By Dr. Roman Burk
Over the last 15 years or so, shoes with wheels (called “heelies”) have been extremely popular among kids and teens. Though the initial craze has died down some, this is still a shoe that kids love to wear.
But you’re probably wondering; are shoes with wheels in the heels really a good idea? What are the long-term effects on your child’s feet? Read on for my advice on this foot fashion fad before you open your wallet.
What are Wheeled Shoes?
Heelys are shoes with wheels in their heels. There have been a few knock off brands, but Heelys is the top producer, and they are a big business. They are available in bright, attention-grabbing colors, look awesome, and allow the wearer to walk, run or glide over any paved surface. You can even search YouTube and find tons of videos of kids doing some impressive tricks in them.
Are They Safe?
Research suggests that nearly 50 in every 100,000 people wearing shoes with wheels will get injured. The study concluded that around 70 percent of injuries occurred when the child had worn the shoe less than five times- while they were still learning to balance in the shoes. Though the most common injuries appeared to be to the wrists, elbows, and head; foot and ankle injuries did occur. We recommend that children should wear safety gear like a helmet, wrist guards, and shin pads when wearing these shoes because they are just as dangerous as skating, riding a bike or scooter, or skateboarding.
Another concern is that wheeled shoes can cause a change in your child’s natural gait. In order to walk in them, the wearer must shift their weight to the front foot. When they do this their knee has to bend more, and they could wind up with knee, ankle, or Achilles pain as a result. Because of this you are supposed to remove the wheel when you want to walk instead of skate, but most people do not.
Lastly, it’s been shown that regular use of these shoes could influence the child’s physical development. Many children are trying to fit into wheeled shoes that they have outgrown -as the cost of a pair does not come cheap. Doing this for a prolonged period of time could potentially cause long-term foot problems.
My Advice about Wheeled Shoes
Get the shoes, enjoy them, but don’t wear them daily, and don’t wear them for walking around. These are not meant to be your child’s primary pair of shoes. Also, think of them as you would a pair of skates, and wear proper protective gear. A few hours a week playing around in them should be just fine. Get rid of the shoes once your child has outgrown them and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to remove the wheel for walking to avoid creating any future foot and ankle problems.
If your child is experiencing foot or ankle pain, wheeled shoe related or not, please give us a call. Our foot and ankle care doctors and surgeons are board-certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery and are members of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons and the American Podiatric Medical Association. Call (208) 855-5955 or request an appointment online.