(Pocket-lint) - AIRUN think they have the solution to expanding waist-lines with their latest shoes. The shoes combine a number of features to appeal to those looking to lose weight or get fit, or both. But will these shoes be your personal trainer?
Two ideas are brought together in the AIRUN shoes. The first is the idea of weighting the legs to increase the amount work needed for each step. The second is the incorporation of a sensor and control unit to provide feedback on your activity.
To achieve these aims, the shoes have been adapted to provide two different insoles. The first is a basic (red) lightweight insole, which weighs 106g, the second is a heavier insole (brown), which weighs in at 750g. Changing insoles is simply a case of pulling one out and replacing with the other, and then laying a standard top insole over the top.
The sensor unit is housed in the bottom of the shoe and the controller unit connects to a mount on the tongue of the left shoe. The wires are discreetly run in a band inside the shoe from the sole to the tongue. The sensor basically detects the steps you take and using information you have put into the controller, calculates a number of statistics.
After inputting your age, weight, height and sex, the controller completes a basic BMI calculation to give you recommendations on your ideal weight, the aim being that you can exercise towards that goal. Once connected, the controller unit will record your activity, and calculate the number of steps you have taken, time, distance covered, calories burnt, and progress against your calorie expenditure target, given as a percentage.
Of course, slip in the heavier insoles, and inform the controller of the change and your figures will change accordingly, i.e., your activity will burn more calories and accelerate you towards your target.
All good in theory, but this is a path fraught with difficulties. To achieve this combination of weighing options and feedback, the shoes have expanded, meaning they are chunkier than your average cross training shoe. Of course, the weighted insole has to be thick to pack in the necessary weight: it is still flexible in the forefoot area, but is thick in the heel and mid section. The result is that you feel as though your heel is lifted, like you are wearing high heels, and nothing we’ve experienced in any training shoes before. Whilst the forefoot area feels like a regular trainer, the mid and heel sections do not.
The expansion needed to accommodate the heavy insoles means the lightweight insoles have to fill the same space in the shoe. The result is an overly soft insole. This presents something of a problem as on each step there is considerable compression and we felt it to be very unstable on heel loading, both when running and stepping, such as in step aerobics.
As this shoe is aimed at those wanting to lose weight, the target user will probably need a stability shoe and we found that the compression in the heel led to increased pressure in the arches as the midsole met the foot. Also, we found that pronation wasn’t at all controlled, with a distinct rocking of the foot: pronation is contributory to a host of sports injuries and we don’t feel the AIRUN address this sufficiently.
Moving on to the controller, you don’t notice that the sensor is there and getting access to this information is interesting. The attachment is fairly robust and protected by a strap and it can be easily removed to view the information.
The controller has six basic buttons and it won’t do anything like store your workouts, so you’ll have to reset it after each activity. Equally, there is no way to get the data out, making this a rather basic offering for those looking to track their progress. The system seems to work, but offers little more than a £10 pedometer.
It is a shame, however, that the controller sits on the tongue of the shoe, rather than strapping over the top, as this means you have to lace up the shoes around it, arguably contributing again to stability issues. It is also worth considering that to view the information on the screen you’ll have to remove the device and scroll through the presented data: ultimately, it is for information after your activity, rather than during.
Besides these two elements of the system, the shoes themselves seem to be well made, with good textured sole grips and ample padding, however, the increase size of insert means that we found the padding that normally cups the top of your heel, didn’t, and as a result, the heel tends to lift from the sole, leading to rubbing around the Achilles tendon area.
The AIRUN+ are an interesting concept, but we feel the combination of the weighting and the sensor to be a step too far.
The insoles did not give us the sense of security we’d expect from a training shoe and if you can’t get that right, then you’ve set off on the wrong foot (excuse the pun).
We did, however, like the concept of the embedded sensor and controller unit. With a little refinement to allow normal lacing, then this could be a really useful element in future models – so long as the basic shoe is up to the task. Simple access to exercise data could be a good motivator for those looking to increase their activity levels.
But you do have to consider the price: at £125, this is a fair way above the cost of a normal branded pair of cross training shoes, and a pedometer and ankle weights can also be sourced for less overall cost. Bearing in mind you’ll have to change the shoes when they wear out, this does look like an expensive offering.