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Thursday, March 01, 2012

2012 London Olympics and wearable technology

At the London Olympics 2012 we can expect to see a roll out of the latest wearable technology from the big two Nike (highjack marketeers) and adidas (official sponsor) . It is worth noting that despite market rhetoric Olympic records have not fallen in last 20 years despite the claims of super duper shoes. This is not likely to change with this year’s Olympiad and hence marketing tends to reflect faddish interest. The shelf life of a new sport shoe is approximately three months. Most serious athletes know what works for them and leave the glamour end to the (ill informed) punters.

Smart Shoes
Every code is governed by rules which prevent the use of ‘performance enhancing’ clothing, hence the focus for shoe companies is often restricted to training at best. In the ‘app generation’ there will be no shortage of smart shoes ready to help you improve performance. Nike has been working on development since 2006. At first pedometers to measure distance were incorporated but more recently (the new generation) pressure sensors that measure speed, jump height, and other factors have been added. Patented systems (e.g. The NikeFeul Band) collect data and wirelessly transmit it to the user’s phone. Special software then allows workout data to be superimposed over video and posted to the web. Custom shoes have been designed for basketball (Nike+ Basketball) – not an Olympic event; and Nike+ Training. Workout statistics can be shared and compared with friends via social networks allowing users to challenge each other and compete to top the Leaderboard. Nike’s rival adidas introduced the Adidas miCoach, a similar sensor-in-a-shoe product intended to measure movement for soccer players. The three main market areas are soccer, basketball and ath leisure.

Light weight footwear
The current fad for lighter weight shoes continues with a myriad of examples for each code. Development of new polymer technology has given the clothing industries the opportunity to manufacture hardwearing products weighing less than traditional footwear and hence these are promoted as a must have for sport. There is very little independent evidence to support these claims.

Eco-friendly kicks
Conscious of their public image sport shoe manufacturers are keen to appear to be eco friendly and promote conservation Nike for example will have a shoe for the Olympics (Nike Pro TurboSpeed) manufactured from fabrics created out of recycled water bottles combined with zero-waste construction techniques should make the sneakers green to go.

Back to basics
There is nothing new despite the rhetoric. Nike will also launch their new basket weave shoes. The uppers are knitted which according to the manufacturer gives superior fit to the foot and tightens and loosens with the natural motion providing added support and stability. (Nike Zoom Superfly R4 and Nike Zoom Victory Elite spikes). Basket weave (knitted) shoes were first worn 10, 000 years ago, although to be fair it has taken until now to develop the machinery to manufacture knitted shoes.

Minimalist running shoes
There is a new fad for bare foot running and sock style shoes have become increasingly popular. Ethiopian athlete, Ethiopian athlete, Abede Bikila won the Rome Olympics marathon in 1960 without shoes and sprinter Zola Budd* challenged the world’s best women sprinters in the 80s in her bare feet. Advocates of barefoot running suggest that traditional running shoes may increase a runner's risk of injury, as the shoes encourage the foot to use a heel-strike pattern, which causes more pounding and stress. Conversely, barefoot runners tend to run more lightly, landing near the balls of the feet and generating less pounding and potentially less risk of injury. Newly designed runners, shaped like gloves (Vibram) with compartments for each toe, these have proved popular among some runner but remain controversial. In essence these are heel less shoes with suit faster runners. Faddish but gaining popularity conditions do apply and it is questions of buyer beware.

Footnote
Come what may there will be a fashion cross over after the Summer Olympics.

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