New high-tech shoes to prevent running injuries

Jogging-ShoeJogging is probably the most popular outdoor recreational activity worldwide.

Among the health benefits it brings are reduced stress, reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

However, despite its numerous positive effects, jogging can also have undesirable side effects, with running injuries and joint complaints on the increase.

Runners can run risks of twisting or injuring an ankle joint, especially on uneven ground or when fatigued and pulled ligaments or even a broken ankle can be the result in extreme cases.

Now, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems IPMS in Dresden, in collaboration with five partners, is developing a specialised running shoe that will help prevent these kinds of injuries.

Sensors integrated into the sole of the shoe will measure the biomechanical data of the athlete and evaluate the runner’s form with the help of measurements in real-time.

While pulse-rate watches and chest straps are fine for recording vital signs like breathing and heart rate, the new running shoe medically evaluates and monitors actual jogging performance.

It informs the runner for example of incorrect foot position, asymmetric loading, or warns of exhaustion or overload.

The system can be easily installed and removed from the soles of the shoes and to repower it, the shoes are simply placed on a charger.

In addition to the microcontroller, the RF module and batteries, the system comprises accelerometers and GPS sensors that capture the biomechanical signals from the body as well as the runner’s speed and transmit it via Bluetooth to the runner’s smart phone.

A smart phone app has been developed that evaluates the data in a split second with the help of specialised algorithms and gives the athlete feedback on training performance.

If necessary, the app makes suggestions about running form or the training routine.

“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,” says Dr. Andreas Heinig, a scientist at IPMS.

In addition, the measured values can be transferred during the run from the smart phone to a website for further processing, evaluation and display.

A customised training programme can be set up based on this data with personalised performance goals that are constantly updated.

A prototype of the running shoe has already been tested and the researchers are presently working on a still smaller version of the microelectronics and sensors.
This represents a considerable big challenge, given that the system must be waterproof, light and durable.

It is hoped the high- tech shoe should be available for sale in around 12 months time and will be manufactured by partner New Millenium Sports, the Spanish manufacturer of athletic shoes and sportswear.

Source: Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems IPMS

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