These vibrating insoles developed at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University could be the next big thing coming to a sports store near you.
The insoles have been developed with smart phone control and wireless charging capabilities, making them ready to be launched in a large market, and primed for mass appeal.
But you heard it here first: before you jump on the bandwagon to purchase this exciting new product that may promise to “prevent falls” and “improve athletic performance”, bear in mind just how much- or little- your hard earned money may be paying for.
The insoles, which “deliver imperceptible mechanical vibrations to the feet, enhancing nerve sensory performance,” do actually, admittedly, do something. They did improve participants’ agility when they were asked to complete a hexagonal jump task in a recent study.
But look at the actual stats: the magical insoles improved the performance of the participants jumping by just over one tenth of a second.
That’s right. One tenth of a second. Not even one tick on the clock. So, heads up: these insoles don’t do a whole heck of a lot.
Here are more details of what I’m talking about. The mega-brains at the Wyss Institute recently developed these insoles that use small electric parts called piezoelectric actuators to deliver imperceptible mechanical vibrations to a person’s feet.
Researchers have done their task and proved that the vibrations enhance nerve sensory performance, which could improve a person’s balance, gait control, and sense of the spatial position.
But are the results really substantial?
Sure, if you’re the next Olympian in line for a gold in the100-meter dash, these might be worth purchasing.
As the press release put out by Harvard states, “This increase in speed can represent up to a 10-20 percentile ranking difference in NCAA Division I athletes.”
But for the average person, it’s likely that it won’t make that much of a difference, if any, whether you wear these things on the court or the trail, or not.
And to be honest, in addition to minimal performance gains, what makes me suspicious of the need for these insoles is mostly the way they are being promoted.
The Wyss Institute is eager to mention just how beneficial the insoles could for high-level athletes. But they also explicitly state the technology was specifically made to reduce the “risk of acute injuries during vigorous walking or hiking,” and to improve the performance of average recreational athletes and prevent the elderly from falling.
So which is it? Who are these insoles for, the top-notch competitive college basketball player, or the average Joe? And your retired grandma?
It all smells of the same perfume that told us our Nike Airs can make us jump higher- as high as Michael Jordan- and our Adidas can make us run faster. It reeks of empty promotion.
Maybe I’m a born skeptic, but plain and simple, it sounds like the developers are just in it to make a buck, something which is that much easier to do with some Harvard-backed research to support your claims.
Daniel Miranda, Ph.D., an author of the studies, says it best, himself:
“The design engineering that was done to bring these insoles towards a real-world product was uniquely possible at the Wyss…” he states. “It’s extremely rewarding to see a technology like this move through our translation pipeline and emerge as a wearable primed for markets…The finished product looks like something you could find on a shelf at a sporting goods store.”
If you care about that one-tenth of a second in your performance, I suppose you could start saving up for some shopping.
But really? Should these hit the market soon, with summer coming it could be a good idea to simply stick to your sandals.
It could also be a great time read up on the solid evidence supporting the theory that wearing minimal to no shoes at all, is actually what’s best for your feet.
But that’s just one writer’s opinion.