Runners who want to track their every step can strap on an ever-growing array of smart apparel, including wristbands, bras, shorts, shirts, hats, headbands, insoles, and necklaces. Now the lowly body part doing the actual work has a wearable of its own: socks.
These socks, available from Sensoria Fitness on Tuesday, contain sensors designed to monitor how far, how fast, and even how well you run. Sensoria, which has been working on the socks for four years, is betting that wearable tech will become fully integrated into the clothes that consumers already own.
"Why not inject sensing technology into whatever we wear, instead of forcing someone to wear something else that is not part of their wardrobe?" Davide Vigano, Sensoria co-founder and CEO, argued to BuzzFeed News.
Vigano's philosophy is shared by some analysts who are bearish on the fitness-tracking wristbands made by companies such as FitBit and Jawbone. Sales will drop to 19 million units in 2016, down from 30 million in 2013, the market research firm Gartner predicts. Smart clothing, on the other hand, could grow from 10,000 units sold in 2013 to 26 million in 2016.
In Sensoria's socks, three sensors built into the heel and toe areas collect information about the wearer's form, distance, pace, descent, ascent, altitude, foot contact time, steps, and cadence. A lightweight Bluetooth-enabled anklet then wirelessly sends real-time updates to the user's smartphone app. It can coach a runner, for example, to stop striking her heel, which puts her at risk of injury. It can also notify joggers when their shoes have racked up hundreds of miles and might need to be replaced.
One advantage Sensoria's socks have over some other smart apparel is that they can be thrown straight into the wash (although the socks grow less "smart" after 60 washes, Vigano said). The initial $199 purchase includes two pairs of smart socks, one Bluetooth anklet, and one anklet charger; subsequent socks cost $49 for two pairs. That's on par with what people might pay for a FitBit.
These socks won't be the last kind of wearable technology for runners, but Vigano said they are both the most universally wearable and individually personal. "The human foot has never been served with technology in the way we think about it," he said.