Given its accessibility to anyone with two feet, jogging is one of the most popular forms of fitness activity around the world, with around 10 million people in Germany alone donning their running shoes and hitting the pavement on a regular basis, according to the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS). However, this popularity also translates into a large number of jogging-related injuries. In an effort to reduce the number of injuries, a research team from IPMS is developing a high-tech running shoe with the ability to evaluate a jogger's running form and technique in real-time.
Being developed through "EU Project RUNSAFER," the concept involves a specialized running shoe packed with a micro-controller, a radio frequency (RF) module, accelerometers, GPS sensors and a battery. The system captures biomechanical signals from the body and transmits them via Bluetooth to the jogger's smartphone, which then evaluates the data and offers feedback to the runner on how they can improve performance.
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"Pulse-rate watches and chest straps record only the vital signs like breathing and heart rate," says Dr. Andreas Heinig, a scientist at IPMS. "In contrast, our running shoe medically evaluates and monitors training while jogging. It informs the runner, for example, of incorrect foot position, asymmetric loading or warns of exhaustion or overload. The app could recommend running more slowly, for example, or rolling off the foot differently, suggest seeking a different running surface or stopping if necessary."
The system bears some resemblance to high-tech footwear we've looked at before, such as the adidas f50 football boot, and demonstrates the possibilities of integrating miniaturized electronics with wearable technology to monitor or enhance performance.
In addition to offering real-time feedback on a jogger's form, the system allows data to be transferred to a website for further evaluation, enabling users to customize a training program based on performance and personalized goals.
According to the researchers, the measurement system can easily be installed and removed from the soles of the shoes and can be recharged by simply placing the shoes on the companion charger.
The team has completed a prototype of the running shoe and is currently developing a smaller version of the system. Spanish shoe and sportswear manufacturer New Millenium Sports SL has partnered with the team and, if all goes to plan, will be bringing the footwear to the market in early 2015.