12 Things You Should Know About FitFlops And Why It's Such A Hit In Malaysia

Fascinating story behind a pair of footwear with extraordinary claims of health benefits. But is there evidence behind the fad?

Cover image via lnwfile.com

1. FitFlops are a line of shoes for both women and men. First launched sometime around early 2007, they claim to offer extreme comfort and excellent support for people who walk a lot.

Singer NS Yoon-G wearing FitFlops for a photo shoot back in 2012.

Image via blogspot.com

2. Fast-forward to 2015, FitFlops are still in vogue, even though it went through a class action lawsuit for USD5.3 million back in early 2014. The settlement resolved claims that FitFlop USA, the company behind FitFlops, was wrongly advertising its footwear as providing health benefits that they did not allegedly deliver.

The Settlement, however, was NOT an admission of wrongdoing. The Court could not decide who was right and who was wrong, so the parties decided to settle the dispute.

While FitFlop USA denied the allegations, it agreed to a settlement that was approved on 28 April 2014, according to a website called Legal Newsline.

3. So who created FitFlops?

Marcia Kilgore, the woman who invented FitFlops!

Image via thetimes.co.uk

The creation of FitFlops is credited to a team of three individuals.

Marcia Kilgore, founder of health spa company Bliss Spas, for the idea behind the FitFlops.

Dr. David Cook and Darren James, both bio-mechanical engineers, from the Center for Human Performance at the South Bank University in London, for the science behind FitFlops.

4. FitFlops, which range from USD50 to USD240, were initially designed and launched as vanity shoes that help tone your legs

Image via mommyfleur.com

"They were originally launched as a vanity shoe – you could walk and help tone your legs. But over and over again, we'd hear things like 'I've had a degenerative spine disease, haven't been off morphine, and all I have to do is put on a pair of FitFlops and suddenly I don't feel pain any more'," Marcia Kilgore said.

"A lot of people with severe and chronic back pain have reported a vast improvement, an almost miraculous improvement on putting these things on."


5. How did they become so famous?

One name: Oprah Winfrey.

Back in the year 2008, on 16 May, exactly one year after they were launched, the FitFlops gained influential public support from Oprah Winfrey when she named the footwear as one of her summer favourites on her television talk-show in the US, according to a news report by The Independent.

The FitFlops are said to produce a similar effect to walking barefoot, but with a degree of shock absorption. This makes the muscles work harder, creating the toning effect. The report further cited Dr. Phil Graham-Smith, head of the directorate of sport at Salford University and a consultant biomechanist for UK Athletics, saying that they may make the body adjust its walk to ensure the knee is correctly aligned.

Another name that contributed to the popularity is Jade Johnson, an Olympic long jumper who suffers from a painful foot condition. She found that she gained the same benefit from wearing them as exercises recommended by her physiotherapist.

"She suffers from plantar fasciitis, which causes pain in the heel. Her physio gives her drills like walking through sand to help strengthen the arch of the foot. When she tries the FitFlops on, she gets the same benefit as walking through sand and prefers using the FitFlops because, of all things, she has an allergy to sand."

This was enough to make FitFlops, whose sells were already soaring through the roof, and as per a report by nymag.com many of which were spotted on the feet of women in the New York City hoping to burn calories on their commutes, a household name.

6. Following Oprah's revelation, a whole lot of celebrities have wore them including Hilary Swank, Heidi Klum, Jennifer Garner and Jessica Biel. Here's a gallery of some other celebs:

Nigella Lawson wore Fitflops to tiptoe through the tulips at the Chelsea Flower Show

Image via dailymail.co.uk

Spot the fitflops Aishwarya is weariing to get back to shape

Image via emirates247.com

Keri Russell wearing Fitflop

Image via coolspotters.com

Julianne Moore wears FitFlop

Image via coolspotters.com

Actress Julianne Moore

Image via dailymail.co.uk

Penny Smith

Image via dailymail.co.uk

7. FitFlops are marketed and sold in over 50 countries, including Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Over the years, the number of people using the footwear has grown so rapidly that there are more than 22 million pairs sold worldwide.

8. So are they any good?

Image via fitflop.com

It all depends on who you ask.

"They are really comfortable," says Adeena Babbitt, a 33-year old public relations executive, who started wearing FitFlop shoes about a month ago. "So I definitely walk more, but I am not sure I am seeing any discernible results in my thighs, butt, or calf."

"If we're talking about the weight loss and tone up expectations that people have of Fitflop footwear, in my experience, and I've been wearing Fitflop footwear for a couple of years now, I'd say no, writes Lesley Smith in her column for Yahoo! Lifestyle. "I wear Fitflop shoes, boots or sandals from the minute I wake up until the minute I go to bed and the only difference I have noticed is being able to walk without experiencing high levels of pain."

While buyers are drawn to these for the "fit factor," reality is that, as any fad dieter knows all too well, there is no quick fix for fitness.

As nymag.com reported back in 2008, a podiatric surgeon said: "You're going against a little more resistance, so you're going to get a little something extra, but these are not shoes that are going to make your thighs look like they did when you were 21."

In conclusion, FitFlops are obviously better than the average flip-flops. As a BBC report notes, this is mainly because the FitFlops are slightly elevated and are shock absorbent.

9. What are the health benefits that they claim to offer?

Image via blogspot.com

"FitFlop footwear is built with patent-pending, biomechanically engineered midsoles. Originally designed to activate leg muscles more, studies show they also offer excellent shock absorption and instant relief from underfoot pressure."

Whatever they put into their wobbleboard (sole), it has a massive cushioning effect that seems to absorb shock very easily, and relieve the pressure on the wearer, writes Lesley Smith in her column for Yahoo! Lifestyle.

There have been reports about the company receiving letters and testimonials from individuals who experienced relief from back pain, plantar fasciitis, arthritis, heel spurs, and more when they started walking in FitFlops.

10. How true are the claims of these 'health sandals'?

As a BBC report says, they are "the best of a bad bunch" and not as good for you as a pair of trainers. Those with conditions such as flat feet should avoid them completely.

The American Podiatric Medical Association endorses FitFlops. The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine is not so enthusiastic. The group's president told the Boston newspaper that toning shoes pose "major risks, especially for adults. Creating instability, on adults especially, is not a good thing."


Lucy Macdonald, a chartered physiotherapist specialising in musculo-skeletal injuries at the Octopus Clinic in London, says she has seen 'a lot of problems' and warns the sandals are not suitable for everyone.

'They are fine for a small percentage of people who are young, strong and fit,' she says.

But if you are unfit, have poor posture or any kind of existing hip or knee problems, then they are best avoided. 'They could lead to injuries such as back and knee pain, and strains,' she says.


11. What are the Pros and Cons of wearing FitFlops?

The Pros:
1. They are comfortable and have soft cushioning.
2. They somewhat work leg muscles while you walk.
3. They feel good on feet even after prolonged duration of wearing them.

The Cons:
1. FitFlops can cause pain in your knees and ankles.
2. People who have wore them says they caused extreme knee problem.
3. Can cause shin pain.
4. They also cause hip pain after long walks.

12. Are they worth the money?

As Lesley Smith explains in her column, the FitFlops have been getting more and more expensive over the period of time. (They are reportedly sold at USD50 to USD240 a pair). Basically if you are buying FitFlops thinking that you are going to get fit wearing them, well, it won't happen - not in the truest sense of the word.

As David Castle, editor of Running Fitness magazine, said: "They aren't going to raise your heartbeat because they won't improve your aerobic fitness. If you wear a pair for four months and then try and run a marathon you are not going to have the fitness you need to run that marathon."

However, as Angela Kennedy, style director of Woman and Home magazine admitted, "they are the comfiest-ever sandal - think of wearing a sofa on your feet. By virtue of their chunky sole they focus on creating a much heavier look on the feet which makes it really hard to balance out clothes wise."

"I love them for comfort and wear them when I'm on my feet all day on a hard studio floor, or walking long distances, but do find them hard to style up and have to think carefully about what to wear with them," she said.

So what do you think of FitFlops? Do/would you wear them? Let us know what you think in the comments below or write to us at [email protected]