By Su Reid-St. John
Hybrids are all the rage now, and K2 is getting in on the trend with their new T:Nine Electra Custom Fit inline skates for women. These combine the stability of a "fitness" skate with the speed of a "training" skate. And as a skater who happens to be a fan of both those things, I jumped at the chance to try them.
Many folks who've discovered the joy of inline skating shy away from speed—not surprisingly, since inline skates aren't known for having stop-on-a-dime brakes. But not me. I get a huge rush from flying down a hill, speeding through a straightaway.
And there are a lot of women out there like me. We skate to stay fit and build strength, but mostly for the sheer enjoyment of it. We want comfort, to feel stable—but we also want to go really fast sometimes. In other words, we're the target audience for these skates.
The biggest factor determining skating speed (besides you, of course) is the size of your wheels: The larger they are, the faster you go. And these have big wheels; we're talking two 100-mm and two 90-mm on each skate…but more on that dichotomy later.
All the other skates I've seen with wheels this size are "low-boot" racing skates. Unless you have really strong ankles, though, low boots can be tiring and make you feel wobbly. These skates, on the other hand, have a high-cuff, supportive boot that would give fatigue-free support to even the shakiest of ankles.
So back to those big wheels: In general, they can also be hard to control. K2 has tried to address that concern by placing 100-mm wheels on the back and 90-mm wheels on the front, so you get speed and agility in the same skate. And it works. These skates are fast, yes, and smooth—but they never left me feeling out of control. And while you might think (as I initially did) that having different-sized wheels on the same skate would make you feel a little tippy, like you're skating on a slant, they don't. I'm not sure how this works, but I felt perfectly balanced.
These skates are also super-comfy. The liner has memory foam, so it molds to your foot (thus the "Custom Fit" part of the name). The soft boots help with the fit too (laces, a Velcro strap, and a buckle help you get them just so). These would be great long-distance skates; when I finally start training for another inline marathon, these will probably be the skates I reach for.
I do have one quibble: The skates are good looking, with a lovely green and black design, but whose idea was it to make the boots white? By the second wearing, these already had smudges, and I'm guessing they'll be completely grayed within a month.
But hey, a little dirt never hurt anyone. I see a lot more road time in these ingenious skates' future.
Product: K2 T:Nine Electra Custom Fit inline skate
Pros: Fast, smooth, stable, and comfortable. A great choice for "fitness" skaters who want to go faster, but maintain control.
Cons: They're a little pricey, and good luck keeping the white boots clean.
Extra tip: For the best fit, order a half size larger than your regular shoe size.