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I hate buying what I usually quaintly refer to as sneakers or running shoes, but which may also be called athletic shoes, athletic footwear, or dozens of much newer, higher-tech names that I'm not caught up on. Some marketing geniuses came up with those names in order to try to separate you from as much of your money as possible by helping you to forget that they're really just plain old sneakers all dolled up.

If you go into a sports store to buy running shoes and you show the slightest hesitation about making a selection, a salesman will quickly detect your indecision and barrage you with a meticulous series of questions because, despite my calling them all running shoes, they aren't all solely (no pun intended) for running. And, according to the manufacturers and the store's sales staff, what you're going to be doing with them supposedly determines what type of shoes you should buy. Apparently, these are precision-crafted instruments that are finely honed to meet one, and only one, unique purpose.

Will you be running, hopping, skipping, or jumping in them? Pick one. If you'll be running, is your pace best described as loping, jogging, sprinting, scuttling, scurrying, darting, dashing, or galloping? Again, pick one. Are they for indoor use or outdoor use? Will you be doing short runs, or will you be running marathons? Do you encounter any puddles on your runs? Are there any hills on your route? Maybe you aren't buying them for running at all. If not, will you be playing basketball, racquetball, squash, baseball, football, floor hockey, lacrosse, golf, or poker in them? Or is cycling your intended activity? Or are you instead planning to perform calisthenics, yoga, aerobics, weightlifting, or gymnastics? Once again, pick one.

It takes at least an hour to answer all of the salesperson's questions, but he or she usually does a fine job of convincing me that the questions are a critical part of the process required to select the perfect pair of shoes to fulfill my particular requirement—or pairs of shoes if I intend to put them to two exceptionally different purposes, such as running both uphill and downhill. Unfortunately, despite there being what seems like a million different types of athletic footwear, manufacturers don't make shoes designed specifically for what I want them to do with them, which is leave them in my locker at the gym while I work hard at trying to think up valid excuses for not putting them on and doing my workout.

As if all of that nonsense is not enough, now, rather than just figuring out what I plan to do with the shoes before I buy them, I also need to decide which microprocessor I want in them. I have just one small request of the athletic footwear makers: If it wouldn't be too much trouble, please deliver unto me the slightest of breaks. Is this really the best use of some engineer's time that they could come up with?

What am I whining about this time? Adidas has made a shoe that contains a sensor and a microprocessor that are used to control a shock absorber. In the basketball version of this shoe, the microprocessor uses input from the sensor to determine whether, for example, you are running down the court or taking a jump shot. It then delivers the appropriate amount of shock absorption. Runners can use buttons on their shoes to adjust them for a firmer or softer run. The result is better cushioning, I assume to protect your precious joints. And, because everyone is mollified by flashing lights, the shoes contain LEDs that light up to prove that the electronics—or at least the LEDs—are working.

Oh, come on. My rule is that it isn't really a sport unless there's a decent chance of injury. What's this automated shock absorber nonsense all about? I've got an idea. If they want to develop a basketball shoe that might interest me, it should play the game on its own while I watch from the stands, eat a hotdog, and down a beer.

The athletic shoe business is ruthless. Not to be outdone by Adidas, Nike is teaming up with Apple to create a wireless shoe. Excuse me? All of my shoes are wireless. They have laces, but no wires, at least none that tether me to an electronic gadget. So what's the big deal?

The big deal is that these shoes will communicate with an iPod. The shoe will send the iPod information such as the number of calories you've burned, the pace you're running at, how long you've been running, what distance you've covered, and so on. That information will be available to you either on the iPod's display or in audio format through its earphones. Oh yeah, that last one is going to make for an exciting run. "You've now run 275 steps. You've now run 276 steps. You've now run 277 steps...."

I don't know about other people, but one piece of information that this shoe-iPod combination won't have to give me is the ambient temperature. I only go outside for a run or jog on cold days in hell, so I'll already know.

It doesn't stop there. Someone has come up with yet another great idea for integrating high technology into low-tech shoes. Gillian Swan, a student at Brunel University in the United Kingdom, has come up with a design that marries children's shoes with television sets. You probably think I'm making this up. I'm not. Check it out at the Brunel University Web site.

Swan's shoe has a sensor in the insole that measure's the child's activity during the day. This information is transmitted wirelessly to a base station attached to the family television set. The amount of physical activity the child has done determines how long he or she is allowed to watch television. When the allotted time runs out, the television automatically switches off.

I don't think Swan took this idea nearly far enough. Why not make these shoes for both adults and children? And don't stop at connecting them to just televisions. Also install electronic, remote-controlled locks on refrigerators and pantries. Don't allow either to be opened by anyone who has not yet burned off a sufficient number of calories that day.

While she's at it, why not add a radio transmitter capable of jamming the electronic cash registers at fast-food emporiums? Then you wouldn't be allowed to place an order for a double bacon cheeseburger with super-sized fries and soft drink unless you've just successfully completed a double marathon.

I see this as only a very rudimentary start. If they really want to take this smart shoe idea to the extreme, why not develop a pair of shoes that can clean up my place and do my shopping—particularly shopping for sneakers—without the need for me to be wearing them at the time? With terrific ideas like these, I can't understand why I'm not rich.

If you're as old as I am, this self-walking shoe concept will probably bring for you, as it did for me, new meaning to that classic Nancy Sinatra song, "These Boots Are Made for Walking." If you're not as old as I am, please keep that little tidbit of information to yourself. I'm in no mood to hear about your current youth.

Joel Klebanoff is a consultant, a writer, and president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc., a Toronto, Canada-based marketing communications firm. He is also the author of BYTE-ing Satire, a compilation of a year's worth of his columns. Joel has 25 years experience working in IT, first as a programmer/analyst and then as a marketer. He holds a Bachelor of Science in computer science and an MBA, both from the University of Toronto. Contact Joel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. His idea of a really smart shoe is one that costs less than his car, is comfortable, provides good arch support, and doesn't require batteries, particularly not ones that need to be replaced or recharged after a nice walk in the park.

Joel Klebanoff

Joel Klebanoff is a consultant, writer, and formerly president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc., a Toronto-based marketing communications firm. He has 30 years' experience in various IT capacities and now specializes in writing articles, white papers, and case studies for IT vendors and publications across North America. Joel is also the author of BYTE-ing Satire, a compilation of a year's worth of his columns. He holds a BS in computer science and an MBA, both from the University of Toronto. Contact Joel at joel@klebanoff.com.


MC Press books written by Joel Klebanoff available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.