- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 23, 2003

They're ready to make great strides. It's taken almost 30 years, but the gas boots are finally ready.
Gas boots?
Indeed. Russian aviation engineer Viktor Gordejev unveiled the world's first pair of gas-powered, motorized walking boots Tuesday, which he says will cut the energy needed for walking by 70 percent. Called "Saigak," the knee-high boots will go on sale later this year for about $600 a pair.
Orders already are coming in for the boots, which use 12 ounces of gas to travel more than half a mile, said the designer and his research crew, headquartered at the Space Travel Institute in Ufa, some 750 miles southeast of Moscow.
"I always wished my boots had engines on them," Mr. Gordejev, a former soldier in the Soviet army, said at a press conference yesterday.
"They might be good in the desert or some flat surface, but I can't imagine them on a trail. Think of the rocks," said Brian King, spokesman for the West Virginia-based Appalachian Trail Conference.
Serious walkers would probably shy away from the gas boots because of their weight around 2 pounds each the exhaust fumes and the fire risk, Mr. King said.
"But I know some real extreme walkers who put in 40 miles a day. Distance is their thing," he added. "So you never know who would be interested."
The walker might have to bring along a little tool kit, too. Each boot has its own piston-driven engine.
Though they resemble high-tech pogo sticks, the boots are based on declassified Soviet Army plans dating from the Cold War era. In the distant 1960s, military planners envisioned platoons of "super soldiers" equipped with footwear that sent them springing along on 13-foot strides, at 25 mph.
When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, the boot plans were tucked away in archives, to lay dormant until Mr. Gordejev and a small group of engineers resurrected them three years ago.
They developed a prototype pair in 2000 and gamely offered demonstrations across the Ufa town square for an appreciative international press.
But Japanese and American industrial spies also were afoot, the news service Pravda reported yesterday, forcing the researchers to put their design under wraps until limited production could begin.
"In spite of the fact that foreign competitors are greatly interested in this invention, the scholars managed to keep the new technical ideas in secret," Pravda noted.
Similar footwear already is out there, however, geared to the extreme-sports crowd.
The New Jersey-based Jet Foot Corp. has been offering "Wetfoot" gas-powered water skies for two years.
California-based Motoskate started making weighty pairs of motorized inline skates back in 1999.

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