There is a lot of information out there, and not all of it is good. Here’s some information we’ve collected that might help you figure out the best options for you. (Disclaimer: Nothing here is a recommendation, just some ideas based on experiences other league members and derby players have had!). This page is a constant work in progress, feel free to offer any insights!
Quad Roller Skates, Helmet, Mouthguard, Wrist Guards, Elbow Pads and Knee Pads are the gear you need to play derby!
Many people start off borrowing gear. Loaned gear can be a great way to get the hang of things, find your preferences, and keep your costs down as you start to purchase your own equipment!
Below, we’ll give you way too much information about each part of your equipment, including how it is checked prior to a game.
If you’re trying to determine what is most important to buy first, here is Morti’s suggestions:
Start off with a good remoldable mouthguard.
Morti’s next priority is a skate helmet (hockey or skateboard).
Skates are next on Morti’s list.
Different skaters prioritize Knee pads and wrist guards next in line, with better elbow pads becoming more important as skaters begin full contact game play.
You may choose any mouthguard to go over at least the top teeth that will allow you to meet the criteria in the JRDA gear check. There are many options out there! Many of our skaters prefer the SISU branded mouthguards as they are thin and compared to many companies, easy to mold, additionally, they can be remolded multiple times to get the right fit (We have often have SISU Mouthguards for sale at practice, March 2023 pricing is $20). Check with your dentist or orthodontist about recommendations, especially with braces. The goal of any mouthguard is to protect the teeth, mouth, and brain (a controversial statement, do your own research and make your own conclusions) but mouthguards can ONLY protect when they are used. Given a choice between the top of the line bulky gummy top and bottom mouthguard or a thin barely meets the minimum requirements, whichever one a skater puts in their mouth and keeps there is the better choice. Mouthguards that fit well can be worn while drinking and talking, which means skaters don’t need to put their fingers in their mouths on track either!
Most advice says to replace mouthguards annually, keep them at room temperature when not in use, and find your favorite method to clean and freshen them up frequently (such as using your favorite toothpaste, a clean toothbrush and cool water, or dropping them into a denture cleaning solution).
Mouthguard related excerpt from the JRDA Pre Game Gear Check Document:
a) Ask the Skater to hold up the mouthguard. Check that the guard has not been shortened or cut off before the molars. Mouthguards that have been shortened before the molars are not permitted.
b) Ask the Skater to place the mouthguard into the mouth. Once the mouthguard is engaged, ask the Skater to say “ah” or recite their name/number. When they do so, visually ensure that the guard fits snugly against teeth, does not disengage from the teeth if moldable, and does not dangerously protrude from the mouth when in place. Moldable mouthguards must be molded to fit the Skater. The mouthguard is not permitted if it does not fit as designed.
Note: Non-moldable mouthguards are permitted, however, penalties will be issued any time mouthguards become disengaged from the teeth during gameplay.
Some teams have required “uniform” helmets, but RAJRD has not found that to be necessary. We prefer skaters to wear helmets that fit them appropriately and that they feel happy with when they wear them. Skaters love to put stickers on their helmets and love the fancy colorful sparkly ones. If a skater plans to play on the travel team level, they should be cautious choosing helmets or decorations that may attract the wrong type of attention. Decorations that can be confused with a jammer or pivot helmet cover are prohibited. Sometimes having a unique looking helmet can help an opposing team keep track of and target a skater.
When looking for a helmet that fits, there are several common brands that we see. As long as they meet all requirements, the brand, style and model is a matter of personal preference.
One helmet brand many skaters with smaller heads prefer is triple 8. We know a big headed skater who prefers the pro-tec brand helmets. The most common/popular helmets in our local roller derby community are S1 lifers (which is what we tend to use for loaners, they are the easiest to adjust sizes). A benefit to the skateboard style helmets is that they are often approved as a bike helmet so you get more bang for your buck, however, you should check to ensure that they are approved for skating (many bike helmets are adopting the shape of skateboard style helmets, but don’t have the same certifications). Dual Certified (bike and skate) or MIPS (Multi Impact) are some of the labels/certifications that might help determine if a certain helmet is a good choice for derby.
Hockey helmets are also great option, they are usually adjustable and use a non-rigid foam (which means they are more often rated for multiple impacts… though we try not to have those), The base level/cheapest CCM or Bauer brand is what Morti and her kids started with. The cages have to be removed to use them for derby, which is typically a matter of removing 2-4 screws.
Krudco (which is on Mt Hope near where it meets South Ave) Old Skull Skateboards (which is in Fairport near Penfield and East Rochester), and Breaking Free Skatepark (on University not far from Culver) all usually have skate style helmets you can try on. Trying on a helmet is a really good idea. Any of the local ice rinks or sporting good stores would have the hockey helmets. Different brands have different ways to adjust or change for various fits. If your hairstyle frequently changes, a helmet with padding that is very easy to swap out/adjust might make more sense to you. Bandannas and gaiters can also help get a helmet to fit perfectly!
Along with the links above, Ice Warehouse (which is the same company as Derby Warehouse that Morti uses often) is not factory direct, but they have good information and (according to Morti) their customer service has always been right on.
Be sure to read the fine print on helmet replacement, and make sure you know how to safely store and transport your helmet. Keep helmets at room temperature when not in use, inspect them regularly, replace them if they’ve had a big impact or several smaller impacts. Consider if you need a special cover or bag to transport your helmet.
Helmet related excerpt from the JRDA Pre Game Gear Check Document:
a) Visually check the helmet with the Skater wearing it. If the Skater is wearing a helmet cover, they must remove it when the helmet is checked. The helmet must be worn low over the forehead, with the front rim approximately at the eyebrows The shell must be in good repair.
b) Explain to the Skater that you need to touch their helmet and ask them to hold their head still.
c) Apply slight pressure to the helmet, shifting it first front to back, then side to side and finally gently attempt to lift the helmet vertically off the head. The helmet must not move or tilt independently of the head. Skaters may wear head coverings such as bandanas under their helmet, but these must not interfere with the proper fit and function of the helmet.
d) Check that the helmet hard foam lining does not move independently nor come free from the hard outer shell. A helmet with a hard shell that moves independently of its hard foam lining is not permitted.
e) Check that the neck strap is snug to the chin, but still allows for the Skater to move their head without being choked. If the straps feature sliders, the sliders must be located as close to the earlobe as possible.
f) Optional face shields compliant with the WFTDA Risk Management Guidelines are permitted. Note: While transparent visors are allowed, and mirrored or iridium visors are prohibited, visors or face shields that are not 100% transparent (due to tint for example) may be permitted if the wearer’s eyes, including pupils, can be clearly and distinctly seen – as determined by the Tournament / Game Head Referee. A tinted visor cleared in one instance might be prohibited in
another, because varying conditions may require different allowances. A visor allowable under one set of conditions might be problematic with different lighting, for example, even at different times in the same venue.
Note: If Skaters are wearing skates they must take a knee or sit before removing or unclasping their helmet for adjustments
For Skates requirements, players need quad style skates with a toestop.
For success with derby, skaters should look for “speed” skates with:
-Low or no heel (much easier to find your center of gravity when in derby stance)
-Adjustable toe stop (change or adjust to compliment skater’s skills)
-Low cut boots (for a better range of motion)
-Avoid plastic trucks (certain plastic plates are common, but plastic trucks may increase your risk of injury).
Most of the more affordable skates made by the brand Roller Derby aren’t likely to lead to success in roller derby games. Reidell R3s, Reidell Darts, Sure Grip Rock Skates GT-50, Sure Grip Rock Skates Speed Freaks/Flames, Sure Grip Cyclones, and Vanilla Juniors are usually a good balance of price and the right stuff. The Speed freaks are the squishiest boots, but with glued soles, our experience has been they are also most likely to come apart.
Skate sizes can be misleading. One of the main reasons we offer loaner gear is to help figure out some of the sizing. Generally speaking, skate sizes are listed as mens sizes. While no one wants to cut off circulation, most skaters prefer one half size or one whole size smaller than the traditionally expected size (For example, Morti wears a size 9 in womens, so a size 7.5 would be what most shops recommend, but based on experience, a size 6-6.5 in Reidell skates is what she looks for). Every brand is different. The width, the arch support, the lacing and more all impact how skate boots fit.
Used skates can be a great option. Check Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Mercari, Poshmark, and Ebay as well as many of the online shops.
More detailed information on plates and boots and skate parts will be coming in the future.
Skates related excerpt from the JRDA Pre Game Gear Check Document:) While it is not required to check skates during a standard gear check, it is suggested that the Skater be advised to check laces, wheels, and toe stops after the gear check.
Since we fall forward a lot, good wrist guards are pretty important.
Wrist Guard related excerpt from the JRDA Pre Game Gear Check Document:
a) Ask the Skater to present their wrist guards, with their arms out and palms up. Explain to the Skater that you need to touch their wrist guards.
b) Check that each wrist guard is being worn on the appropriate (left/right) hand. Wrist guards must be worn on the hand for which they were designed. (In the event that the skater is wearing a cast, a wrist guard is not required over a cast that extends to the wrist.)
c) Check both visually and by touch all hard shells and grommets or rivets, to make sure there are no sharp spots or cracks, and that the hard shells do not easily come loose. In the event a wrist guard has an internal hard shell, make sure this also does not feel cracked, sharp, or broken. Cracked or broken shells are not permitted.
d) Check that the hard shell covers the bend of the wrist. The plastic cap must cover the bend of the wrist.
e) Grasp the plastic insert on the palm of the hand (if applicable) and attempt to slide the wrist guard left-to-right, and back-and-forth (towards and away from the Skater’s body). The guard should not move on the wrist. Tape may be used to secure loose guards over old or insecure Velcro.
Knee Pad related excerpt from the JRDA Pre Game Gear Check Document:
a) Explain to the Skater that you need to touch their knee pads.
b) Check that each knee pad is being worn in the correct fashion – i.e, not upside down. Knee pads must be worn in the manner in which they were designed.
c) Check both visually and by touch all hard shells and grommets or rivets to make sure there are no sharp spots or cracks, and that the shells do not easily come loose. For pads that have an internal hard shell, make sure this also does not feel cracked, sharp, or broken within the pad. Cracked or broken shells are not permitted.
d) Check that the hard shell covers the knee cap. The plastic shell must cover the knee cap.
e) Tug the pad up and down on the leg. The pad should not slide at all. Tape may be used to secure loose pads over old or insecure Velcro.
f) Gently pull the plastic shell away from the Skater’s body. The shell must remain firmly attached to the pad.
Elbow Pad related excerpt from the JRDA Pre Game Gear Check Document:
a) Explain to the Skater that you need to touch their elbow pads. Physically check that the pads do not slip by gently tugging on each pad. The pad should not slide at all. Tape may be used to secure loose pads over old or insecure Velcro.
b) Check that each elbow pad is being worn in the correct fashion – i.e, not upside down. Elbow pads must be worn in the manner in which they were designed.
c) Ask the Skater to present their elbow pads with their wrists by their ears. Check both visually and by touch all hard shells and grommets or rivets to make sure there are no sharp spots, cracks, and that the shells do not easily come loose. For pads that have an internal hard shell, make sure this also does not feel cracked, sharp, or broken within the pad. Cracked or broken shells are not permitted.
d) Check that the hard shell covers the point of the bent elbow. The plastic cap must cover the point of the bent elbow.
What else do I need?
Uniforms will be discussed each season, however bringing a black and a white numbered shirt to every practice gives the coaches so many more options for skills and drills.
A water bottle that doesn’t spill easily
A way to carry everything to and from practices and games
Its not a bad idea to find a skate tool (including a toestop wrench or allen key)
Choices for wheels, bearings, and other skate parts can help skaters make adjustments that help them play in lots of different situations.
Some skaters like padded clothing (hip, chest and tailbone protectors are all commercially available).
Visors may help to protect some skaters, such as those that wear glasses. Be sure to look at the rules regarding visors prior to selecting a helmet with a visor!
Skaters with corrected vision may want to consider what type of glasses or contacts will work best for them.