Here’s a Shoe that Can Do the Walking for You (sort of)
Futurist footwear brand Baliston has introduced a new experience that’s a step up from your regular shoe. This sustainable, AIaugmented apparel analyses numerous data-points every time you pound the pavement, and it’s one hundred percent recyclable too.
Not wanting to get left behind, I tested a pair for myself, and I’ll never view a simple walk in the same away ever again.
In a press release for the “Baliston by STARCK,” so named because the shoe was designed by leading designer, architect, and investor, Phillipe Starck, an explanation to encapsulate just what this new disruptive product is, reads: “Embedded with AI technology that captures the wearer’s gait biometrics to analyze their walking DNA and provide customized insights to an app that helps users understand the body and improve how they move.”
There’s a lot to unpack there, and I have questions! For example, is this just adding too many layers of complexity to what should be a peaceful walk or exhilarating jog? And if not, why do we need data on the way we walk anyway? Having tested the shoe for myself, I found the answers, and they were simple to grasp.
Setting up the Baliston by STARCK
Fortunately, the Baliston by STARCK is easy to set up. Inside the box is a chip for each foot, placed inside the sole, and a USB charger for topping up the chips’ batteries. Fitting the chips into the shoe is effortless but my concern was that having two lumps of plastic under my feet would make them uncomfortable. Thankfully, this was not the case. Within a few minutes you can be out the house and collecting data. Just download the app, add some profile info, pair it with the shoes, and off you go.
What can AI data tell us about the way we move?
“This is more than a shoe,” said Frenchman Phillipe Starck, speaking of the Baliston on a recent Instagram post. He explained that these shoes know more about us than we know about them. “It’s a revolution,” he concludes. In fact, this AI knows things about you that you probably didn’t even know were a “a thing” at all. Let’s take a closer look.
- Supination & Pronation: Walkers that supinate tend to put more weight on the outside of the foot, as opposed to pronation, where walkers tend to put more pressure on the inside. Both types of steps are completely normal and, apparently, we all find individual ways of distributing our weight. Supination dominance is less common in the population, but more prevalent in athletes. However, knowledge around the type of walker that you are could provide valuable insight in terms of relieving injuries. If you are more of a supinator and you have knee or back pain, you could experiment with bringing in a little more pronation.
- Propulsion: Propulsion isn’t reserved for Usain Bolt and jet engines, it’s something that we all have in differing degrees. The AI measures the speed of which your foot leaves the ground as you step.
- High Impact Force: What goes up, must come back down, so a measure is taken in relation to the force that your heel impacts the ground as it returns to earth.
- Stride Length: This measurement represents the distance between two successive heel strikes from the same foot.
- Symmetry: Here, the AI analyzes your gait (the pattern of your walk) to determine the difference between the time spent in the left and right phases of your stride. The top score would be 100% (50% on each foot)
Why do we need data on the way we walk?
Our natural walking gait speed is becoming a piece of information that is of great importance to the medical world. In fact, research even suggests that those who walk at a faster pace consistently outlive those that trail behind. By finding out about our walking performance, we can identify the strong and weaker points, and this could help us to improve the way we walk, and the resulting speed. Having put on those Baliston bad boys, I was eager to find out how I scored overall. The app says 69/100, which sounds less than stellar, but I’m reassured on-screen that this equates to “High Quality.” Digging deeper, one of the reasons for this high-quality score is my symmetry, tallied up at 100%!
The app also has advice for increasing your scores and sub-scores. For example: “The stride length could be increased simply with better posture,” Now, as someone who often suffers with back pain, this makes a lot of sense. “When you walk, try to look 15-20 meters in front of you, stand up straight and try to lower your shoulders,” advises my new footsy friend.
How comfortable are the Baliston by STARCK shoes?
It’s always great to hear that a shoe is sustainable, but it’s often difficult to understand what percentage of a product can actually be recycled. In the case of the Baliston by STARCK, that number is as straight forward as they come: 100%. On first impression the design is spot-on. It’s a smart, casual piece of footwear that, depending on which colorway you go with, could be worn at the gym or in the office.
I opted for the full black pair, and really appreciated the option to have a black sneaker that doesn’t have a stark white soul. Instead, it has a STARCK black sole and a fabric outer lining that is cool and understated, meaning that you can wear them in a variety of settings. For me, the shoe was roomy, and this is something that I look for in a fit. I don’t like my toes to touch the front of the shoe. I need my space! The purchase model requires you to subscribe to their plan at $249.99 per year and for that, in addition to the initial pair and all the data, Baliston will replace and recycle your shoes once they are worn out. The app will even tell you when it’s time to send them back.
I was very surprised that this shoe has actually become one of my favorite daily wears, and not once have I felt the chip beneath my feet. In fact, take away all the technical wizardry, and the shoe is worthy in its own right. The app itself is simply to use, if perhaps still in its infancy. I’m sure there will be more data points to come, and more articles and resources for explaining the myriad of aspects to the way that we walk, but in terms of revolutionizing footwear, it’s difficult to disagree with Starck’s assessment that this is a bit of a revolution. It’s a shoe, Jim, but not as we know it. Available now!