Spring Shoes

When Leif moved to Oregon last year, he left behind an old mattress. Mattresses fall into the same category as modems and microwaves: You only need ONE.

The mattress was too big to fit into our garbage bin, and I didn't have any friends with a truck, so it stuck around for a few months before Mike figured out a way to get rid of it.

We got bolt cutters.

Under the fabric cover, this mattress had several layers of padding.

On top was a quarter-inch thick yellow urethane foam pad.  Under that was a quarter-inch pad of blended cotton felt.

The mattress tag identified the felt as being boric-acid treated. Some mattresses that get thrown away have also been uric-acid treated.

In this photo, the top two layers have been peeled back, revealing the third layer, a purple quarter-inch pad of resin-treated shredded clippings. This is the layer that actually touches the springs inside the mattress.

Here you can see a cross section of the 3 layers that provide you blissful nights of comfort. I thought this was a pretty cool examination until I realized you can see this same display in any mattress store.

Mattress marketing concentrates on how comfortable the beds are for sleep. Strange that cars, clothes, liquor, medicine, cosmetics and tiny, wireless video cameras are sold with sex, but mattresses are marketed with sleep.

I bet sales of a Serta Velvet Lovenest would put other beds to shame.

This twin-sized Simmons mattress retails new for about USD$150. Fancier models of this size sell for up to about $600, most of which is determined by the thickness of the foam, cotton and shred layers.

The springs on this mattress were intricately twisted together, obviously designed to avoid poking through the padding. I'd like to give hearty "thank you" to whatever engineer worked on that spring pattern.

In this photo you can compare the volume of different toppings on this old Simmons Royalty I. From left to right, the shredded clippings pad, the cotton felt, and the urethane foam.


I saved a little square of mattress padding for a handy couch-fire prevention pad.

Hey Rob, great story about a mattress, where the hell are the shoes?

Ok, anyway, with all the covers stripped off of the mattress, I got to the center of the thing. A tight network of firm springs. 

Cutting apart steel springs with  pair of bolt cutters is pretty enjoyable. When you clip through a wire, there is a satisfying "click". 

Within a few hours I was through the wire and on my way to freedom in Strasbourg.

Here is an example of a single spring. There were 249 of these in the mattress.  That was too many to throw away, so I tried to think of a good project to re-use some of them.
What I came up with were spring-soled shoes.

I coiled 5 bedsprings together with some of the other bed-wire and hot-glued them to a pair of Converse low-tops.

Tom, Elise, Amy, Shawn and Steven came by as I was tidying up and wanted a demonstration. Luckily it was dark and I had been drinking, so it was a perfect opportunity to get outside and test drive my dangerous new invention. 

I laced them up and went out to the sidewalk. 

Having springs on your shoes is dangerous.  It adds a random element to your walking and standing. but it certainly seemed like they were having an effect on my jumping.

I jumped around until I was totally out of breath. Mike manned the camera, and he got some good action shots. Eventually one of the springs tore out of the hot-glue bond, so I hobbled back upstairs.

In April, the NBA playoffs began, and I got the urge to try the shoes out again.  I  wanted to see if they really helped me jump.

I convinced Antonia to film me out at the basketball court.

Just walking through the park, holding the shoes in my hands I got a lot of attention.

"Where did you get those shoes"? One young mother asked.

I used the insane voice to ramble something about Nasa and the Tigger Movie and she left me alone.

I started off with the whole court to myself, but before long there were quite a few people out there. They were watching a little, mostly just waiting for me to quit fooling around and get off the court.

Here you can see my full weight crushing the springs flat. To actually support my weight, I think would have needed about 10 bedsprings on each foot, but they still provided lift. 
At 6'1" (1.85 meters), I have touched the (10') rim on a number of occasions, but with the spring shoes, I wasn't even close.

I think it was the wobble factor.. I had to move with a bit more caution, which limited the amount of gusto I could expend when leaping. In the sports world this is known as "tentative", which is probably the reason the WNBA decided to stop allowing players to wear high-heels.

If you are getting rid of a mattress or a box-spring, you should first try to find a place that will clean, re-cover and re-sell the thing. You might even make a few bucks on it, but if you don't have a truck, and you DO have bolt-cutters, you might want to try fashioning your own pair of spring shoes.

We can't play 1-on-1 spring-shoe league basketball however, as I decided to sell my pair on Ebay.

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Contact Rob June 6th, 2002.  

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