Buying running shoes can be a dizzying experience. Modern runners flash with hard bubbled plastic and segments of reflective mesh, bright green or red or blue and streaked like a passing comet. Indeed, running shoes these days are styled to be as extreme as possible, like you’re strapping an Acme rocket to each foot and are setting off to be the first runner to break the sound barrier. Yet as much as shoes might look like space ships, they are still fundamentally just really, really complicated slippers.
Now, though, a worldwide team of researchers has a plan to truly bring shoes into the modern era — and perhaps prevent quite a few injuries in the process. Jogging is an activity that obsessed millions of Americans, but many times more than that will try it out just a few times throughout the year. These fair-weather runners face a litany of possible injuries, as their unconditioned joints and muscles deal with unfamiliar strain. On the other hand, those dedicated runners that hit the road with regularity have a whole other list of possible ailments stemming from repetitive strain.
Don’t think that just because a runner is experienced or well conditioned that they necessarily have a great running technique; many long-time runners have gaits that greatly increase the strain on their bodies, or which make the running harder than it has to be. Running coaches run alongside and watch the gait to look for imperfections, but these professionals are expensive and, ultimately, only human. The precision of a computer could certainly help many people with their form, but how do you collect the data for analysis? Drop a few sensors and a computer into the world’s next-gen running shoe, of course.
The shoe will provide runners with real-time feedback on their performance, telling them how to adjust their gait, or whether they ought to be running faster or slower for a given fitness objective. The information is output through an accompanying smartphone app.
Called Project RUNSAFER, this is one technology advance that will likely obsess the perfectionist jogging crowd, a sizable and ferociously dedicated group. Soon enough, lying about your run times could require some skill in coding
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