Field-testing Heelys, the sneakers with wheels.

The language of style.
Aug. 2 2007 7:25 AM

Let's Roll

Field-testing Heelys, the sneakers with wheels.

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My fondness for the Whole Foods experience, though, isn't purely a function of its fast surfaces. Unlike their ancestors the rollerblade and the skateboard, Heelys aren't really designed to get you from one place to another—unless the trip is all downhill, heeling isn't any quicker or easier than walking—or even really for doing tricks. The primary function of Heelys, as I see it, is to make boring activities a little bit less boring.

YouTube, unsurprisingly, has a vast collection of heeling videos, and cycling through them, you can't help but notice how many are shot at the mall—or at Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Target. Watching this footage, I was reminded of all the downtime of childhood, of being dragged along to the supermarket or the department store and left to entertain myself while my parents ran their errands. Those errands would have been a lot more fun if I'd been cutting up some linoleum in my Heelys.

I'm not the only grownup who has discovered the joys of heeling in Whole Foods, but I don't think an adult Heely fad is in the offing. Heelys have neither the sports applications of rollerblades nor the countercultural vibe of skateboards (though this might change if schools keep banning them), which might grant them broad appeal among those of us old enough to have a real set of wheels. Then again, these things can be hard to predict. The greatest use of Heelys that I've come across paired them with the bizarre practice of "ghost riding the whip"—a pastime of Bay-area hip-hoppers wherein you get out of your car while it's still moving and dance on and around it. In this mesmerizing video, a guy heels circles around his pick-up as it rolls, unmanned, through a darkened parking lot. If this catches on, more grownups may yet buy Heelys. You can't ghost ride the whip if you don't have a driver's license.

John Swansburg is Slate's editorial director. Follow him on Twitter.