Tuesday, July 20, 2004

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Lending Support to Sore Soles

Lending Support to Sore Soles: "A spring in your step is one thing. A spring in your shoe is another. But the makers of the Z-Coil shoe promise that their curious-looking footwear brings immediate relief from heel spurs, arthritis pain and other ailments that dog people's dogs.

With an exposed steel spring glued to the heel, Z-Coil shoes are designed to provide extreme cushioning. In addition to the spring, Z-Coils contain a plate system dubbed the Z-orthotic, which can be adjusted to correct for gait problems such as overpronation, which occurs when people roll their feet inward as they walk. Z-Coil Footwear says this combination of stability and shock absorption not only eases pain but also helps heal and prevent nagging conditions such as plantar fasciitis, which affects the arch.

An estimated 75% of Americans will experience foot problems at some time in their lives, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association, and millions suffer from knee, ankle and back ailments. Z-Coils are billed as a therapeutic solution. Available in several models, including running sneakers, hiking boots and clogs, they're sold only at authorized dealers, and the price ranges from $150 to $260 per pair.

The quirky footwear was born in the 1980s, when inventor Al Gallegos, a heavy runner at the time, had a butcher slice apart his shoes so he could glue a spring inside to relieve his chronic heel pain. After years of research and testing, his company started retailing the Z-Coils in 2000 and expects to sell 130,000 pairs in fiscal year 2004.

Testimonials from satisfied customers are posted on the zcoil.com Web site -- but the company also points to evidence from independent tests. In 2001, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories found that a Z-Coil shoe offered 50% more heel cushioning and more than 100% more toe cushioning than an unnamed, high-end running shoe. A separate analysis by Los Alamos National Laboratory had similar results and concluded the Z-Coil spring returns energy to the foot, instead of just absorbing impact. But neither test asked injury sufferers whether Z-Coils offer better pain relief, and no studies have investigated whether the shoes promote healing."


By JUSTIN MATLICK
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
June 1, 2004; Page D4
ACHES & CLAIMS
DOW JONES REPRINTS

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