Correction added Tuesday, Jan. 5
From Fitbit to Jawbone, runners already have a range of wrist-bound options to keep track of their workouts. But Under Armour is betting that joggers and marathoners want data from another source, too: Their shoes.
The company is rolling out the Speedform Gemini 2, “smart sneakers” equipped with a computer chip that measures wearers’ distance traveled, stride length, and pace. Under Armour says the $150 sneakers’ tracking capabilities are more accurate than those of a treadmill. It’s also likely to be more accurate than data collected from the wrist, since it would be less prone to false readings due to movement.
The shoes, which launch on Feb. 29, automatically detect when the wearer is running, while they enter sleep mode when not in use. That, Under Armour says, means the shoes’ battery lasts as long as the kicks do. Run data is then synched from the shoes to Under Armour's UA Record app. The shoes can store some data locally, including metrics from up to five runs and the total number of miles worn, like a car’s odometer. Under Armour says owners can expect up to 450 miles of use.
Although the sneakers are “smart,” they don’t fit any differently than the average running shoe. During my brief time wearing the Speedform Gemini 2’s, I noticed they felt lightweight and springy, adding just a bit of extra momentum to my strides. They also aren’t the first Internet-connected running shoes on the market: Nike+ running shoes come with sensors that measure how high athletes jump, as well as their speed. Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi announced last year that it’s creating a pair of connected footwear that can sync similar data to the company’s smartphone app.
Under Armour is hoping to make its tech-enabled footwear stand out from the crowd by including it in their new health-focused ecosystem. The Speedform Gemini 2 shoes will be compatible with the Under Armour Record app along with the company's soon-to-be released $180 UA Band fitness wristband, $180 UA Scale, and $80 UA heart-monitoring chest strap, all three of which were developed in partnership with technology giant HTC. HTC and Under Armour are offering the option to buy those three gadgets together in a Healthbox bundle for $400 that launches on Jan. 22, the idea being that data generated from several related devices may be more accurate than more disparate information.
Correction: The original version of this story misstated the extent of Under Armour and HTC's partnership. The Speedform Gemini 2 and the UA Record app are both made by Under Armour.