Society today places a hell of a lot of importance on the physical appearance. Airbrushing runs rampant in the media, celebrity bikini pictures are a surefire way of selling magazines, and everywhere the notion that attractiveness equals happiness is forced upon us- perhaps most obviously displayed in the TV show Next Top Model. As well as the ‘slim is pretty’ line, we’re also fed the one that ‘it’s about being healthy and happy with who you are’. This one may seem more responsible, if it weren’t for the fact that this can be interpreted with many shades of grey.
Sure, it’s good to be healthy, eat well and cut down on saturated fats. The problem is that this lifestyle gets confused with the variety of conflicting messages we receive from varying sources. There’s a constant barrage of misinformation from people purporting to advocate this lifestyle, such as ‘eat healthy breakfast cereals’ (to lose weight) or snack on high sugar cereal bars to stay trim, so it’s no wonder people are confused and anxious. In the last couple of years we’ve seen a huge rise in eating disorders amongst young people, with kids as young as five years old starting to become obsessed with their appearance and suffer from anorexia and bulimia.
Considering these statistics I think it’s very irresponsible for FitFlop to create footwear targeting the youth market, especially considering all their advertising features leggy looking models with impossibly slender thighs, the kind of images that will have impressionable tweens running to the mirror in tears.
FitFlops are part of the fitness shoe trend that has become popular in recent years, with the idea being that merely by wearing pair of shoes (be they MBT’s, Skechers Shape Ups etc) you will burn more calories and tone up, as the shoes have been created to make the body work harder. FitFlops work on the ‘microwobbleboard‘ principle which uses ‘midsole technology, which is proven to make your buttock and leg muscles work harder while you walk’. I’m not making any claims about how well the shoes fulfill their criteria, more that I find the notion of peddling these to young people deeply uncomfortable. Surely encouraging young girls to think about the tone of their thighs is not a good thing? I wasn’t even aware of what cellulite was till I was fifteen, so why start making 10-14 year olds aware of this, and suggesting they need to change their shape- especially as they’re still growing?
My accusation that they’re aiming the FitFlop Kids at young people is based on two facts, firstly the name ‘FitFlop Kids’ kinda speaks for itself, and secondly the fact that the shoes come in sizes UK9 Kids to UK5 Adults. For those unfamiliar with UK Kids shoe sizes, UK9 goes all the way to UK13, then becomes an adult size 1. I think we can establish then that these shoes are designed for children, no quibbles about that.
Then again, recent statistics show that one in seven children aged 2-15 are obese, so we could see the creation of fitness shoes for kids as a blessing in disguise. Perhaps rather than perpetuating the notion that you have to be skinny to be attractive and popular, shoes like the FitFlops for Kids are actually helping young people lose weight and get healthier- with zero effort on their part. That sounds like a very neat solution- FitFlops are helping not hindering, but I don’t think it’s as simple as that.
Sure, adding some extra effort to everyday activities such as walking is a good thing, but that on its own is not enough to help solve an obesity problem, as that issue is much more complex than simply buying a new pair of shoes. The FitFlops may aid weight loss, but so would a pair of trainers, and suggesting that they’d be a great tool for obese children is like saying that a broken bone will heal if you cover it in bandages and don’t set it. The root of child obesity is far more complicated than a mere pair of shoes, so if they were going for that tack then they have failed dreadfully.
FitFlops aren’t the only fitness shoe on the market though, so I decided to see if the other key players were targeting the youth market as well. MBT, the brand that thrust fitness shoes into the limelight offers sizes from 3-9 for UK women and also offers sizes for men, with no kids department. Skechers Shape Ups are another well known fitness shoe brand and they offer their shoes in sizes 3-8, as well as a men’s versions. Reebok EasyTone are another brand that has caught the public eye, with their ads featuring peachy bottoms in short shorts and a slogan that reads ‘Ree-tone’. They are available in sizes from 3. 5 -9 for women and have a men’s range as well.
So it seems that FitFlops are the only fitness shoes brand currently targeting kids. But are kids (or their parents) actually buying into this? The Boots website where these shoes are being sold features reviews of the shoes, but the reviews aren’t from children. Funnily enough, the people purchasing the FitFlop kids are all ADULTS who have small shoes sizes, and are pleased that they can now buy their FitFlops at a reduced price!
What do you think about this issue- or do you think I’m getting hyped up over nothing?