Smart shoes: Innovations revolutionizing the future of footwear

Smart shoes: Innovations revolutionizing the future of footwear

By Navneeta Kaul

From measuring athletic performance to tracking fitness and evaluating health metrics, smart shoes are here to provide personalized feedback to users. Efforts are on to engineer traditional shoes with integrated technology to boost comfort, convenience, and good health. Smart shoes feature insoles that can act as a Bluetooth-connected accessory and can link activity or position to a smartphone app. They can function as a high-tech brain. In this article, we address the current status, challenges, and future of smart shoe technology.

Key players in the market:

While the market is still in its infancy, that hasn’t stopped a lot of shoe companies from releasing their own smart shoes with intelligent trackers.  Some key players in the market are mentioned below:

Nike

One of the world’s biggest shoe companies, Nike, launched innovative self-lacing HyperAdapt 1.0 shoes. The shoes have pressure sensors in the soles that sense when to put the foot inside and triggers an algorithm that allows an automatic lacing. With integrated LEDs, the shoes can alert a user of low battery or a tight fit. Moreover, these shoes do not need charging every day, and the charge can last up to two weeks.

Image Credits: Nike

Under Armour

HOVR Phantom and HOVR Sonic shoes released in February 2018 by Under Armour have inbuilt sensors to record a number of metrics important for runners. These include pace, distance, steps, stride, and cadence. These chip-laden shoes can be easily synced to the Map My Run app and are compatible with iOS and Android phones. The users can experience zero gravity and a great energy run with the shoes’ excellent cushioning properties and comfort.

Under Armour | HOVR HAVOC Shot Compilation from Bryan Talkish on Vimeo.

Digitsole

Smart shoes by Digitsole features a wide range of uses and is fit for everyone. These interactive smart shoes provide personalized feedback to analyze health, fatigue, posture, steps, and calories and create precise data for improving health and preventing injuries. It is easily connected to Bluetooth 4.0 device and provides personalized coaching in real time via a smartphone app. The lightweight next-gen shoe design boasts of auto-lacing and temperature regulation.

Image credits: Digitsole Smartshoe

Xiaomi

Xiaomi, another big player in the market, has developed chip-laden MiJia smart shoes. These shoes are easily connected to Xiaomi’s MiFit app to detect speed, distance, calories, hours slept, and even weight. By just shaking the shoes, one can connect and synchronize the data with the app. Moreover, these sporty looking shoes possess a long battery life.

Image credits: Mi.com

Altra Torin IQ

These shoes feature razor-thin, lightweight sensors and transmitters to provide data for each foot individually. Moreover, they provide live coaching feedback, including impact rate, landing zone, distance, pace, contact time, and cadence. The coaching can be made audible depending on the preference of the runners. Altra IQ shoes communicate directly to the company’s iFit app on smartphones. App screen settings are easily customizable with feedback relayed in real time.

What are the different technologies used in smart shoes?

Smart shoes require a reliable system for data acquisition, data transmission, storage, and data analysis. A wide variety of sensors are used to acquire data for smart shoes:

  1. Inertial-magnetic measurement units made up of an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and a magnetometer are used for gait analysis.
  2. Satellite navigation systems such as GPS, GLONASS, and GALILEO are used to provide information for the real-time location.
  3. Pressure sensors are used to provide information on the distribution of body weight mid-gait.
  4. Ambient environmental sensors, including atmospheric pressure, light, and sound sensors, are used for acquiring data from altitude-dependent activities and the surrounding environment.
  5. Internal status sensors are used to provide information on battery and memory capacity.

Besides sensor recording, data acquisition systems often have cloud-based transmission abilities. Raw sensor data is processed to get relevant information using filters, drift correction, or gradient descent-based algorithms. The data is further segmented using sequential model-based approaches, template-based approaches, multidimensional subsequencing, and a dynamic time warping approach. And gait or activity patterns can be extracted and analyzed for personalized feedback, visualization, and various health applications.

Smart shoes with a noble cause:

Apart from the above-mentioned shoes for evaluating and boosting performance, other smart shoe companies, including Zhor Tech, have created shoes designed for construction workers. These shoes feature a safety insole that can count steps, detect fatigue, and evaluate posture. Insoles can detect and alert a manager or supervisor in case of a slip or an accident. Lechal footwear designed by Ducere Technologies is for visually impaired people. The interactive haptic-based navigation system in the shoes detects the vibration in the feet and guides them to their destination. If the wearer needs to turn left, the vibration is sensed in the left foot, and vice  versa. The users can easily sync the shoes to the Lechal app via Bluetooth for guidance to their destination.

Challenges and the future of smart shoes:

So, despite all these innovations, why are smart shoes not used widely? Shoe companies need tremendous investment and technical know-how to make smart shoes. It requires expertise, innovative engineering, and a lot of resources. Then there are some social hurdles to jump, as well. Many consumers do not see smart shoes as a part of their life yet. However, as technology is advancing, these issues can be resolved.

A new industry insiders’ report suggests that the market for smart shoes will continue to grow steadily through 2022, at a CAGR of about 23% over the next four years. Already, companies like Adidas and Salomon are in the process of testing shoes that can be customized with foot biomechanics. In collaboration with Puma, MIT Design Lab is developing biologically active smart shoes capable of sensing how we feel, which can therefore adapt to the wearer. Apple is designing smart shoes that could prevent damage to feet, helping users to avoid an injury. More companies like Sensoria, Garmin, Vivobarefoot, E-Traces, E-vone, and others are shaping the future of athletic wear with their innovations. The era of smart shoes has just begun. Let’s wait and watch for the next best pair of smart shoes.


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