The idea of getting electric shocks to make us run better sounds like the kind of middle school nightmare our nerdy teenage selves might have had the night before gym class.
In fact, it’s the basis for a new device called FootStriker that was created by researchers at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence in Saarbrücken. The idea behind FootStriker is that it uses jolts of electricity to stimulate muscles as a means of correcting the angle of a person’s foot prior to it hitting the ground when they run. It figures out when you’re going to place your foot incorrectly based on pressure sensors in the shoe’s insole, and then gives a quick, instructive zap.
It seems to be effective, too, according to a test carried out by the researchers that involved six runners. In a 1 kilometer run without FootStriker, the average percentage of incorrect heel landings in the group was 95 percent. When the device was then switched on for the following 3 kilometers, that number fell dramatically to just 16 percent. For the final kilometer, FootStriker was then switched off again, and heel landings not only stayed low — but actually decreased to just 8 percent. As a result, the researchers concluded that the participants had learned the correct technique due to FootStriker.
To back this up, a control group without the device decreased their average number of heel strikes from an initial 97 percent to 80 percent over the course of the run.
The hope is that the technology could be used to improve technique among runners, particularly when it comes to reducing injuries that frequently result from landing on the wrong part of the foot.
The technology could also be applied to other sports to help participants learn how to correctly execute maneuvers. While there’s no word on when FootStriker might be available to purchase, it’s certainly the kind of thing we can imagine finding its way into future sports equipment.
You can check out the research paper describing the technology in the journal Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies.