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'Smart' Shoe Automatically Adjusts to Your Feet - 2004-06-10

A few years ago, an American engineering student invented a running shoe with a small embedded computer that expanded or contracted the shoe to meet the demands of the human foot inside it. Called the "Raven Thinkshoe," the product has so far failed in the commercial marketplace, but now one of the world's leading shoemakers is giving the concept a try.

Adidas is calling it the "Model One," a running shoe the German sporting-goods maker says automatically adjusts to the demands of the wearer. One of its inventors is Christian Dibenedetto of Adidas's North American headquarters in Portland, Oregon.

"What the shoe does is basically it can adapt to the individual that's wearing it, and it can give them the appropriate cushioning all the time," he says.

A magnet and a sensor in the shoe's heel make thousands of readings per second, signaling a tiny electric motor to change the cushioning as needed.

"The magnet sits underneath so it fits in that cavity and then as this compresses, we can measure the distance between that sensor and the magnet," he adds. "That information passes up into our micro-controller which is the brain of the unit, and that micro-controller understands the right amount of cushioning and can make decisions."

The goal is to make the shoe adjust to changing road and track conditions and to the runner's particular style. Of course, not everyone will be running away with this shoe: When it hits the market later this year, it's estimated price tag will be at least $250 a pair.