Thursday, May 11, 2017

Could a "Smart Shoe" Make You a Better Runner?

Statistics show that for every 100 hours of running, the average runner will sustain one injury. Novice runners are even more vulnerable than more seasoned athletes. One running company wants to try and change that.

Utah-based Altra has added a set of sensors to one of its flagship running shoes. The Altra Torin IQ (priced at $220) is among the first commercially-available “smart shoes.” Inside the midsole are pressure sensors, a tiny battery, and a microchip that connects with your phone via Bluetooth.

As you run, the sensors measure the pressure your foot exerts with each footfall. Data on impact force and location, contact time, and cadence are collected with the aim being to improve your stride and make you a more efficient runner. The concept is meant to improve running form, which helps runners avoid injuries, move faster, and run longer.

The app divides the bottom of the foot into sectors: heel, toe and left and right sides. A built-in audio assistant helpfully offers tips for correcting runs in real time. And when a run in finished, it shows a breakdown of how you landed. The data also tells you the time spent running, cadence, distance, pace and more. The sensors in the shoe hit a Bluetooth transmitter which communicates to the Altra app connected with the shoe. The app records the data according to four different metrics that provide runners with more information about how they’re running.

Aside from recording time, pace and distance, the shoe also provides the following data:
  • Impact rate: how hard each foot is hitting the ground.
  • Contact time: how long each foot is in contact with the ground.
  • Cadence: how quickly the runner is taking steps or their “pulse."
  • Landing zone: the part of the runner’s feet that are making contact with the ground.
The app will then take all of this data and give verbal tips to the runner on how to improve technique and form while running (usually about every mile).

Golden Harper, Altra’s co-founder, has been noted in the press as saying "It might tell you, 'It looks like you’re overstriding, try to do this to fix it,'... or, it might tell you to keep your elbows back behind your hips because if your elbows extend beyond your hips, that’s going to cause your foot to land out in front of your body... Altra is all about teaching people how to run properly, helping people become better, more efficient runners and avoid injury."

So, are you ready for a "smart shoe?"

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso