By Shu Xie
I don’t know about you, but when I saw this Puma sneaker, with its transparent mid-sole filled with beads, I immediately thought of Poh Chai pills (保济丸).
In my pre-teen days, these tiny TCM spheres were what my grandmother always gave me when I told her my tummy ached. I stopped taking them in secondary school because my mom had another remedy: a bitter decoction of hou po (厚朴 or magnolia bark), which I still remember to be as unpleasant to ingest as Poh Chai pills.
I didn’t know until a few years back that Poh Chai pills were reported to contain ingredients considered carcinogenic. It has been quite a while since I saw a stout and slender bottle of Poh Chai pills, until now—these teeny pearls, embedded in a sneaker, so evocative of stomach ache relief of my childhood!
Okay, these beads have nothing to do with medicine grannies were wont to dispense, so I really digress. In fact, these pellets are a part of Puma’s new cushioning technology known as NRGY beads, which, if you ask me, sounds suspiciously TCM!
Puma’s beads are free to move in the full-length pocket of the mid-sole, cushioning your every step, which, I suppose is like the distribution of qi. This distant relative of the ball bearing is but one in a list of cushioning tech that makes you part with quite a bit of money, from Nike’s now-ubiquitous Air to Asics’s less-loved Gel.
Unless you have extremely sensitive soles, possibly from training on pebble walking trails, you may not be able to tell if these beads are more effective than other cushioning systems. To me, they don’t feel any different from mid-soles currently favoured by runners. But for the heck of walking on these not unattractive balls, I am sold.
Puma Jamming with NRGY Beads, SGD249, is available at select Puma stores. Photo: Zhao Xiangji