Inline hockey wheels are available in many variations according to size, color, bearing type and durometer. Durometer is a numerical expression which indicates the hardness of a wheel. The lower the number, the softer the wheel. The higher the number, the harder the wheel. Durometer ratings for inline hockey wheels range from 74A to 84A, although there are some wheels offered above and below this range. Durometer ratings are used to help you find the wheels that will offer the proper amount of surface grip and durability. If you're interested in reading a technical explanation of durometer ratings and how they're determined, read the following article: "Shore (Durometer) Hardness Test"
Once again, a lower durometer rating (i.e. 74A) indicates a softer wheel with more surface grip and a higher durometer rating (i.e. 84A) indicates a harder, more durable wheel with less surface grip. The reason that wheels with a lower durometer rating have a tackier grip texture than high durometer wheels is to compensate for the slick surface upon which soft, low durometer wheels are used. Sport court is a relatively smooth, slick surface made of plastic/rubber tiles, and usually 74A and 76A wheels are the best choice. Outdoor wheels with 82A or 84A durometer do not have as much grip texture because outdoor surfaces like asphalt provide plenty of grit and texture on their own, which is countered by the hardness of outdoor wheels, making them more durable and practical for that specific application.
It’s also very important to consider the weight of the skater using the wheels. Although a heavy player may be able to get away with using a soft wheel on a smooth surface without having a completely adverse effect on the durability, the wheels may feel like flat tires, which drastically affects performance. If too much weight is being absorbed by the wheels then they will compress too much to hold their form. It's all about finding the perfect balance of durability, grip and rigidity. Below is a general breakdown of the intended use for inline hockey wheels in each durometer class.
- 72A (XX-Soft) – This is an unconventionally soft durometer. These inline wheels should only be used on an indoor, sport court surface by a skater who weighs 150 lbs or less.
- 74A (X-Soft) – This is a commonly used durometer by players under 190 lbs on an indoor sport court surface. Players under 130 lbs should be able to use 74A inline wheels on a smooth, wood surface without wearing them out too quickly.
- 76A (Soft) – This is probably the most commonly used durometer. Players weighing 210 lbs or less can use this type of inline wheel on an indoor sport court surface without experiencing much of the “flat tire” effect. Players who are 140 lbs or less can pretty safely use this type of inline wheel on a wood surface as well.
- 78A (Multi-surface) – Inline wheels with a rating of 78A are typically referred to as multi-surface wheels because they are hard enough to handle sealed cement and wood surfaces while still maintaining enough grip to be used on a sport court surface with relatively good results. Players in the 190-250 lb range can effectively use this type of wheel on an indoor sport court surface. Skaters in the range of 150-220 lbs can pretty safely use this type of wheel on a wood surface. Players under 200 lbs ought to be able to use this durometer on a very smooth, painted concrete surface without severely decreasing the life of the wheels.
- 80A (Multi-surface) – An 80A inline wheel can still be considered a multi-surface wheel but of course it will have less grip than a 78A. This type of wheel is not highly recommended for use on a sport court surface. It is best suited for wood surfaces, in any weight class. On a sealed cement surface this durometer will hold up well, but is probably going to be a bit too hard to grip the surface as well as a 78A wheel.
- 82A (Outdoor) – An inline wheel with an 82A durometer is hard enough to be used on unsealed sidewalk cement, and it should hold up fairly well on asphalt for players under 180 lbs. It can be used on a sealed cement surface as well, but there will likely be substandard results due to the lack of grip provided by such a wheel as hard as this.
- 84A (Outdoor/Asphalt) – This is just about the hardest inline hockey wheel you will find. It is absolutely an outdoor wheel intended specifically for sidewalk concrete or asphalt surfaces. Skaters of any size can use this type of wheel on a blacktop or asphalt surface with favorable results. This type of wheel is not recommended for smooth, sealed concrete surfaces. It is best suited for street hockey on asphalt and gritty concrete.