In the week I've had these PowerStrider jumping stilts, not a single person I talked to knew exactly what they were. Even I wasn't sure, as I was wearing them. But after a while, things started to make sense.
PowerStrider Sport M115
In the box: Stilts, bindings
I had trouble getting a loaner pair of these things, because nearly every company I contacted had liability concerns. When I finally got a pair—the PowerStrider Sport M115s, which sell for $250 on GetJumpingStilts.com—they came with list of conditions: wear a helmet (ok!), kneepads (well, sure!), and wrist guards (wait, what's going to happen to me?) at least. By the time I strapped the stilts on, I was braced, both literally and figuratively, for a disaster.
But getting started wasn't so bad! Easy, even. Two subjects, myself included, were walking within minutes, and hopping around in a few more. The immediate sensation of walking on these stilts is wild. You're immediately about foot and a half taller than usual, and walk with the gait of a goatman. A heavily padded goatman.
Then, you get your footing. Running starts to feel like running, the stilts less like awkward, noodling prostheses than true extensions of your legs. At first, bounding around is exhausting. After gaining a bit of confidence you stop fighting the natural movements of the stilts, and you start to understand what makes them fun: the extension of your stride from three or four feet to about nine, and the ease with which you can get a few feet into the air.
These stilts are cheaper than most, but the quality was more than acceptable. The bindings held tight, and even though I could tell I was near the weight limit for this particular set of springs, they felt sturdy and inspired confidence.
Getting started is simple enough, but there's still a learning curve: You have to get used to not being able to stand still, since with the stilts' little peg feet, you're always on the way down. The springiness can catch you off guard when you break into a run, come down from a jump, or slow down abruptly. Basically, 7'5 John is much less stable than 5'11 John, and a lot further from the ground.
I assume that most people interested in these things are the type of person who doesn't mind the occasional tumble, and I also assume they'll have a bit more ingenuity when it comes to using them. I don't have much of a stomach for physical risk, at least not in the service of gadget reviews, didn't have a ton of time to build up confidence, and live in a city. In other words, I was at a bit of a loss as to what I was meant to do with these things. Walk? Run? Just, I dunno, amble around, getting pointed at by children and leered at by park staff? Also, guys, they make you look like this:
That said, I would have loved these a few years ago, when I was living in suburbs with ready access to trails, empty parking lots and back-of-the-store loading docks. To enjoy jumping stilts you needs space, but also a little privacy.
A quick glance at YouTube answers my questions about usage, or rather, negates them—you wouldn't ask what a skateboard is for, or why anyone would ever buy a trials bike. These stilts are for people who like to take a new mode of transport, master it, and do cool tricks with it—stuff like this.
If that's not what you're looking for, these things probably aren't for you. You'll have a few dozen nice times, then a conversation piece to keep in the corner.
Thanks to Mike at GetJumpingStilts.com