Footwear keeps younger set gliding along, but there are concerns about its safety
ELYRIA — Certainly, you’ve seen this around town. One moment, a kid is walking, then — with the blink of an eye — he’s gliding.
It’s just the latest craze called “heeling.” The trendy wheeled sneakers that allow such a transition are catching on as quickly as heelers can shift their body weight back to engage the shoe’s wheels.
They are kind of, sort of inline skates. Only they’re not.
Inline skates are sold in sporting good stores. Heelys are sold in shoe stores and the wheels aren’t as obvious — they look like any other pair of sneakers until that shift.
Lisa Thomascik’s 12-year-old son, Chris, has been atop a pair of Heelys since Christmas.
“If you get tired of walking, you can switch to rolling,” Chris said.
And even though Chris has had a few scrapes from falling, he hasn’t suffered major injuries as a result of wearing them.
“I think it’s safer than a skateboard,” the Vermilion mother said.
That may be, but there still is cause to be cautious with the trendy shoes.
Roller shoes have contributed to one death and about 64 injuries from September 2005 to December 2006 and about 1,600 emergency room visits last year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Locally, neither Community Health Partners Regional Medical Center nor EMH Regional Medical Center has treated any patient for an injury from wearing Heelys or any other brand of wheeled shoe, according to hospital spokespeople.
But falls, scrapes and other injuries do occur, often when a small rock or pebble wedges between the wheel and the socket of the heel.
“If rocks are the perfect size, they’ll get stuck, and you’ll fall,” Chris said.
D.J. Kulp, 13, of Amherst, tripped face first when he began heeling, but he didn’t get hurt.
“I think they’re fine,” said Lori Kulp, noting that both her sons, D.J. and Jeffery, have them.
That’s not to say the fancy shoes don’t lend themselves to other problems.
Teachers confiscated Chris’ wheels for the last week of school, and the security guards at a Cavaliers game told him he could not wear the wheels inside the arena.
The shoes are OK, until their wearers start rolling in the wrong places.
D.J.’s younger brother, Jeffery, 10, was snatched by the Secret Service when he was heeling behind the White House on a recent trip to Washington, D.C.
“I got busted,” Jeffery said.
Jeffery got his first pair of Heelys three years ago and wore them everywhere, including the zoo, subway station and a museum. He was asked to remove his wheels at all locations.
“I wasn’t very careful with my old pair,” Jeffery said, noting that he got a new pair for Christmas. “I skated in water, in the rain and the mud.”
Places prohibiting Heelys are springing up as the trend spreads — Midway Mall and local schools forbid the use of Heelys.
“We enforce it to the point of general safety in the mall,” said Susan Godorov, vice president of marketing for Centro Watt, which owns Midway Mall. “It’s for the safety for the children wearing them and the customers.”
More than 10 million pairs of Heelys, a division of the Dallas-based Heeling Sports Limited, have been shipped to more than 70 countries worldwide since the wheeled footwear debuted in December 2000.
Contact Rania Shakkour at 329-7127 or email@example.com.