sensor technology in sneakers

What Sensor Technology Would You Want in a $300 Pair of Sneakers?

sensor technology in $300 sneakers

Nike unveiled a new basketball shoe, the LeBron X, during the London Olympics. The Nike+ model will lighten your wallet by $315, while the basic version will set you back $180, according to the Wall Street Journal and the (unofficial) Nike blog [Sept 14 update: Nike has now reported the price is $270] The shoes will test the market for just how much people are willing to pay for a blend of status and sensors.

“If I’m paying $300 for some sneakers, they better run for me” — YouKiddinMe8, in a comment posted on an ESPN article on the shoes that was ‘liked’ by 564 fans.

While the shoes may not run for you, the full price version will feature the Nike+ fitness tracking platform and “Sports Kit” and thus will be able to track aspects of your running. Nike+ includes pressure sensors in the soles of the shoe plus triaxial (3 planes) accelerometers to track movement.

Here’s Nike’s rather intriguing description of how they measure vertical jump:

“Nike+ Basketball calculates your vertical by using a precise measure of the time you’re in the air, determined by the Nike+ sensors in your shoes. The physics behind jumping tell us that once you know your time off the ground, we can calculate your vertical. …

Vertical jump measurements are based on the difference in how high you get your center of mass from a normal standing position to the peak of your jump, not how high you can get your feet.

As the measurement of vertical is primarily based on the time off the ground, there are some common scenarios that may occur as you play that can skew the reported measurement, such as hanging or pulling on the rim, or leaning into or landing on a another player.

To get the most true measurement of your vertical, it’s recommended that you jump and land on the same surface, land with your leg(s) slightly bent, and do not touch anything in the air.”

How accurate do you think the measurement will be? If you can hang on the rim, do you need shoes to tell you how high you jump?

No Shoes, No Shirt, No Measurement?

We’ll be seeing more ‘sensorized’ shoes and shirts in the very near future, as Under Armour /Zephyr release their e39 shirt and we finally see what the Reebok / MC10 partnership produces.

When it comes to wearable tech, shoes are a great place to put sensors. They don’t have to withstand repeated trips through a washing machine, they offer a stable surface, and they provide a great location to track movement (much better than the wrist). Numerous sensors and tracking devices for shoes are currently available or are in development. For example:

  • Pressure sensing: Insoles can be used for gait analysis for athletes and to monitor conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s and dementia (extensive devices available by Orpyx, Tekscan, Novel)
  • Power generating: Sole converts heat from your feet into an electrical current to recharge your mobile phone  (
  • Speed, acceleration, distance (Adidas micoach SPEED_CELL™)
  • Haptic feedback: Visually impaired users can feel directional and proximity information through vibrations to assist navigation (Le Chal shoe from Anirudh Sharma)

If you could customize your own technology in a pair of $300 tennis shoes — along with customizing the colors — what features would you want?

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‘Converse on air’ photo courtesy of bicouni at Flickr.