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"What kind of shoes are those? They're freakin' cool!" This type of sentence usually precedes the name Heelys. These unique "Heels with wheels" are a pop culture phenomenon, and come from meager beginnings.
Heelys Roller Shoes were first created and sold by Roger Adams in 2000. His idea for the one-wheeled running shoes began in 1998 when he was on vacation in Huntington Beach. He was watching kids skate up and down the streets on their inline skates and had an idea of a shoe that could roll on command by just shifting your body weight.
The first pair of Heelys were created very simply. Adams says, “I cut up a pair of Nike running shoes, taking a hot butter knife and cutting out the heels. Then I ran a rod through the heel, and used one of the wheeled bearings that come on skateboards.” Since then, kids have been seen in malls, playgrounds and sidewalks "heeling" as a new form of transport. In just the first year, 1.25 million pairs of Heelys were sold.
Heelys are now being sold in 30 different countries and have even been worn by celebrities. Usher has worn them on stage as part of his dance routines and several pairs have even been made in size 22 for NBA star Shaquille O'Neal.
Skating on Heelys or "heeling", as it is called, has become a new action sport for some, similar to skateboarding. Numerous tricks have been established and named. There are a wide array of jumps, grabs and spins that heelers attempt while riding. Some Heelys come equipped with a grind plate on the bottom of the shoe for grinding on rails, sidewalks and benches. If you have yet to see Heelys in action, it won't be much longer as roller shoes seep into the broader culture and become the "next step in personal mobility."