The Only Smart Running Shoes Worth Buying

Smart running shoes aren't new, but the Altra IQ can help make you a faster, injury-free runner.
Smart running shoes aren't new, but the Altra IQ can help make you a faster, injury-free runner.

Since Altra's flashy announcement at the 2015 Outdoor Retailer Summer show, there has been a lot of excitement about its new "smart running shoe." Called the IQ, it's a shoe that promises to make you a better runner through real time feedback from your sneakers. 

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Since the Nike+ launched in 2012, brands big and small have attempted — and failed — to create a smart shoe that was a hit. Recently, Under Armour also introduced its Speedform Gemini 2 ($150). While it can connect to a similar Under Amour activity tracker, app, and weight scale, it merely offers same the distance and cadence metrics as previous smarts shoes. We're not holding our breathe for this one.

The Altra IQ finally offers a significant step forward in smart shoes. Through embedded sensors in each shoe, it can provide real-time stride analysis. Not only can it offer the sort of insight for which you'd need to see a running specialist, it provides feedback though messages via your watch, phone, or earbuds that trains you to optimize your biomechanics. Let's say you get tired at the end of your long run and you start to over-stride and heel strike. After ten heel strikes in a row, the iFit app or watch will give you a coaching cue, one of 50 per fault, like "Chest forward, shoulders back," or "Keep your elbows behind your hips." 

Each shoe has a flexible sensor imbedded in the midsole that measures force at multiple points along the foot to determine how you land, impact force, cadence, ground-contact time, and any left foot–right foot imbalances. It then streams this data to your smartphone or iFit watch in real-time. Altra managed to add this emerging technology while keeping the shoe the same weight as the Impulse, at 8.6 ounces. The sensors and Bluetooth transmitter are imperceptible and don't alter the shape or feel of the shoe in any way. The technology is powered by an easily replaced coin cell battery that "sleeps" when it's not in use and is certified for one million on-off cycles — about 600 running miles — and should outlast the shoes.

Altra built the IQ with the same design as its popular Impulse road shoe, a light-cushion, performance-oriented stability shoe. And as with every Altra, the IQ has no heel drop (most running shoes have a raised heel) and features the distinctive wide toe box, which the company believes allows your foot to function more naturally. Both features bordered on radical for the running world when Altra launched in April of 2011. "The whole goal of Altra is to help you have better technique, which makes runners less prone to injury," says founder Golden Harper. "If you put on a pair of Altras, you run better and the IQ is a natural extension of that." 

The potential here is huge, but we admittedly didn't see the final version of the software. If the Altra IQ can make a dent in the astronomical injury rates runners experience, this shoe will spawn a revolution. Available June 2016. [$199;]

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