FitBits, Google Maps, thermowool socks and all those things you needed separately while going for a walk have now consolidated to form smart footwear, ushering in a new trend of compact and intelligent locomotion. These smart foootwear can give you directions while walking, keep track of your health, tell you if you are walking enough daily and even keep you warm in winters. Here are some innovative footwear that prove that smartness can start even from the feet.
Under Armour’s HOVR is a connected shoe. It is built of a lightweight yet durable fabric that produces an anti-gravity sensation. This means the impact on the foot every time it lands on the ground during a walk or a run is substantially absorbed, reducing the fatigue time of the feet.
The shoe is made of a compression mesh called Energy Web, holding inside a proprietary foam to bring the feel of comfort. It contains a chip inside that helps it to connect with a smartphone. Download MapMyRun mobile application to share data from the shoe via Bluetooth. Every time you are out for a walk or a run, it measures all the essential metrics like distance and time of travel, pace, number of steps taken, cadence and so on. You can compare your current data with your best data as well and network with the UA community online.
The chip is self-powered, so charging is not needed. It is embedded securely enough to handle any amount of pressure or any weather condition including heavy rain. HOVR is a great shoe for runners and fitness enthusiasts. It is available from $110 (about INR 7000).
Digitsole’s Run Profiler 2.0 is not really a complete shoe. It is a smart sole that can fit in your shoes and give you the smart experience you deserve! The chips are embedded inside the sole and the whole setup is made up of a durable material that also feels comfortable. The material is antibacterial, ensuring safe and healthy usage.
The chip is Bluetooth-driven and can display data on your smartphone via Digitsole’s smartphone application. The app is compatible with both Android and iOS as well as running and cycling profiles. Apart from the generic distance, time and speed measurement, it gives a 3-dimensional analysis of your running/cycling pattern, including strike or stroke nature, propulsion level, stability, pedalling power, pedalling angle, cadence and so on. It evaluates injury risks and fatigue levels and provides guidelines for optimal exercise.
The sole also has an inbuilt voice-driven assistant and a GPS tracker. Historical data is stored for comparison. The sole is powered by a lithium polymer battery, which runs up to a week on a single charge. In the box, you get a microUSB cable along with the insoles. The insole is priced at 100 euros (about INR 8000).
Milestone’s Pod brings smart footwear in the most compact form factor possible. It works by simply clipping onto your shoe laces or borders. The holder is strong enough to make the pod stick to your footwear, no matter how much jerking or thrust is applied on it. It can differentiate automatically between walking and running as well as motion and rest.
So, as soon as you start moving, Milestone Pod starts recording data. It records walk as a legitimated session if at least 100 steps are taken.
This Bluetooth-driven device connects to the MileStone application on your mobile and records metrics like mileage covered, steps taken, leg swing pattern, foot strikes and stride length in real time. All the metrics can be compared in graphical views, thus providing useful insights. The battery is powerful enough to keep the device running for up to six months.
Milestone Pod costs $25 (INR 1500) onwards.
Sensoria Socks are pretty interesting. As evident, these are actual socks made of smart textile, that is, the fabric contains textile sensors to capture the different data generated by the foot during walking or running. To connect to the smartphone, you have to lock the cuff of the socks with a magnetic Bluetooth anklet. The anklet channels the information from the sensors to the smartphone, which can be displayed on Sensoria’s proprietary mobile application.
The app is compatible with both Android and iOS and measures metrics in real time during running, walking or even when doing stretches. It has all the essential features including dashboard view of the metrics, audio-guidance as well as navigation tracker. The socks are completely washable. In the box, you get a pair of socks, an anklet and an anklet charger. The package costs $199 (about INR12,800).
Back home, Ducere Technologies has developed a smart shoe called LeChal. Originally built to aid the visually impaired, the shoe is finding general-purpose commercial applications too. LeChal comes in three iterations: a whole shoe, a sole or a small pod. The main element is haptic sensors, which help to direct the traveller without referring to a GPS. Basically, the LeChal mobile application can connect with the shoe via Bluetooth and configure the system.
To get directions, users can download their maps locally. Based on the stored GPS, the haptic sensors send different vibratory signals through the shoe, indicating different directions to be followed. LeChal also acts as a fitness evaluator, measuring the distance covered in a session, the time of the session, calories burnt and so on. The battery of the system runs for 15 days with a single charge. LeChal is priced at INR 6999.
There are even more innovative smart footwear out there—some are commercially available, while others are under development. For instance, Digitsole has developed a smart shoe that can do everything starting from auto-configuring itself for metrics evaluation to auto-tightening.
Yet another offering from Digitsole, Warm series auto-regulates the temperature of your feet based on the environment. It keeps you warm in the coldest of winter days. Altra IQ is an all-round smart shoe with distributed sensors. Runscribe is another portable gadget that can clutch onto any shoe to make it smart.