The Challenge of Designing High Tech Shoe Modifications

On the outside chance that you don’t follow the MDDI (Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry) Journal, I would like to tell you about something that I recently saw that was very exciting. The recent headline article was “3 Wireless Devices to Watch.”  (Remember they are engineers and English is not their strong suit.) The third device in the list is a shoe insole that wirelessly sends information on the pressure and temperature of a patient’s foot while they are walking. The idea is that a person could be followed following surgery and during their rehabilitation to monitor skin temperature and pressure. What a wonderful idea!moticon-opengo-sensor-insoles

The pity is that I’ll bet we never see this. I can’t count the times I’ve seen wonderful ideas for shoe modifications or insoles and never came to be. I remember just a few years ago someone got a patent for a shoe which dynamically changed its arch and cushioning as one moved. It was touted as providing firm support when someone was jumping up in basketball and providing cushioning as they returned to the ground following the jump. This sounded like an idea that could be a real game changer. I followed the patent a little bit. It was developed by an engineer at MIT and it seemed that Adidas was going to pursue making the shoe. I’ve never heard any more about it. Wonder whether it was the economics or the technical difficulty that did in — or maybe it still in the works.

The one thing that any professional who deals with the feet realizes rather quickly is that the shoe is an incredibly hostile, unforgiving environment. There is little room, there’s a lot of heat and a tremendous amount of pressure.  I suspect that designing high-tech electronics to survive in that environment is much more difficult than anyone anticipates. I would be willing to bet that it is easier to design electronics to survive in outer space than in a shoe! Like I sometimes tell my patients nothing lasts forever inside shoes, not even your feet.

Here is the link to the article: