GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Children sliding around on wheeled sneakers are alarming some people in the Grafenwöhr community, and parents must do more to bring them to heel, Army officials say.

Problems with the wheeled sneakers — the most popular of which are called “Heelys,” after the manufacturer’s name — were kicked around at a town hall meeting in Grafenwöhr last week.

Sgt. 1st Class Monica Primus berated officials at the meeting for not doing enough to deal with the issue.

“Why isn’t this issue being addressed? I’m sick and tired of nearly being run over by kids on Heelys in the [post exchange],” she said, adding that she’s researched the shoe skates at their official Web site,

Heelys are sports shoes just like rollerblades, and kids who use them should wear pads and a helmet, “… the same as someone in any other kind of wheeled vehicle,” Primus told the meeting.

U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr commander Col. Brian Boyle said children must wear helmets when they are using Heelys or similar devices such as skateboards. Boyle said he didn’t want to be the guy standing in the commissary telling the same five kids not to skateboard without a helmet.

People often ask why German nationals are allowed to ride bicycles on post without helmets, he said.

German law doesn’t require helmets. But most German children do wear them when they ride bikes, and a helmet law for adults will probably be introduced in the near future, Boyle said.

Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. John Burns told the meeting that officials prefer parents to get their kids to wear helmets when they are riding Heelys or bikes. Burns said he recently saw a good example of a mother telling her child not to ride Heelys in the commissary.

“The problem is that the (other) parents are not stepping up,” he said.

Injuries from roller shoes such as Heelys contributed to about 1,600 emergency room visits in 2006, officials with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said last June.

Doctors in various countries have reported treating cracked skulls, broken wrists, arms and ankles and dislocated elbows in kids injured wearing wheeled shoes. But officials with Carrollton, Texas-based Heelys Inc., say wheeling around in the shoes is less dangerous than other sports such as inline skating.

author picture
Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now