In order to reliably assess a runner’s form, we needed to develop a sensor that would capture the runner’s stride and accurately differentiate not only between a runner’s heel strike and toe strike, but also the degree of both, to produce informative feedback.
A compact sensor that attaches to runners’ shoelaces, measures their stride and foot strike, and provides feedback to help them improve their technique and performance.
New Balance’s research in Good Form Running (GFR) and the importance of a correct foot strike led to a question: if runners would receive real-time feedback about their running form, would they physically adjust their form, while running?
New Balance shared its theory with us and asked us to help create a product that would expand its research capability from qualitative observation to real-time quantitative feedback.
We began by creating an exploratory prototype rigged with a broad range of sensors to measure all aspects of a runner’s stride when attached to the leg. In addition to gathering this quantitative data, we videotaped runners in action to visually observe their heel and toe strikes. By synchronizing this footage with readings from the sensor system, we were able to recognize key correlations and identify relevant data.
To make this information usable for a runner, we needed to develop a communication system that would wirelessly send real-time data to runners via their smartphone. This feedback mechanism needed to be user-friendly, allowing runners to easily interpret information and make adjustments to their form.
Through the app we developed, runners can set custom parameters for the frequency and threshold of the real-time feedback they receive, as well as whether they want to receive positive or corrective assessment. If a runner’s strike deviates from the chosen parameters, the app will audibly notify the runner, providing the opportunity to adjust form.
When deployed to runners by the New Balance research team, everyone was excited to find the sensor gave the users feedback that allowed them to actively improve their form. Runners enjoyed using the product, and New Balance was pleased to have proven its hypothesis in order to continue its research.