Having spent a few months going quite regularly to my local ice rink in Brighton, I decided to try the equivalent on tarmac, i.e. inline skating. After I had decided I liked it, I determined that I would by some skates of my own. However when I searched the internet, and even everything2, which seems to be the repository for all knowledge, I found very little information about them, something which I shall attempt to rectify now.
There are several makes of inline skates, the most famous being Salomon, K2, Roces and, of course, the name which is synonymous (though not correctly so) with inline skating, Rollerblade.
When choosing skates, there are many things to consider. These include the ABEC rating of the bearings (more on that later), the hardness and diameter of the wheels, the materials used in the skate's construction, and of course, how well the skates fit on your feet.
The ABEC (annular bearing engineering council) rating of the bearings used in the skate ranges from 3 to 7. Basically, the higher the number, the higher quality the bearings are machined to. While higher quality bearings do in theory result in a faster ride, there is some dissent as to whether bearings need to be machined to such a high standard for such an imprecise machine as inline skates. Anyway, for all intents and purposes, ABEC 5 or 7 bearings will give you a fast enough ride.
The next point, the wheels, affects both the smoothness and speed of your ride. Basically, the larger the wheels, the faster they will go, and the softer they are, the smoother the ride will be. However, as they get softer, the friction in the wheels is increased, so you will have to put in more effort to go fast. Therefore you need to find the right balance (a very important concept in skating!) It is also possible to get dual density wheels, where the inner wheel is made of one density plastic/rubber, while the outer wheel is another. When you are buying your skates, the shopkeeper should be able to advise you on what kind of wheels you want. They can always be upgraded later.
There are two main parts of the inline skate: the boot and the frame. The outer boot will usually be made of some kind of plastic (it is hard to protect against injury to the foot). The inner boot should be well padded to make the boot comfortable and support the foot. The frame (which holds the wheels and bearings) can be made of anything, from plastic to titanium, and will depend on the price and quality of the skates. A £150 pair will generally have aluminium frames for durability while keeping weight down.
When trying on skates, there are a few things to remember. First, different makes of skate will be sized slightly differently. Therefore make sure you try on skates half a size either side of your normal "street" size. Second, make sure you skate around in each pair for a good few minutes, to see how smoothly they run, and also to allow them to mould to your feet. (If you have abnormally wide or unusually shaped feet, it is possible with many skates to have the inners heat moulded around your foot so the fit is perfect).
For a decent pair of skates, you can expect to pay in the region of £120 to £150. Any less and the skates may be ill-fitting and may not run well. Much more, and the increase in quality probably isn't worth it. Remember: a £150 pair of skates is probably twice as good as a £75 pair, but it doesn't follow that a £300 pair is twice as good as a £150 pair
If you still have no clue, don't worry. In my experience the staff in skate shops will be happy to help you choose a pair of skates that is right for you.