I Call Shenanigans on That Shoe

Look at this shoe. This shoe could change the face of basketball. Why? Because it can increase your vertical leap! Up to 3.5 inches! This Concept 1 shoe only costs three hundred dollars. Buy now!

If you actually believe that claim, simply because it appears in print, I have some oceanfront property in Arizona for sale. As the old saying goes, anything that sounds too good to be true often is. The only way I am going to believe the extraordinary claim that a shoe can improve vertical leap is with some extraordinary evidence.

So I headed out to the Athletic Propulsion Labs website in order to get their evidence. There are a couple of key elements in their presentation of the facts that stand out:

We tested our shoes at a leading United States university’s biomechanics lab with two biomechanics PhDs who specialize in vertical leap.

Neither scientist is named, nor the university they work for. This is left intentionally vague in order to cause the reader to fill in the information. They want you to assume that this research is at UCLA or Stanford. But all universities like to claim to be “leading” in some way. According to a conversation the APL owners had with Sports Illustrated, this secrecy is because of “non-disclosure agreements they signed with the researchers” signed because “the tests were conducted away from the grounds of their universities and not in the context of university-approved research.” I am sorry, but hidden science is not credible science.

The two biomechanics PhDs, who specialize in vertical leap, concluded that Athletic Propulsion Labs™ Concept 1 provided a STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT increase in vertical leap compared to a leading brands . . . In the testing environment at this university’s biomechanics lab, 11 of the 12 participants jumped . . .

Statistically significant is a real scientific term and in a proper study can mean a lot. Unfortunately, the key element of confidence in a study is sample size. This study? Only 12 people, as admitted on APL’s own website. Not raising winning my support.

So if the science is suspect, why do you see headlines like this one:

NBA bans super-jumping shoes

The NBA, like all professional sports leagues, is highly protective of the competition on the court. The mere possibility that the shoe might improve vertical leap is enough to ban it. No reason to take any chances. Which is something any reasonable person would know. Here is the rub: I bet the owners of Athletic Propulsion Labs knew this as well. They didn’t just make their claim on the sly, attempting to avoid detection. They actually presented the shoe to the NBA, which lead to the ban.

Which got this obscure, unknown shoe plastered over Sports Illustrated, ESPN, CNN, CNBC, Businesswire, etc. The ban, no matter how true or false the shoe’s ability is, created huge publicity for the Concept 1 shoe. Now people in the public, who often don’t have good understanding of science, will think this ban supports the claim of a 3.5 inch increase in leap.

And I call shenanigans on that.

-That is all.