Sunday, February 06, 2005

Adidas unveils biomechanical running shoes

Adidas, the 83-year-old German sporting-goods maker, has turned biomechanics into reality in the form of a running shoe. Sleek and lightweight despite its battery-powered sensor, microprocessor and electric motor, the shoe, named '1', provides intelligent cushioning by automatically adjusting itself.

In other words, the shoe senses the cushioning level, using a sensor and a magnet, and then 'understands' whether the cushioning level is too soft or too firm via a small computer. It then adapts itself with a motor-driven cable system to provide the correct cushioning for a more comfortable run.

It works by using a sensor that sits just below your heel and a magnet positioned at the bottom of the midsole. On each impact, this sensor measures the distance from the top to the bottom of the midsole (accurate to 0.1mm), gauging the compression and therefore the amount of cushioning being used. About 1,000 readings per second are taken and relayed to the shoe's brain - a microprocessor capable of making 5 million calculations per second, according to Adidas.

A motor-driven cable system in the shoe's muscle then adapts by turning a screw, which lengthens or shortens a cable. This cable is secured to the walls of a plastic cushioning element. When the cable is shortened, the cushioning element is tensed and compresses slightly. When the cable is longer, it allows the cushioning element to compress further, promising to make your run more comfortable. A small battery, which is replaceable and lasts for 100 hours of running (the normal life of a shoe), provides the motor's power.

The shoes will also have push-button controls, light-emitting diodes to display settings and an instruction manual on a CD-ROM that will advise on, among other things, how to change the battery after every 100 hours of use. Adidas says the shoe is no gadget-dependent gimmick, and instead represents a leap forward in wearable technology. The trainer is expected to be in stores by December and will cost around $200 (£138).

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