SINGAPORE Athletic shoemaker Adidas claims it has developed the world's first "smart shoe" that uses a microprocessor to adapt the shoe's cushioning level to a runner's size and stride.
The Adidas 1 running shoe is the result of a closely-held, three-year project at the European company's U.S. research and development headquarters in Portland, Ore. Adidas claims its smart show will revolutionize long-distance running and training.
"This is the first intelligent shoe ever," said Erich Stamminger, global marketing director for Adidas. "It senses, understands and adapts."
A microprocessor embedded in the shoe's arch drives a tiny screw and cable system that adjusts the heel cushion based on signals sent back by a sensor attached to a magnet. The system is powered by a battery that conserves power by adjusting the shoe in mid-air, during a runner's stride. The scheme is designed to reduce drag and avoid resistance from the ground.
The entire microprocessor kit weighs less than 40 grams, or about 10 percent of an average weight of running shoe. The design seeks for reduce weight and drag for long-distance runners.
Embedding a smart chip in a running shoe has been greeted by skeptics as a marketing gimmick by Adidas designed to steal attention from international rivals Nike, Puma, Reebok and New Balance. Nevertheless, Adidas said it is confident that its technological innovation is a positive step toward a next-generation of running shoes.
The gambit could work, observers said, as runners seek any legal edge in an effort to gain speed and reduce race times. Similar technologies have been applied recently in other sports equipment, including piezoelectric technology in tennis rackets.
After thousands of hours of prototyping and testing, Adidas declared that its smart shoe can endure the wear-and-tear of running on surfaces ranging from pavement, dirt trails or even beaches.
One hurdle may the price tag: The smart shoe will retail for $250 a pair, making it luxury footwear when launched commercially in the U.S. in December.