Roller Shoes

Roller shoes rely on wheels that are housed within the heel of a normal shoe. By shifting
their weight to the heel of the shoe, heelers are able to smoothly transition from a walk or run
into coasting. This type of skating is referred to as heeling, and at first glance it appears as
if the heeler is simply gliding along without a care in the world and very little physical
effort involved. If you’ve seen this, you might have assumed that these roller shoes are skates
for the lazy, but upon a closer inspection, you will come to realize that there is a lot more to
these skate shoes than just a casual roll down the sidewalk.

When I bought my first pair, I envisioned myself gliding along like I had seen the kids in my
local mall do a million times. The last experience I had with skating at all was nearly twenty
years ago. A boy in that age range during the late 80s, I owned a second rate skateboard and a
longing for half-pipes and “freestyling.” Even then, I never was that good at it, but it
certainly preoccupied a lot of my free time and did provide me with some sort of exercise. As I
slipped on my first pair of roller shoes, I assumed that it was something that would come back
to me, just like riding a bike (or my old skateboard) as the saying goes. This was not true. The
first step I took landed me flat on the pavement and certainly wasn’t the graceful glide I had
intended. With a deep breath and a willingness to learn, I stood up again and gave it another
shot. After making a few steps, I found that controlling my back foot wasn’t so hard, but my
front foot found it amusing to roll me into an awkward splits time and time again. The more I
practiced, the more I began to realize that heeling involved learning how to walk first. With
these roller shoes on, a person has to retrain the body to actually walk on wheels. This is not
any easy task.

After the first few hours on these skate shoes, I made several observations. For starters, I
wasn’t going to be good at this any time soon. Secondly, my heels hurt from the amount of
pressure that was constantly being placed there to roll. I also noticed that my inner thighs
were starting to burn and within a few days, it was apparent that I had worked these muscles
more than I had in quite sometime. The soreness was a result of keeping my balance and forcing
my feet to stay one in front of the other without doing the splits again. As the week passed, I
began to notice that my calf and leg muscles were sore as well. Roller shoes are typically
heavier than normal sneakers, adding in the extra weight of the wheel. It was like wearing ankle
weights and was something my muscles needed to gain strength. As the weeks turned to months and
my heeling improved, my body adjusted as well. Walking around in normal shoes feels strange without the added weight and constant mental and physical focus on my balance.