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FITNESS

Stares will follow the bouncing jogger

August 20, 2007|Janet Cromley | Times Staff Writer

On Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach, a lone jogger appears to defy the laws of physics, soaring high into the air with each step like an amped-up gazelle. Motorists slow down to stop and gawk.

In the world of novelty sports shoes, Kangoo Jumps may take the cake.

Ski boot-like shoe-things with circular springs on the soles, the shoes pop the jogger into the air with pogo-like efficiency, then cushion the landing as they pop the jogger back up into the air.

Kangoo Jumps, its maker says, are designed to improve athletic endurance, promote weight loss and protect the joints -- which, curiously, they seem to do. A quick jog down the street will get the heart going and the sweat flowing while leaving the knees seemingly unscathed.

Commercially available since 1999, the shoes are beginning to gain traction in the U.S. and abroad, says Denis Naville, president of Switzerland-based RDM sarl, which makes Kangoo Jumps.

Although the company won't release sales figures, Naville says sales are increasing at a rate of about 100% a year. The shoes are selling particularly well in Southern California, Florida, North Carolina, New York and Texas. In the Chicago area they've been incorporated into aerobics classes at two Crunch Fitness centers.

Kangoo Jumps were first introduced at a trade fair in Paris in 1994 and have been in development since then. ("The Swiss are not known for doing things fast," Naville says cheerfully.)

Naville is bullish on the shoes' future. Given the growing obesity problem, he says, "ultimately every household in the states and elsewhere will have a good reason to own at least one pair."

"Everybody thinks 'Oh they're going to fall,' " he adds. "Nobody ever falls. You have to be really extraordinarily clumsy to fall."

The biggest problem with Kangoo Jumps appears to be the humiliation factor. I was met with howls of laughter from bystanders while testing the shoes, including from two men strolling down Ocean Boulevard in matching Crocodile Dundee outfits. When I asked them if they would consider trying the shoes, they said, "No way. Too weird."

Kangoo Jumps are available in several styles for $169 to $289 at www.kangoojumps.com. If that price makes you balk, there's a cheaper version of the shoe called Air Kicks, manufactured for GeoSpace.

Air Kicks utilize similar technology to Kangoo Jumps but are designed to slip over a sports shoe. Overall, the shoes appear to have slightly less ankle stability than Kangoo Jumps but deliver nearly the same pogo-stick sensation.

Air Kicks, which start at $129.99, and a kids' version, called Kickaroos, for $99.99, are available online at www .air-kicks .com.

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