Roller skating and inline skating are both well past their primes, but there's a new generation of skates that offers a simpler, more casual skating experience. In place of a full-sized roller boot wrapping your entire foot and ankle, the latest skates slide onto your regular shoes. Models from companies like Cardiff use a basic strap system, but the all-new On Wheelz skates take things strapless, using a step-in system quite like clipless bike pedals.
Developed by French start-up Flaneurz, On Wheelz are simple skate platforms designed to work with casual shoes. The system includes a sneaker with step-in hardware built into the toe and heel sections of the sole, and a platform with toe- and heel-hook hardware. Just like a clipless bicycle pedal, you can quickly step in and lock into the platform, giving your shoes the power to roll and glide. The included release key lets you detach your shoes in seconds.
Flaneurz explains that the system is designed to maintain walking comfort and prevent wear on the step-in hardware. The skates include four wheels and a front brake.
In a world fascinated by lightweight urban mobility, On Wheelz seem like an interesting option, adding a bit of speed and smoothness to foot commutes. Unlike traditional skates and blades, On Wheelz are compact and lightweight, removing instantly and sliding easily into a backpack or desk drawer. Skating pavement isn't for everyone, but we could see these appealing to those that like the idea of skating for recreation and/or mobility purposes. Flaneurz highlights them being used for tricks and skate dancing, as well as just point-to-point skating.
On Wheelz seem like a fun option for casual roller skating, but they're not cheap. Skates as simple as these seem like they should cost less than full inline or roller skates, or at least price in competitively with the lower end of the market. But with a starting price of €250 (US$280), On Wheelz cost more than double what you might expect to spend on a set of entry-level skates – and that's a claimed 40 percent "super early bird" discount. You do get a pair of sneakers, too, but it still seems expensive.
Part of the reason for the pricing is that Flaneurz does not offer a DIY hardware kit. You either have to purchase new sneakers from its available line or send in your own (brand new) shoes and have the company install the hardware.
"In order to use the product On Wheelz, shoes need to be modified at the sole so that they can be attached to the platform," the company explains on its Kickstarter campaign. "Since Flaneurz is the only one able to modify the shoe correctly to match the platform, it is impossible to only buy one part of the product."
Another issue with the design is the reliance on an external release key. Flaneurz says it uses the key to prevent accidental release, but what happens if you lose or forget the key while out and about? Built-in release mechanisms have worked just fine for clipless bike pedals and step-in snowboard bindings, and seem like a better choice here.
High costs and potential design flaws aside, it seems like there's a market for step-in sneaker skates. The On Wheelz design has proven a success on Kickstarter and is now closing in on double its goal at more than $60,000. If you want to be a part of that market, you can become an early bird buyer by making a pledge over on Kickstarter. Note that the lowest pledge levels have sold out, but you can preorder at €325 ($360) for the send-your-own-shoe package or €340 ($380) for the sneakers-included version. If all goes according to plan, deliveries will begin later this year.
The video below provides a closer look at the On Wheelz system.