Technology for Altra’s Torin IQ was inevitable. Sensors integrated into articles of clothing have long been acknowledged to be the next step in wearable tech, and the Utah-based footwear maker just happened to beat most of its competition to the finish line with a pair of running shoes that bake tracking directly into the sole. However, unlike the scads of smart clothing technology that’s almost certainly on the horizon, the IQs are designed to address the very real issue of repetitive stress injury. It’s what turns running from a terrific full-body cardio workout to a veritable disintegrator of body parts.
And it’s what made me jump at the opportunity to have a go with the company’s new smart kicks. I only recently started running again after systematically grinding every joint and muscle below my waist into a fine powder. For all the health positives of running, doing it for any extended period of time can be downright destructive. And the common wisdom among many runners is that modern running shoes only exacerbate the issue with over-padding that masks the warning signs are bodies have evolved to let us know when we’re doing it. It’s why you briefly saw so many folks running around with those ridiculous toe shoes a few years back. To answer your question, yes, they think they’re better than you, but they don’t have to say it because their shoes have done all the talking.
For those less inclined to adopt barefoot or near barefoot running, there are plenty of shoes on the market designed to correct for common running problems like pronation and supination. Like many other runners, I tend toward to former, and it’s left me with a limp on numerous occasions, along with a laundry list of different issues like heel bursitis and plantar fasciitis. I had to get shots in my foot to relieve inflammation. I don’t recommend it. Any decent running store should have some sort of rig in place to better measure your impact. After recovering from my injuries the first time, I visited a store in Manhattan with a treadmill and camera rig designed to capture the runner’s foot strike at the moment of impact.
Torin IQ’s sensor technology is an attempt to provide a longer term solution in real-time. The app breaks down the bottom of the foot into sectors: heel, toe and left and right sides. A built-in audio assistant helpfully offers up tips for correcting runs in real-time, along with your standard array of motivation sentiments. And when a run in finished, it shows a breakdown of how you landed. This is far and away the shoes’ most useful smart feature. They’ll also tell you the time spent running, cadence, distance, and pace, but you’re not really getting much there that you aren’t already getting on your wrist-worn wearable.