February 3, 2013

New Apple Patent Could Help Your Feet

A patent application was revealed recently that hints Apple might be developing a sensor for shoes. The bottom line purpose of this patent is that a built-in sensor will sound an alarm to let the user know that it’s time for a new pair of shoes.

Some details of this concept from the patent include:

  • In one embodiment, a system determines the end of a shoe’s life. Use of the shoe is sensed by at least one detector. A processor is configured to measure the use of the shoe and to determine if it is worn out completely. The alarm then informs the user.
  • In another embodiment, a “shoe wear out sensor” includes at least one detector for sensing a physical metric that changes as a shoe begins to wear.  A processor configured to calculate the physical metric, over time will determine if the shoe is beginning to wear and yet another alarm will inform them when the sole is completely worn out.

Upon first glance this could seem silly. One might think that it takes only the exertion of common sense on a pre-teen level to determine if you need new shoes. That by just realizing when your feet feel uncomfortable in your shoes, it means it’s time to get a new pair. Or by simply looking at the sole of the shoe to see if it is worn would work as well.

Image Credit: Apple

However, we are often in need of new shoes before we even realize it. The cushioning of the average walking/running shoe is good for 350-500 miles. We all know by now that issues with our feet can have an impact on various parts of our bodies, including the back and knees. But that doesn’t mean we are aware of the first signals our bodies give us to let us know something is wrong when we don’t have the right support. Furthermore, prolonged use of a blown shoe could cause damage to the feet. Apple stated this in the Background section of the patent.

  • Shoes (including sneakers or boots, for example) provide comfort and protection for feet. More importantly, shoes provide physical support for feet to reduce risk of foot injuries. A shoe is often necessary to provide support during intense physical activity, such as running, soccer and American football. As a shoe wears, physical support provided by the shoe decreases, thereby reducing associated protection from injury. When a critical wear level is reached, even if the shoe looks like it is not particularly worn, the shoe may not provide adequate support and may, in fact, cause damage to feet.

In addition to preventing damage and informing someone that their shoe now sucks, it may help someone who is recovering from a leg injury by monitoring the leg’s activity and letting the person know if they are using their recovering limb too much or not enough. This sensor could include wireless transmitters, accelerometers and pressure sensors. Then perhaps the data could be collected and even viewed by a physical therapist who is working with the patient.

Now once they integrate this sensor into clothing, I will finally be able to tell when I should change my underwear.

Featured Image Credit: ra2studio / Shutterstock

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