Harry and The Wobblers

Should you happen to see me lurching unsteadily down the street, no, I haven’t been drinking, I’m simply wearing The Wobblers.

The Wobblers are a pair of walking shoes (bygone eras called them “tennis shoes”) guaranteed to strengthen your legs, caress your feet, relieve your aching back, improve your sense of balance, fix your posture and just generally do wonderful things to your anatomy.

They were made by a company I’ve never heard of, MBT, apparently famous for its “physiological* footwear” which creates a “natural instability” that makes you walk better. I bought them in a weak moment when Greg the Shoeguy was gone for the day, and I’ve been trying to walk upright in them ever since.

A quick look at The Wobbler (above) reveals a sole like the runner of a rocking chair. Take a step, and the shoe immediately rolls your foot forward or backward, depending on where you land.

It can be a bit disconcerting for anyone not used to walking upright in a hurricane-tossed rowboat, and even the salesclerk admitted they’d take some getting used to. So far I’ve mostly worn The Wobblers around the house or on brief trips (literally) through shopping malls or museums.

Saturday night, though, I got serious and WALKED to the movies with friends. Specifically, I walked The Wobblers up and down about a half-mile of stairs.

(Remember the staircase in The Exorcist? Kinda like that).

My friend Shelby lives near Cinetopia, where you watch movies lying down, while kind waitwenches ply you with food and drink. There’s live music playing on the lobby balcony, a restaurant with a piano bar, and the old-fashioned picture booth out front provides dress-up clothes and automatic uploads to your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

They serve truffles and wine and home-made brownies, i.e., it ain’t exactly your average everyday flickhouse.

The latest Harry Potter was playing there in 3D, so Shelby and I and a colleague, Oscar, decided to try a Cinetopia sofa. It was a nice night, so we walked down to the theatre (and I do mean down, about a 45-degree slope) from Shelby’s house.

On the way I discovered an odd thing: Pavement-to-Wobbler distance varies according to which part of the shoe touches down, but the soles are so thick it’s hard to tell where that might be. Each time you make contact with the ground (or not), it’s a bit of a surprise, so doing stairs in The Wobblers involves a lot of lurching.

“Are you OK?” Shelby asked, concerned, “You don’t look too steady.”

“She looks drunk,” laughed Oscar, and I shot him an offended glare. “I have not,” I said with immense dignity, “Had a single drop.”

Then spoiled it by stumbling and grabbing at the handrail.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II was great, by the way. We watched it snuggled into our personal sofas and ottomans (“I hope they didn’t have bedbugs,” my mother said ominously), wearing our 3D spectacles. It was exactly like watching Harry annihilate Voldemort in my living room, except that Harry was about ten feet tall and–since the only available sofas were down front–I had an excellent view of Harry’s nostrils.

Hint: If you do go to a Cinetopia movie parlor flick, get there at least a half hour early to choose your sofa(s) and place orders with the waitstaff. Oscar, Shelby and I arrived just before the previews so the waitwenches had stopped serving. Probably just as well; the tickets are $23 apiece so heaven only knows what they would have charged for a truffle and a bottle of water.

After the movie, we sat up, stretched, started the journey back, and I made a second discovery: Going uphill in The Wobblers is a lot harder than going downhill. If I’d looked a bit tipsy on the way to the movies, I looked positively plastered coming back.

Shelby and Oscar took pity on my swaying and dipping after awhile, and went the long and flatter way ’round with about a third as many stairs. I learned to focus grimly on keeping my footwear corralled; if I turned my head to speak, or did more than shuffle, The Wobblers went off on their own expeditions and I went flying.

By the time I got back to Shelby’s house my legs ached, I was drenched in sweat and The Wobblers were snickering. They’d made about 700 side trips and my ankles felt like rubber bands. “Tell me again why you want to wear those shoes?” Shelby asked.

I only panted at her.

The latest Consumer Reports has an article on rocking-soled shoes which says nobody’s really shown there to be much benefit from wearing them. They have, however, shown soaring injury rates caused by people falling off these things, so CR recommends that you not wear them on steep inclines.

Really? Do tell…

*”Physiological footwear” is about like saying you make gastronomical food, but hey

6 thoughts on “Harry and The Wobblers”

  1. Hah! I know this feeling. I wore my “Rockers” for the first time to an outside art show. Couple the rounded bottoms with uneven ground and I was an accident waiting to happen.

  2. If you want to increase the challenge to your balance, wear the Wobblers with a new pair of progressive glasses. You are certain to break something for sure for sure. Thanks for the laugh.

  3. there has been a surprising large # of lawsuits against the makers of sketchers, a similar shoe. my wife had a pair of those, and when she called to complain, they swapped it out for a regular pair tout suite.

  4. Sort of like the grand promises of running bare foot only to end up in the ER due to lack of support and protection. You should consider wearing the “nose, glasses and mustache disguise when wearing your new shoes!

  5. fitflops!

    i wear these all year – unless it’s snowing or particularly new england type weather – and they are COMFY! i have a pair i wear just in the studio, a pair i wear mostly at shows and the every day pair. if i need a closed toed shoe for say, doing the rollup assistant dance in the siyeh glass hot shop, i found a pair of keds clog typs “sneaker” that is similar WITHOUT the rocking bottom effect….

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