Take a good look at my new torture devices.

Hello. My name is Basketbawful, and I can't jump.

No, seriously. I couldn't jump over pebble. (I mean, like, a really tiny one.) I couldn't hop over a nickle. (Even if I was strapped to a rocket, Wile E. Coyote-style.) I couldn't vault two sheets of paper. (I could make it over one sheet...maybe.) My vertical leap isn't measured in seconds, it's measured in Planck time. I am bound to the ground. I have been diagnosed with a terminal case of White Man's Disease.

The question is: What am I going to do about it? Or, perhaps more accurately, can I do anything about it? Well, it's time to find out.

About a year ago, I wrote a post about plyometric jumpsoles. After several seconds of rigorous speculation that included less empirical research than I typically use to select a paper clip, I boldly concluded that the jumpsoles were a useless waste of money. Basically, I felt as though they were about as likely to bring your great grandmother back from the dead as they were to help you jump higher. In response to that post, a reader named Chris issued the following polite (but serious) challenge: "I think Basketbawful should give them a shot if he wants to offer more valuable criticism." He even offered to let me borrow his relatively unused pair of Strength Shoes (pictured above).

Brave explorer of the unknown that I am, I immediately accepted the challenge, meeting up with Chris in downtown Chicago to pick up the Strength Shoes and an instructional video. I then did absolutely nothing with them. There were reasons, of course. Mostly a series of ticky-tac injuries to my feet, ankles and back, all of which happened while playing pickup ball. But I'm completely healthy right now, so there's no reason not to finally give this thing a go.

In that spirit, I sat down last night last night and watched the instructional video. The first 10 minutes or so -- and I'm not kidding about this -- featured a series of increasingly dire warnings about trying to use the Strength Shoes without following the workout plan outlined in the video. By the time I got through them, I felt like my family was being held hostage and would be released only after I successfully completed the prescribed program. I'm not saying that's actually the case, but I'd still like to take this opportunity to say: Mom, if they're letting you read this, I love you.

The video then introduces us to David Houza, who has the comforting title of "President." David explains the basic concept of the Strength Shoes: They make the calves support 100 percent of the body's weight, forcing both the calves and Achilles tendons to endure a force equal to six times the body's weight upon impact. Amazingly, this will not cause your calves to explode. Rather, it (allegedly) makes the calf muscles and Achilles tendon stretch and strengthen, which "makes any athlete more explosive." (Okay then, maybe they will make your calves explode...)

But wait, there's more! The Strength Shoe workouts can also "increase your anaerobic capacity and your anaerobic power by 500 percent." I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I'm just going to assume that, once I complete the Strength Shoe training program, I will never have to breath human air again.

David doesn't want you to think for one second that you're just jumping around aimlessly on a pair of gimmick clod hoppers. He uses encouraging words (like "biomechanical" and "dynamic resistance") and assures us that the Strength Shoe workout was developed by Steve Watterson, Strength and Conditioning coach for the Tennessee Titans, and some other dude named Mackie Shilstone, who "works with over 650 elite athletes from all professional sports." There's no actual proof of these claims, but hey, David's a "President" and I'm just a regular non-President. I'll take his word for it.

Their are three phases of Strength Shoe workouts: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Obviously, I (probably wisely) chose to start at the Beginner level. Each workout starts with a series of basic stretches that anybody who does anything even remotely athletic should already be doing (but you probably aren't, are you?).

I won't bother to go through each of the individual exercises, but I will tell you that only one of them had anything to do with jumping. The other exercises are intended to promote speed and agility, and one of them even requires you to kick your own butt. (No, seriously.) Unfortunately, the workout also required me to sprint, which meant I had to take the jump shoes outside and run past kids playing and people walking their dogs. So, you know, I got to feel like a damn fool. But at least I'm a fool on his way to explosive athleticism.

So I'm one day into the Beginner level program, which lasts four weeks (assuming I do the workout three days per week, with 24 hours of recovery between each workout). My lower back is a little sore and my calves are pretty stiff. I cannot, as far as I can tell, jump any higher today than I could yesterday. But that's to be expected. I doubt I'll be dunking before, say, the third or fourth workout.

Weekly updates to come.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
This reminds me of that episode of Seinfeld where George partners with Jimmy to sell these kinds of shoes.

Blogger Unknown said...
I bought a pair of those, and was dreaming of dunking glory. I made it through the beginner program, but to get to the advanced program you need those boxes to do the box jumping. I figure that if you did the box jumping lunges etc without the shoes you would show improvement and not look like an idiot. My gym didn't have the boxes, so the shoes went to the basement and sit in a storage box. Now I just laugh any time I see someone training with them.

The one bonus thing was that people at my gym would ask me if I was training for something specific, like a tournament, or a sprint. that was kind of fun. Other than that save your money, and do plyometric excersices.

Blogger Unknown said...
Growing up in Phoenix, I lived in the avenues, which is code for, "we were poor as shit". One of my best friends growing up was equally poor but heard of these shoes. Since he obviously couldn't afford the shoes, he bought some large sized female high heel shoes from a Goodwill and walked around his house in those all the time. He was the joke of the neighborhood for a full year, until he was dunking on us in 10th grade.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
show us a before and after picture of your calves LOL maybe they'll grow to like 5X the current size

Blogger ChrisH said...
Goodluck with your impending skywalking. i wish i had known this was going up so i could post a ridiculous pic on my profile sooner. lookout fame, here i come.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
When I was in high school I contemplated buying these shoes, but they cost too much and I was too skeptical. There was a female player who actually had a pair of these, but I don't know if they did anything for her. I do know she never came close to even being able to touch the rim. Can't wait to see if they actually work.

Blogger Unknown said...
OK, so a friend of mine and I did the shoes in the summer of 1993. He bought his pair, mine were given to me through a happy coincidence in shoe size and the stealthy vindictiveness of a varsity athlete friend ("Oh, you want to try the shoes, huh? Well, I happen to have some...")

We did the program: the sprints, the stairs, the cones, the duck walk (our personal favorite) - my friend even had some custom boxes made which we used to do the box jumps.

At the end of the entire training regimen, which we did to the letter, there was a marked improvement in the strength and conditioning of our legs (we joked we could duck walk all day), but we only got an inch or two net gain in hops.

As a post-note, the following summer another hardwood friend of ours provided us with a regimen based on jumping rope, "explosive" leaping, scissor jumps, and stairs that yielded about 6" - enough for me to be able to dunk, despite my enduring white-man's disease.

As for the shoes - I passed them on to another sucker with the same sly wink with which they were given to me.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
This is cool. Stick to it and don't miss a single workout. I can't WAIT to hear your results.

Don't forget: exercise AND nutrition. After your workouts, WITHIN 30 MINUTES you need to consume proteins and complex carbohydrates (read: NOT simple sugars) so that your body can repair and rebuild the muscle tissues that you break down during exercise.

I recommend a whey protein powder, just mix it with water and slam it after you workout, maybe have a banana or two as well. Other than that just eat normally. Ok.. strike that. Try and eat healthy for a change.

Of course, anyone who does anything even remotely athletic should already be doing this, but you don't, do you? J

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I was just fortunate enough to be born without whiteman's disease. Oh, and I'm white by the way.

Blogger Jim in KFalls said...
This is off topic, but I think you should add a new Tag Category to the blog called "Ways to get suspended" - with an inaugural entry of: This ESPN Article

Of things to do on your first day on the job, I don't think smuggling dope into the orientation meeting makes the top 10 list.

Blogger KNEE JERK NBA said...
Steroids and beer work for me.

Or you can try MJ's method: cheating on your wife and gambling.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
FYI, the biggest basketball star to ever come out of the town where I grew up, Watertown, South Dakota, was Jason Sutherland.

Sutherland had a pretty good college career for Missouri.

He was also an amazing dunker, especially because he was not that tall (6-1) and he was white. You can even see some of his dunks on Youtube. I think he also won the Nike high school slam dunk contest.
So, the guy could jump.

Word around town was that the reason he was so vertically proficient was that his dad made him run around in weight shoes like the ones you are using starting in about 6th or 7th grade. Don't know if its true or not, but if so, the shoes definitely helped his hops.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
these shoes are not as good as doing plain plyometrics and jumping drills. A lot of the stuff long jumpers do would help your hops.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You're going to look like Popeye doing handstands. Auk auk auk auk auk....

Blogger Victor said...
(Incoming wall of text.)

Those shoes look scary. Time to ruptured an achilles?

For the record, butt kicks, as stupid as they look, are a good dynamic stretch. Here's a link.

"WITHIN 30 MINUTES you need to consume proteins and complex carbohydrates (read: NOT simple sugars)"

Replace complex carbs with simple carbs and you're absolutely right. The only time sugar is good for you is after a workout, when your muscles are starving. The insulin spike from the sugar is beneficial after a workout. Eating whole foods (complex carbs, meats, fats, fruit, whatever) only slows down that digestion. But you should eat a real meal an hour or two after your shake. Here's a whole article about it.

I read a strongman forum with some amateur strongmen and personal trainers. A handful of them who post regularly give great information. This is what one of them has to say about improving your vertical leap:

"Your calves contribute maybe 5 or 10% to your vertical. The large majority of your vertical power comes from your thighs, glutes, lower back, and shoulders (through arm drive) and the ability to generate power from these muscle groups. It's not enough for them just to be strong, they must be able to produce a large force in a short amount of time. Rather than get these shoes, spend some time doing power cleans, power snatches, olympic pulls, oly-style back squats, and overhead push presses to develop power in these muscle groups. Occasionaly play basketball in a weight vest for more sport-specific training on your vertical."

Makes sense. Learning explosive leg movements will let you jump higher, which is an explosive leg movement.

Bawful, if you're serious about improving your vertical, you can try this 15 week Air Alert program. This is what someone on that forum had to say about it:

"I did it a little while ago when I could barely, barely touch the rim. Now I can easily dunk, one-handed or two, running or just standing under the hoop. It's a long, strenuous process. The only thing that got me through the tough parts was my own mental imaging of me dunking over guys. Good luck."

And here's the program

Never tried it myself, but I've read through it and the exercises look pretty good and the reasoning is sound. They actually talk about proper rest and recovery for the program, which is a big clue that they know what they're doing.

Blogger Victor said...
Oh, and in fairness to the shoes, someone else said this:

"I have a pair and yes, they do work, but they aren't magic. Basically it is a high intesity bounding program, and bounding has been shown to raise your vertical, and it did for me. Will it raise your vertical more than the other methods listed, I don't know. If you are saving up for them, I would try the other ones listed first, and if they don't work, then try the shoes."

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I'm just going to assume that, once I complete the Strength Shoe training program, I will never have to breath human air again.


so your saying getting your calves stronger and doing a ton of leg exercises will make you jump higher? Whoever sold me this glazed donut jumping program is a douche then, definitely the wrong kind of dunking going on over here,

Blogger Basketbawful said...
victor -- I appreciate all the information. The glibness in my post notwithstanding, I actually did spend some time researching jump soles. I fully expect to experience, at best, a slight gain. Then I am going to embark on a more well-rounded plyo program with the help of a personal see if this white boy will ever be able to jump. I may use that Air Alert program as the template. It looks good.

aaron -- Dude, you got hosed. Shoulda tried the powdered donut jumping program.

Blogger m. Alana said...
So what you're saying is, I could jump higher than you. Huh.

Perhaps you should join a modern dance class? Lots of explosive movements and lateral speed involved. My legs have hurt for two straight weeks.

Blogger Nugg Doctor said...
I'll make this quick. I'm 5'9" (was actually about 5'7" in high school) and couldn't touch the glass my sophmore year. I spent the next summer shooting, dribbling, and playing "controlled" games (controlled just meaning paying extra attention to each other's feet to make sure we didn't break our ankles) of 1-on-1 with a fellow member of the team and by that next fall my high school coach couldn't believe that it was me hanging from the rim after few dunks.

That next season, with the help of the weight room, I started on varsity by the end of the year.

Now, the dunks were not "Spud Webb" spectacular, and in fact were mostly just open floor slams, but those shoes did wonders for my ability to finish around the trees in the middle.

Here's the bottom line: Practice basketball-specific moves in these shoes like a quick second up and they really do work! Jumping up onto a box is only good if you want to be great at jumping up on a box. Shoot, rebound, work on your first step in the shoes and when you take them off you'll probably see a difference. I know I gained about 8-10".

Anonymous Anonymous said...
This is a great feature.

PS Next up? The penis growth pills in the back of The Source. I can only assume they work. Science.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
have you ever tried air-alert? worked for me....

Blogger anonymousnupe said...
I had these around 1988 or so, the white ones. Worked my butt off. I had already been a pretty good athlete (track, hoops, football), but wanted to keep stompin' with the big (younger) dawgs and maybe take my game to another level. I really can't remember whether the shoes did anything for me or not. They did make me look kinda cool down at the field. The high school football and soccer guys would be down there working out and pointing at me going through my drills (like I knew what I was doin'). Years later, in '97, I did, in fact, blow out my achilles. I have no idea whether there's any correlation, but I always wanted to survey everybody who ever used these shoes to see whether they suffered similar fates.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh snap. exactly the same thing happened to me, except your 1988 is my 1997 and your 1997 is my 2008.

but i did have a nice increase in my vertical.

Blogger anonymousnupe said...
I smell a class action law suit, dumbgenius. What's the statute of limitations on ruptured tendons?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The scientist in me cannot help but ask: are the benefits of training with this shoe any different than those you'd get from a normal focused and disciplined workout program? Sort of like those studies showing that various "diets" are only as good as the exercise programs that go with them?

I did a lot of plyometrics training for soccer, and it definitely increased speed and leaping ability (the trainers quantified it).

Anonymous Anonymous said...
definitely keep us posted.. I bought a program (no shoes included) when I was in high school (now more than 10 years ago) and tried to follow it... never dunked... i could always grab the rim, but never past that.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
wormboy -- Everything I've read say "no," plyo shoes don't provide any better results than a proper, well-rounded plyo program. But I'm going to test it out...and then, afterward, I'm going to try a well-rounded program.

milaz -- I definitely will.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
a lot of people say the air-alert program works ...
however, i hear that it's a little too intense,
& it doesn't leave enough time for recovery.

best things to do ...
1) deadlifts
2) squats
3) plyomoetrics
(some plyo exercises HERE )

it's ALL about working out the HAMSTRINGS.
(interesting article HERE )

Good Luck =)