What's it all about?
Chung Shi shoes are ordinary(ish)-looking trainers that purport to give you a serious back, leg and stomach workout as you stroll merrily down the street. They can be worn anywhere, any time, making a speedy transformation into a toned superhero easier to fit into your daily routine.
What claims do they make?
The shoes are supposed to 'triple' the effect of normal walking by using a built-in Pilates system - essentially a central reflexology bar and a 15-degree curved sole. However, this dubious claim seems to rely on some dodgy maths: since when did upper legs working 57% harder plus lower legs working 200% harder result in the whole leg working 257% harder?
The design is intended to improve posture and core stability and encourage the use of neglected muscle groups. Similar to a Pilates class, Chung Shi shoes target unused muscles in the lower back and core area. Walking in the shoes pulls in these muscles, lengthening the body into a tall, upright posture.
Prolonged use is said to reduce cellulite and varicose veins by increasing circulation. The heel to toe action created by the reflexology bar and rolling ramp massages the sole and increases circulation, apparently stimulating the gut area (hmm).
What do they look like?
Clunky, black and slightly orthopedic in appearance, the model I tested was a little ugly, especially for the summer. However, there are other designs - a white open-toed sandal for one - which are more pleasing to the eye. But if you wouldn't be seen dead in anything other than Manolo Blahniks, this is not the product for you.
How hard is it?
It's not hard. The idea is to begin with 30 minutes of wear per day and build up from there. They are awkward to walk in, but it's not exactly a heart-pumping, sweat-dripping workout (although one courageous soul is now using Chung Shi shoes for jogging). The sole of the shoe is a mere inch-and-a-half high, but for someone who lives in standard trainers and pumps, it feels like being on stilts. The other thing to be aware of is your sea legs - clunking along, wobbling from side to side, you feel much like Captain Jack Sparrow after three years at sea.
Can you feel a difference?
Yes, during the very first wear I noticed that my calves, thighs and stomach were aching slightly from muscle fatigue and that I was standing taller (when not falling over). When it came to the reflexology claims, however, results weren't so clear cut. To say it helped my gut in any way would be a lie and the overworked soles of my feet didn't receive the massage they were hoping for. If I put aside my cynicism, though, this could be down to the fact that I only used the Chung Shi shoes for a week. Maybe there were unforeseen benefits waiting for me around the corner.
Who is it good for?
People who find it hard to fit an exercise session into their daily routine (I wore mine to and from work), and those who are new to exercise and need a gentle start. Chung Shi are also suitable for people recovering from sports injuries or older users who are unable to walk long distances, as the impact on the ankle and knee joints is reduced. Anyone suffering with back pain from standing or sitting for long periods should also benefit from posture improvement.
Best avoided if …
It's rush hour. Packed trains and Chung Shi shoes do not mix - unless you enjoy emulating an excitable dog shoving its muzzle into any available orifice.
Where can I buy them?
Visit ljmsports.co.uk to find a retailer near you, or call 01675 430115.