To a lot of people, inline skating is likely seen as something as simple as putting on a pair of inline skates and rolling way. While this is true on a very broad scale, inline skating as a whole is quite a bit more than that. Inline skates come in a few different types, each specialized for the type of skating it is used for. There are 4 different types of inline skate. Those types are: Recreational/Fitness, Hockey, Speed, and Aggressive.
No matter the type of skate, all have 3 main parts: the boot, the frame, and the wheels. Brakes are rare on any skate besides recreational/fitness skates, as they otherwise only serve to get in the way. Some skates that are designed for simulating ice skating will actually have a toe brake, but for skates with a brake, the traditional placement is at the heel.
Now, the first question to ask in regards to inline skates and figuring out which is right for you, is what you will be doing on the skates you buy? If you are a novice, then you should start out on a basic recreational skate, and learn all of the basics of inline skating. If you have already been riding inline skates for awhile, then it comes down to what you want to do.
By far the most popular type of skate is the recreational skate. Recreational skates are designed for anyone who simply wishes to put on a pair of skates and roll. They are generally good for use on any urban surface. Pretty much every maker of inline skates will have at least one model of recreational skate, and more than likely, they will have many more. Different skates will have different features and be made from different materials. There are numerous types of enclosure systems, and they will have nearly as many ways to secure them to your feet.
Aggressive skates much more closely resemble inline skates as they were first introduced. They employ a more boot like appearance for overall durability, with reinforced frames. The wheels tend to be smaller and harder for landing tricks. Also, more oft than not, they will have smaller center wheels and grind plates installed, as well as having reinforced boot heels for the various grinds and slides that can be done.
Inline hockey skates are pretty much exact replicas of ice hockey skates, but with wheels. The boot design is the same, and the wheel frames are made to be durable, stiff, and light weight.
If you like going fast, like competition, or even both, then speed skates are for you. Speed skates are built similar to running shoes. Low profile, light, with a slightly raised heel, and sporting 5 wheels on each foot, these things are all about one thing, and that is going fast. It should be noted that speed skating is for those of a high fitness level.