The Kangoo Jumps boot resembles a slim, sleek hard-shell inline skate, with two ratchet-and-flip closures on each boot. They're surprisingly sexy -- until you get to the oval of heavy-duty leaf springs bolted to the bottom. The modest tread, fixed to the bottom of the lower spring, looks like a Lego toy.
Mario Godiva Green, a master trainer and international presenter for Kangoo Jumps, agrees that KJs do look intimidating. "It's one of the biggest barriers we face in growing the trend, but once people try them, they love them." I was willing to give the space-alien boots a chance, but only after armoring up with a bike helmet, kneepads and wrist protectors first.
The springs on the KJ boots are a little stiff at first; you're supposed to break them in with a short period of concentrated jumping up and down. I scooted out of the car at my favorite trailhead, clutching the grab handle, and took a few tentative hops. Standing still in the KJs is a challenge, because the rounded springs act like an individual wobble-board under each foot. Moving, on the other hand, is easy. Within a few seconds I'd let go of the car and was bouncing around the parking lot like a manic bunny.
Before I knew it, I'd jogged (jumped?) two miles. I didn't mean to; it was just so interesting to bounce along with mini trampolines on my feet, watching peoples' reactions. A runner almost ran off the trail as she turned to shout, "That's freaky!" "Yes, it is!" I hollered back. Others stopped to ask what on earth I had on my feet. If you're ever bored and want a way to meet people, wearing KJs in public is the way to do it.
All told, I spent about three weeks bouncing, twisting and turning in the Kangoo Jumps. The boots are quite comfortable, as long as you don't crank the buckles down too tight (then the top of the boots cut into your shins). The KJs are also surprisingly stable. I tested them on wet and dry pavement, plus on dirt and grass. The only time they slipped was on a slope with a thick covering of fallen leaves. KJs even worked well on snow, as long as I stuck to the packed-down trails.
Overall, my impressions match the Kangoo Jumps health claims. Bouncing around in KJs does feel gentler on my joints than running in regular shoes, yet chugging up a hill in KJs is surprisingly difficult. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself a little sore from hips to shoulders after my first few runs; apparently Kangoo Jumps really do work your core as advertised.
Kangoo Jumps cost about the same as high-end inline skates, starting at $179 for kids or $229 for adults. You'll also need to replace a component of the spring assembly, called T-springs ($24 - $29), after every 50 to 80 hours of use.
Check out Kangoo Jumps in action as Mario Godiva Green leads a Kangoo Jumps/hip-hop dance class.
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