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Jog on: These high-tech shoes know how to make you a better runner

The future of smart wearable technology is in clothing and fashion. We’re just seeing the beginning of that trend now in products like the Altra IQ sports shoe with iFit tech inside. This smart running shoe goes beyond telling you the basics like speed and distance, providing feedback and assistance that will help you improve your running form and performance.

Running shoe manufacturer Altra teamed up with iFit, a company that specializes in fitness wearables and associated software, to produce the IQ. The shoes have been a long time coming, since they were originally announced in mid-2015, but finally, the shoes are almost ready for sale. We saw the final version at the Gadget Show Live in the U.K.. On the outside, the IQ looks like many other Altra sneakers, particularly because of the distinctive wide toe box, which is apparently foot-shaped to give the toes more space, reduce the chance of injury, and increase stability.

It’s what’s hidden deep inside the soles that makes these shoes different. A super-thin sensor inside the sole runs from heel to toe, and it’s controlled by a tiny chip to provide information on form, technique, style, and more. It’s information that’s usually only available when you hire an expert to analyze your form, which is something that few amateur runners will ever experience.

The shoes link to a dedicated iFit smartphone app, which compiles all this data. The app shows if you’re landing harder on one foot and whether impact concentrates on your heel rather than the mid foot or toes. It can also tell you stride length, speed, distance travelled, the amount of ground contact time, and cadence. All this information is crucial to working out where you need to improve.

The app will provide real-time suggestions on how to adjust your form, increase performance, and cut down the chances of picking up an injury. Vincent Tresca, an iFit representative, told Digital Trends that the data and information provided by the Altra IQ can’t be collected by a simple insole replacement, either. Outside of pro-coaching and monitoring equipment, it’s almost impossible to gain this level of feedback.

Invisible tech

At first glance, there’s absolutely no evidence these are smart running shoes. On the outside, they look like any other pair of shoes you’d see at the gym. The only clue is hidden inside under a little flap in the insole. There you’ll see a tiny watch-cell battery, which provides the sensor with power for the Bluetooth connection. The sensor is inactive unless you’re actually in motion, which helps extend battery life even further.

The technology doesn’t add any weight, either. The shoe is incredibly light at just 243 grams, and it’s water-resistant, so it doesn’t mind a rain-soaked run. Altra’s IQ shoes aren’t a replacement for a fitness tracker, and they’re not designed to be worn at all times, they’re the running equivalent of a golf smartwatch — These shoes are made for a specific activity, and aimed at people who want to get better at their chosen sport.

Although the Altra shoe isn’t a fashion-first footwear choice, it does look like your average running shoe and comes in colors for both men and women. If you’re looking for a casual sneaker to replace your Nike Air Max, this isn’t it. It’s not that these smart shoes look bad, they’re just functional with that wide toe section. Altra’s shoes are expected to go on sale before the summer, they’ll cost $200, and are one of a growing number of products leading the charge in the changing world of sports-orientated wearable tech.

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Andy Boxall
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
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