaters who prefer something less bulky. Espinoza agrees, telling us the included pairs of wrist guards, elbow pads, and knee pads are “a great low-impact set for new skaters sticking to casual boardwalk or sidewalk skates, or experienced skaters who aren’t planning on falling too much.” She adds that “these come in a multitude of colors as well.”
Best skate-pad set for plus-size skaters
If you’re a plus-size skater, Moore recommends the pads in Moxi’s Thick Set. In terms of safety, the included wrist guards, elbow pads, and knee pads are designed more or less the same way as the 187 Killer–Moxi pads above, but sized to fit those with larger legs and arms. (The knee pads are made to accommodate a knee circumference of 18–21 inches, while the elbow pads can fit a circumference of 12–14 inches.) They’re available in base colors of pink, blue, and purple, all of which are embellished with Moxi’s signature rainbow band.
Best knee pads for the skate park
If you’re not going to invest in a full set of pads, our experts told us about a few styles of knee pads and wrist guards you can buy separately. “For people who skate at parks,” says Espinoza, “we recommend splurging on your knee pads (and helmet) because your knees and brain are expensive and difficult to fix.” Unlike other heavy-duty knee pads, she says these ones from S1 Pro “are protective and very streamlined — they feel like you’re falling on a cloud without the bulk of a typical pro-style knee pad.” Roller skater Toni Bravo is also a fan: “These knee pads have preserved my knees more times than I can count.”
Best washable knee pads for the skate park
These skate-park-appropriate knee pads from 187 Killer come recommended by skater Kimi Cantyne, who notes their “durable foam can actually be removed for washing — because knee sweat is no joke — and the plates can also be swapped out and replaced with wear and tear.” Importantly, these features do not compromise the knee pads’ performance, she assures. “I have fallen off of a ten-foot ramp directly onto my knees while wearing these and walked away without a scratch,” Cantyne says.
Best knee pads for casual skating
According to Moore, these low-profile knee pads from Triple 8 are good for skaters who mainly stick to casual cruising. “The pads are slim enough to be worn under clothes if you are doing a brief ride down a boardwalk,” she explains, adding that they’re plenty protective “if you happen to stumble occasionally.” According to her, the knee pads’ thinner profile makes them “breathable and allows your knees to feel less restricted.”