A wheel in the heel has teens on a roll

By Marcie Miller

Herald Writer

MARYSVILLE — Do you know what Heelys are?

Careful, your answer will peg your age as surely as the query "Who is Marilyn Manson?"

When 15-year-old Joe Jimicum of Marysville took his mother, Amy Nyblod, to Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood two weeks ago, she got a quick lesson in the latest thing on the "gotta have it" teen list.

"I didn’t know what they were," Nyblod said.

Joe clued her in that Heelys look like athletic shoes, but the secret, and the appeal, is the recessed wheel in the heel.

By tipping back on the heels, they transform from street shoes to wheeled wonders, enabling the wearer to glide with ease at speeds approaching those of a skateboard.

Although the wheel extends slightly below the heel of the shoe, it can be removed.

Joe was already into skateboarding and Rollerblading, and when he saw a kid wearing them at Alderwood Mall, he knew he had to have them.

Joe found Heelys at Journeys in the mall, but at around $100 they are not cheap.

"I think it was a good investment," Nyblod said. "They seem to be well-made shoes, and he really enjoys them."

"My mom is great," Joe said. "She’s been really cool about them."

Joe has plans to wear his Heelys to Marysville-Pilchuck High School. He envisions casually walking past hall monitors and security guards in his clunky new sneakers, then when the coast is clear he will lean back and glide to his locker.

Great plan. One problem.

"We don’t allow wheeled devices of any kind at school," principal Peggy Ellis said.

In the eyes of most school officials, a wheel is a wheel and the answer is no.

"It’s not something we give kids a choice on," Ellis said.

Ellis had not personally heard of Heelys, and she is not alone. Heelys are a relatively new phenomenon, having been on the market less than a year.

The innovative footwear was invented by Roger Adams, who created the prototype in his garage with input from neighbor kids. "I really didn’t want to reinvent the roller skate or the Rollerblade," he said. Instead, he envisioned a shoe that would not only walk, run and jump, but also roll, spin and skid.

Heeling Sports Ltd. of Carrolton, Texas, debuted 7,500 pairs of Heelys last Christmas, and they were an instant hit. Company CEO Mike Staffaroni said they have sold "hundreds of thousands of pairs" since then. They expect to sell more than 600,000 by the end of the year.

Still, the shoes are news to many school administrators in Snohomish County.

Jim McNally, principal at Evergreen Middle School in Everett, said he had not heard of them before, but said the school would review the safety issues of wearing them.

"We’ll probably be doing that in a few days," he said. "Our priority is to make sure all the kids are safe."

He said Heelys would probably fit in the category with skateboards and Rollerblades, which are not allowed on school property.

Lake Stevens Principal Pam Sturgeon hadn’t heard of them, either, but agreed they would fit the banned wheeled device category.

"If they were used as a shoe, that would be OK, but not as wheeled," she said. "We would expect kids to use the right mode for safety reasons."

Marysville Middle School Principal Pete Lundberg said they would also ban the shoes, but not just for safety reasons.

"Middle school kids would not be able to resist the temptation to roll, especially in the hallways."

Joe concedes he may pop out the wheels at school if the choice is not wearing his Heelys at all.

"I wear them everywhere I go," he said.

So who is Marilyn Manson? Ask a teen-ager. — The Associated Press contributed to this report.

You can call Herald Writer Marcie Miller at 425-339-3292

or send e-mail to mmiller@heraldnet.com.

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