Are smart athletic shoes the next wearable?

The athletic industry is a perfect place for tech disruption. There is a tremendous opportunity for innovators to make a splash because people with athletic interests have money to spend on staying fit. and keep pursuing their fitness goals even during lean economic times.

Everyone now has a smartphone, which means that they can connect via bluetooth or wifi to any number of devices. The smart watch is an excellent example, but other products in the fitness sector are trying to get in on the act. The Peloton exercise bicycle is gaining popularity despite its high price. Other fitness equipment builders, both at the gym and at home, are also looking to link up with your phone.

The trend makes perfect sense. Exercise, like many other human activities in the 21st century, is able to benefit from data analytics. This means that the more data you can capture about the workout, the more ways you can personalize and optimize the path to your fitness goals. The key is coming up with novel and useful ways to capture relevant data.

Enter the smart shoe. This is literally where the rubber meets the road. And it’s not just about data capture either. Upcoming innovations also emphasize fit, comfort and convenience. Let’s look at some of the projects that are contending for viability.

It’s no surprise that Nike is taking a high profile approach to connected sneakers. Their EARL (Electric Adaptable Reaction Lacing) system is trying to make self-tying shoes a reality. Under Armour has technology that claims to provide a “zero gravity feel” by returning the energy taken with each stride.

There are also a slew of startups trying to bring other tech to the soles of your feet. FeetMe is transmitting data from your feet directly to their app on your phone. Footlogger uses an insole as the data tracker, allowing you to keep using your favorite sneakers. Salted Venture is a spin off from Samsung that makes a golf shoe that is also your swing coach. Digitsole from France provides activity data, heats the shoe and has a tongue that will automatically release, replacing the need to tie and untie laces.

Tech has come for your feet. It may not be clear which version of the smartshoe will take hold and rise above the competition, but there is no doubt that innovation in this space will continue.