Bouncing Across the Finish Line

In the early 1990s, Swiss engineer and aging runner Denis Naville faced knee problems. Frustrated at being unable to run pain-free, he designed Kangoo Jumps boots so he could run with reduced joint impact.The first pair was introduced at a tradeshow in Paris in 1994, and Kangooers began bouncing across Europe and South America. With rollerblade-like boots set atop a spring sandwiched between two shells, Kangoo Jumps have seen success in choreographed fitness classes. Now runners of all ages and abilities in Colorado are discovering the benefits as well.

“If you see someone in Kangoo boots, and you say, ‘Oh that’s silly,’” says Deanna Adrey, Olympic Trials Marathoner, “I want to tell you that it’s hard, and takes a lot of energy. You run three miles in the Kangoos and it’s like running five or six without them.”

Ardrey, age 31, a former strength coach for the CU cross-country and track team, taught Kangoo classes as a personal trainer, and sometimes uses them for her second run of the day to cross-train and reduce impact for long distances.

When wearing Kangoos, a runner expends energy in a downward motion like on a trampoline, which compresses the spring, creating rebound and cushioning the joint impact.

“Any activity or exercise that you can do in regular sneakers,” Ardrey continues, “If you do it in Kangoos, it lessens the impact on your joints by roughly 60-80%. Kangoo is great cross-training for running. The boots allow me to do high mileage and still get the same benefits.”

Ardrey thinks the increasing popularity of Kangoos dovetails with the shift from minimalism to maximalism in running shoes.

“The barefoot minimalism trend only lasted a few years because people got injured and were less comfortable,” she says. “There was a lot of stress on the Achilles and the calf muscles. Now with the HOKA and the Altra which are built up really high, and Kangoo Jumps, a lot of folks with issues can run without pain.”

Studies exist to back up Ardrey’s claims. Researchers at the University of Nevada, the Swiss Federation Institute of Technology, and Southern Cross University in Australia conducted studies that determined wearing Kangoo Jumps while jogging significantly reduced impact compared with jogging in running shoes.

Wendy McClure, co-owner of BodyDynamics Studio in Boulder, one of Men’s Journal’s Top 100 Trainers, and one of the first fitness professionals to bring Kangoo Jumps to Colorado believes there are benefits beyond reduced impact.

“It’s hard to replace the feeling of the energy and euphoria of running with anything else,” McClure says. “But running in Kangoo Jumps does. All that goes with a good run – the exertion, the sweat, the labored breathing – you can get this without the pain.

“The other vicarious benefits are an easily elevated heart rate with very little force exerted,” she continues, “And the recruitment of more of the posterior chain muscles that might get left behind in a typical runner’s stride. Kangoo Jumps help balance out the under-utilized muscles like gluts, and spinal extensors, while enhancing scapular stability. We can flush out compensatory patterns and correct them in a neutral environment.”

The boots come in different sizes with a range of shell strengths and spring tensions to fit anyone from five year old kids to 250 pound men. People who are overweight or deconditioned are finding Kangoos easy to use and effective for gaining fitness and losing weight. Runners with joint issues from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs and Winter Park are taking their Kangoos to the trails and even entering short distance events.

“I ran (in Kangoos) in our Fourth of July ‘Run for Independence’ fundraiser a few years ago, and took third place in my age group,” Deanne Bugos of Fraser, age 51, fitness instructor and former marathon runner says. “Kangoos are so fun, and it’s such a great workout!

“When doctors discovered I had a bad case of arthritis in my left knee, I was so sad,” Bugos continues. “In 2011 I was introduced to Kangoo, and now I jump year round if possible. I run between three to ten miles one to three days a week. My legs are tired, but my knee never swells.”

“I love the fact that I can run in them,” agrees Doug Wagner, 62, of Superior, who regularly runs three to five miles in his Kangoos. “Since knee surgery a couple years back, it’s been painful to run on flat surfaces. Running in Kangoo Jumps is strenuous – more so than running.”

Christy Thiel, personal trainer and Kangoo instructor in Fort Collins runs in local 5Ks.

“Runners are prone to overuse injuries,” she says. “It’s a high impact sport, and can be tough on the weak links of the body. I use Kangoos for (client) runners who want to run for a lifetime, and decrease their chances for injuries. It improves VO2 max, decompresses the joints, and recruits more muscles.”

Lynn Massenzio, 51, of Broomfield ran the Graffiti Fun Run 5k with friends in Kangoos last year.

“I switched to Kangoos because I had lumbar spine surgery,” Massenzio says. “I was looking for a low impact yet strenuous activity. I took a Kangoo class and was hooked within the first ten minutes.”

McClure maintains there are benefits for uninjured runners as well.

“Many very active runners are trying to increase their cadence and speed,” she says, “And to do that many times the body has a difficult time handling the impact forces. With Kangoos, they can increase their cadence and have a higher heart rate demand. Great for alternative training day.”

As with any training tool, there are contraindications.

“If there’s a movement that creates pain, don’t repeat it,” McClure cautions. “If you have significant postures issues with your neck, it may be too stressful on the cervical spine.

“It’s the same science as a mini trampoline,” she continues. “If a cancer patient shouldn’t get on a trampoline, they shouldn’t be on boots. It’s not for pregnant ladies.”

Kangoos can also be problematic for people with heart problems, blood pressure issues, recent injuries, or extreme balance challenges. They may not be advisable for long distances. And the Southern Purchasing through a local dealer can also help when it comes time to replace springs, liners and shells on the boots. Cross University study cautions, “Further research work is required to assess the changes in gait pattern that the Kangoo Jumps may produce.”

McClure adds that proper fit is crucial, just like running shoes.

“Be sure you are fitted properly before purchasing them so your spring load is appropriate for your weight, height, strength, and your purpose of use,” McClure advises.

Whether jogging solo, jumping in a class, or running with a group, Kangoos seem to be most popular with those who can no longer move their bodies the way they used to.

“I ran into my early 50s and had to stop due to wear and tear on my knees,” says Austin Murr, 60, who came to Kangoos through the Denver Athletic Club’s program. “When I found the Kangoo Jumps, I thought it would be a great substitute for running. This proved to be true.

“I can’t go as far or as fast because the rebounding fatigues the entire body more quickly than running,” he continues, “But it allows me to be out in the open air on beautiful days which I had missed. Add in tunes, and it is Nirvana.”