The first bouncy step in a pair of Kangoo Jumps leaves people feeling like they’ll topple over for sure.
The Rollerblade-looking boots are mounted on top of a pair of elliptical-shaped springs. Too much of a step, and you’ll go bounding off balance. Too little, and you’ll stumble.
But after a minute, the legs adjust and you find your balance. Soon, you’re launching into the air with each step.
Kangoo Jumps has become a growing trend for fitness buffs throughout Indiana and the country. Using specially designed footwear that look like a cross between in-line skates and moonshoes, people are able to reduce the strain on their knees, ankles and feet while working more of the entire body.
The training may seem foreign at first. But after a few bounces, supporters have been jumping at the chance.
“Everyone remembers being a kid and jumping on the trampoline. It’s the same concept,” said Michelle Davis, an Indianapolis-based Kangoo Jumps instructor. “Every cell in your body, it’s going up and going down. You’re constantly moving, and you’re working on your core balance.”
The concept behind Kangoo Jumps was popular in Eastern Europe in the 1920s. It was re-created by a Swiss engineer in 1998 and has grown into a worldwide fitness trend since then.
The shoes are equipped with an elliptical, spring-like device on the bottom that can flex and snap back with each step.
“Every step feels like you’re walking on a very small trampoline,” Davis said.
Davis was introduced to Kangoo Jumps by Raj Donald, the founder of the Kangoo Club of Indiana.
A longtime runner and fitness buff, she was hesitant to try it. She was more interested in boot camp classes than a funky pair of spring shoes.
But finally, Donald persuaded her to put them on. A few times up and down the sidewalk, she felt great and wanted to try a class. The class grew into many, and eventually Davis wanted to become a certified trainer herself.
The key is that adding the spring mechanisms to the bottom of the shoes cuts down the jarring sensation a runner or exerciser feels with each step.
Advocates point out that not only do Kangoo Jumps let people work out without pain but also make workouts more efficient, thus shorter.
“It breaks down the workout time by half. People who are limited on time, a 15-minute workout in these is the same as a 30-minute aerobic workout normally,” Davis said.
Research on the effects of Kangoo Jumps is limited. But the Sports Medicine Council of British Columbia, a Canadian organization, tested the effects of the shoes on 25 novice runners training for a 10K race.
Over the course of 12 weeks, the subjects walked and ran for anywhere from 20 to 65 minutes. Half of the group wore the Kangoo Jumps.
During training, none of the Kangoo Jumps group experienced injuries in training. Half of those who did not wear the shoes had ankle pains, knee aches and plantar fascitis.
According to the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit fitness organization, the shoes are useful at reducing wear on the joints while infusing workouts with a little more entertainment.
“You’re jumping around and having a good time. You can’t take yourself too seriously if you’re jumping around on these boots,” said Laura Seidensticker, a personal trainer and Kangoo class instructor. “But it’s also a really good workout. I’ve been in fitness for a long time; to get a full body workout, you’d have to work for a lot longer.”
Seidensticker first learned about Kangoo Jumps a few years ago. She started running with the boots with Davis and became certified to teach classes.
As a personal trainer, Seidensticker focuses her teaching on strength training. Standing in on the Kangoo Jumps, she leads participants through bicep curls, shoulder presses and squats.
The advantage of the boots is that it combines benefits of different workouts into one.
“You get cardio, you get weight-bearing exercises, and you’re building core strength for everyday benefit,” she said. “Core strength is so important in everything — sports, daily movements, preventing back pains and injury.”
Davis and Seidensticker are both part of the Kangoo Club of Indianapolis North. They conduct sessions throughout the northside, renting shoes to interested people looking for a different type of workout.
People can run, walk or do aerobic exercise in the shoes.
The rebounding motion builds endurance as your body not only has to stabilize with each step, changing from landing to launch.
The elliptical blades have a wide base and tread to keep from slipping. Rarely does someone fall, Davis said.
She offers first classes for free, just to give people the chance to get used to it without sinking any money.
“It’s not a scary thing. You take it at your own level. You can walk, you can take a class, you can move side-to-side with no bounce,” Davis said. “Anybody can put them on.”