gifts they'll want in a pandemic

I Have Rolled With 2020’s Punches on These $95 Skates

Photo-Illustration: retailer

Like just about everyone else, I decided to take up a new hobby to keep myself sane during quarantine. I sidestepped sourdough, though, and instead set my sights on learning how to roller skate. It’s an ideal activity for these times because, even in colder weather, you can bundle up and do it outside with friends while maintaining a responsible distance. While I hadn’t laced up a pair since my first (and last) failed attempt in elementary school, after seeing countless skaters effortlessly glide through my Instagram and TikTok feeds, I realized my time might be better spent skating — or at least trying to — than simply watching other people do it.

Thankfully, the hard part of picking out a pair was actually pretty simple. Last year, after talking to a bunch of roller skaters, I concluded that Melbourne-based brand Impala Skates makes the best affordable roller skates for beginners — though I’ve spotted plenty of advanced skaters roll through TikTok on its wheels, too. Impala is perhaps best known for its candy-colored Quad Skates, which have an aluminum plate, hybrid indoor-outdoor wheels, and a fixed toe stop. All of these features are why professional roller skater Candice Heiden told me the Quad Skates are ideal “for cruising, learning how to skate, and basic dance moves,” which is exactly what I hoped to master. (You might think twice about taking them to a skate park, however.)

I started out using them on the hardwood floor of my living room turned roller rink. When I felt competent enough to venture outside in them, I was relieved to discover that, as promised, the hybrid wheels handled both smooth asphalt basketball courts and rougher concrete parking lots just as well. The boots, while made of synthetic materials, are also super comfortable — they hardly needed any breaking in and never leave my dogs barking, even after marathon skate sessions. What’s more, the skates not only gave me a new hobby, but also a sense of accomplishment, which, when you’re not really leaving the house — and some days not even the couch — can be a gift in itself. If you, too, decide to buy a pair of roller skates (whether for yourself or someone else), I strongly suggest getting a set of pads (just trust me here) and considering some other gear I used to help me really get the hang of it. And if you need a second opinion on the hobby or my preferred Impala skates, I’ll leave you with this one from actress Sasheer Zamata, who owns the exact same style: “These make me happy — there are so many hours in a day and it’s fun to fill them with exciting new things.”

From $100

Though Impala’s Quad Skates are not nearly as hard to find now as they were back in the spring when seemingly everyone wanted a pair, sizes do fluctuate, so I’ve listed a bunch more pairs below. While most are $95, some are priced slightly higher at $100, and a couple limited-edition pairs (like Zamata’s) go for $120. But when you consider that other roller skates can sell for close to three times that price, even the most expensive Quad Skates seem a good deal.

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I Have Rolled With 2020’s Punches on These $95 Skates