Put Some Pep in Your Step with Vibrating Insoles

Sad feet? Vibrating shoe insoles may be the solution.

 

Are you still walking around in stone-age gel insoles? Did you know that a little buzz in your shoes might improve nerve function and aid in strenuous and standard walking situations?

Two studies using insoles from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University suggest that low-level “imperceptible” vibration in insoles could reduce the risk of some injuries and improve athletic performance in agility tasks. The idea behind the insoles, based on the principle of stochastic resonance (SR), is that tiny vibrations—delivered by small actuators—can improve sensory detection in healthy users and those with walking impairments.

One study showed the insoles helped users maintain balance while fatigued, as they walked on inclined treadmills with heavy backpacks. In the second study, researchers observed participants in a hexagonal jump test typically used with athletes. The insoles improved completion time by more than a tenth of a second. This may seem like a small difference, but the Wyss Institute notes that, “This increase in speed can represent up to a 10-20 percentile ranking difference in NCAA Division I athletes.”

The wearable technology may allow soldiers, hikers, seniors and the general public to increase walking safety by reducing the risk of falling.

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