Staying Safe and Preventing Injuries with Heelys

A child using their Heelys in skate mode.
A child using their Heelys in skate mode. Photo (c) 2007 Pam Fierro licensed to About.com, Inc.

Heelys—those sneakers that have a hidden wheel in the back, so kids can roll around (heeling) in addition to the more traditional walking and running—are a lot of fun for kids. They're also a source of risk that smart parents will seek to minimize.

Heely Injuries

Although kids rarely go fast using the heel wheel, this sought-after class of footwear isn't without its risks. They likely aren't any more dangerous than skateboards, scooters, or inline skates, but kids do seem to get the same injuries when heeling.

Two medical studies found that kids using Heelys occasionally experienced serious injuries including "distal radius fractures and elbow injuries" and that one patient even had a head injury that required surgery.

In addition to putting kids at risk for injuries, studies suggest that walking in Heelys with the wheel (but not skating) can affect how your kids walk. The shoes cause "increased forefoot and rearfoot pressure" and "a diminished heel strike and a more rapid forefoot loading."

Preventing Injuries on Heelys

While many kids use their Heelys like inline skates, the problem is that few kids wear any safety gear when using their Heelys in skate mode. The manufacturer cautions that "it is highly recommended to wear a Heelys helmet, wrist guards, knee pads, and elbow pads when using your Heelys skate shoes."

To prevent injuries from Heelys, have your kids wear the recommended safety gear, remove the wheels when using Heelys in shoe mode, and don't allow your kids to use their Heelys in skate mode in or near traffic, on uneven surfaces, or on stairs.

You also might avoid injuries by telling your kids to not go heeling in crowded areas and to not roll faster than they can walk.

Minimizing Safety Risks with Heelys

To reduce the risk of injury to your child:

  • Make sure your kids stagger their feet when heeling, with one foot in front of the other—if they keep both feet together, they will likely fall
  • Kids should always wear protective safety equipment, including a helmet, wrist guards, knee pads, and elbow pads when heeling, just like they should when using a skateboard, scooter, or inline skates
  • Don't leave the wheels in your child's Heelys all of the time, because your child may be tempted to use the Heelys in skate mode more impulsively, including in parking lots, grocery stores, or the mall, and when he is less likely to be prepared and have protective gear
  • Heelys were on the 2006 World Against Toys Causing Harm "10 worst toys" list
  • Don't let your child use the Heelys in skate mode inside your home because a slip-and-fall accident in the house might lead to broken glass, broken bones or injury to family members caught in the headlamp of the oncoming Heely-clad train

Wearing protective safety equipment is especially important when your kids first get their Heelys, as that is when most injuries occur: when they are learning to use their cool new skate shoes.

Sources:

Beach et al. Heelys injuries: a review of the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System data. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2009 Oct;25(10):642-4.

Oh D. Heelys injuries in children. - Singapore Med J - 01-MAY-2006; 47(5): 373-5

Heely shoe users: Take heed of risks. Trisha Korioth. AAP News Vol. 28 No. 4 April 2007, p. 29.

Lenehan et al. Heely injuries: a new epidemic warranting a government health warning! Injury. 2007 Aug;38(8):923-5. Epub 2007 Jan 18.

Norem et al. Gait changes with the use of Heelys: a case study. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 2009 May-Jun;99(3):247-50.

Vioreanu et al. Heelys and street gliders injuries: a new type of pediatric injury. Pediatrics. 2007 Jun;119(6):e1294-8.

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