I'm a chronic back pain sufferer who is always on the lookout for new ways to help ease the pain without resorting to drugs. When I was offered the opportunity to test out the Tenevis by Good Feet LaJolla walking shoes (the only shoe approved by the FDA to improve posture and reduce joint impact) I was excited to see what it had to offer. So, I accepted, then I did a little research to learn more about the company. Here's what I found out:
About the LaJolla
While you can feel confident that most athletic shoes have been wear-tested, you can also feel pretty confident that most of them haven't undergone scientific testing by a third party organization. That's what really caught my eye about the LaJolla shoe. As a little bit of a science geek, I was excited to see that Tenevis went to the trouble of having the University of Calgary's Kinesiology Department perform a study comparing the LaJolla cushioning and joint loading (impact) to that of the Nike Dart IV.
At first I wondered whether the Nike Dart IV was an under-whelming competitor to the LaJolla, but a little internet research indicated that most people love the Nike Dart series of running shoes. So...with that confirmed, I went ahead and checked out the study's results...which were kind of amazing:
- The LaJolla showed a 30 to 40 percent reduction in joint movement at the ankles, knees and hips compared to the control shoe
Side note: My inner nerd has to confirm that this is amazing - the more stable the joints remain during exercise, the less likely you are to suffer injury
- The LaJolla was rated as having 127.5% greater cushioning than the comparison shoe
- The LaJolla caused the ground reaction force to be applied more quickly (this is basically the force applied to your foot by the ground when your foot comes in contact with it), which resulted in a reduction of required muscle activity...basically, the LaJolla makes it physically easier to walk!
Side note: If it's physically easier to walk, you should actually be able to walk more with less fatigue!
All in all, these were pretty impressive statistics, so I was ready to try them out for myself.
The LaJolla shoe is a little funny looking. It's built on a sole that's higher off the ground than your average running or walking shoe, but that's because of all the "stuff" it has going on inside. In addition to the basic insole, midsole and outsole, these shoes have a "Balance Bone," "Balance Chip," and "Plantar Support Chip." This "Bone and Chip Technology" takes up a lot of space, but it's also the genius behind the shoe. These pieces work together to help create balance and stability in the feet and joints while reducing impact and enhancing posture during walking.
Fit and comfort
The LaJolla is an incredibly comfortable shoe - both soft and supportive at the same time. I have long, relatively thin feet, so the shoe felt a little wide in the toe box, but not in a bad way, Also, the leather uppers make it a little more difficult (comparatively) to pull the laces tight, but once they're tightened, you don't have to worry about them loosening up!
Side note: One surprising benefit of the LaJolla is that the lift and styling make my extra-large, size 11 feet look small by comparison. I was showing them off at the gym one day and I had an acquaintance say, "So, what size are those - 9s?" I laughed, because I haven't worn a size 9 since I was about 10 years old, but it was nice to know my feel looked less like boats than usual.
The first time I put the shoes on, I spent the afternoon walking around my house, really enjoying their "bounce." The Balance Bone and Chip may do all sorts of cool scientific stuff, but they also add "give" to each step, actually making the act of walking feel more fun.
If you usually wear low-lying socks, you may want to pick up some taller ones to wear with the LaJolla. The LaJolla has a slightly higher ankle support than many running shoes, which could cause rubbing between the shoe and the sock if your socks are too low or too loose. I didn't find this to be a problem except when I wore them with an older pair of socks that was loose around the top. This actually brings up a point applying to all shoes: if you're getting blisters, your socks are as likely to be the culprit as your shoes!
I put the shoes to use immediately for walking my dogs and hitting the gym. They took a little getting used to, because they do change your gait, but I found that my hips and back seemed to ache less after a four or five mile walk than with traditional running shoes. The real test came when I used them for housework. There is nothing that causes me more back pain than vacuuming and mopping, and while I can't claim that wearing the LaJolla prevented the pain completely, I can say that I wasn't laid up for days afterwards. So, that's good!
A couple things to note:
- While some people use the LaJolla for jogging, I personally didn't find them comfortable for that purpose. There are two reasons for this: first, they're heavier and bulkier than traditional running shoes, so each running foot strike felt "clunky;" and, second, when I run, I run on the balls of feet, so the LaJolla's larger heel seemed to "slap" the ground. If you're looking for a walking shoe that will help you transition to running, the LaJolla should work just fine, but if you're looking primarily for a running shoe, this wouldn't be my first choice.
- The LaJolla is a great shoe to wear around the gym and on cardio equipment, but be aware that the extra "give" of the heel can affect exercises that require you to shift your weight into the heel, like squats and deadlifts. This doesn't mean you can't do them, but you might want to back off on the amount of weight you lift the first time you try them out.
- Be careful when wearing the LaJolla while doing plyometric exercises. I found them easy to wear while jumping rope, but more difficult when performing jumps on and off a plyometric box. This is partly due to the extra lift of the sole and partly due to the weight of the shoe - it just changes the "feel" of the jumping exercises. Again, you can still do them, but take it easy when trying and exercise the first time.
The end result
When it comes to walking and hitting the gym, I really enjoy the fit, feel and outcome of the LaJolla. The price of the shoe is a little steep at $160.00, but because you can replace the Bone and Chip technology every three to six months, the shoe itself actually lasts longer than traditional walking shoes. Also, you can't beat the impact reduction and injury prevention-potential! Heck, if the FDA is prepared to qualify them as an orthosis, I figure I can, too!