Could Your Shoes Tell you They Need Replacing?

Your Houston podiatrist says it's probably time to replace these shoesI just came across an article that revealed a new patent application filed by Apple. In the application the computer giant describes a sensor and alarm system that can be built into shoes, giving wearers a more definitive idea as to when their shoes need replacing.  

The patent was apparently filed with the Patent and Trademark Office back in July 2012, under the titles of "Shoe wear-out sensor, body-bar sensing system, unitless activity assessment and associated methods." The basic idea is to create a pair of "smart shoes" designed to notify their owners when they need to be replaced.

Having a good pair of shoes is incredibly important, especially for athletes hoping to avoid sports injuries; worn out shoes can destabilize your feet while you are training or playing, leaving you more susceptible to injury.

For most of us, it’s hard to tell if our shoes are still doing their jobs properly. The more you wear your shoes, the less support and protection they offer, but, because the decline is gradual, it can be hard to tell when you have reached the threshold where your shoes could actually be causing you permanent foot damage. Because the line is so delicate, Apple believes a sensor and alarm system could help prevent shoe related injuries.

The patent covers three main systems: a detector that senses when the shoe has worn out; a processor to measure the detector's data; and an alarm for letting you know it’s time to go shopping. The sensors could come in many forms, including accelerometers and pressure sensors. The data from those sensors would then be processed through an algorithm that a shoe maker can determine.

The systems would be powered by either a built-in battery or a mechanical electric generation device; the alarm could be an LED light, speaker or display. In some versions of the alarms described in the patent, a wireless component was included, meaning you might be able to get a message on your iPhone or iPad when your shoes have worn out.  The sensors would apparently be placed in the heel of your shoe where there is the most room.

I’m not sure what I think about this idea—it might be a great feature, but it could also be an expensive gimmick that just adds to the cost of your already-expensive sneakers. As your Houston podiatrist, I’d recommend the following—when your shoes stop feeling as comfortable as they used to, or if you start experiencing any kind of foot pain when exercising in your shoes, throw them out and get a new pair. And if that foot pain doesn’t resolve after your shoes have been replaced, come see me at Tanglewood Foot Specialists so we can get you comfortably back into your new shoes.


Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.
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