Thursday, August 13, 2015

Outdoor Retailer Summer 15: Altra Introduces IQ, a Shoe with Live iFit Feedback Technology, Fitness and Activity Watches, Impulse Stability Shoe.

Altra Running is a scrappy Utah running shoe company on the rise. All Altra shoes have Zero Drop and a marvelous FootShape toe box. Launched during the minimal craze, Altras now has a wide range of shoes for road and trail : more minimal, conventional levels of cushioning, maximal levels, stability, and neutral models.

Altra was recently purchased by ICON Health and Fitness which among other brands owns ProForm, makers of the official Boston Marathon treadmill and Tour de France training bikes. Icon supplies fitness equipment to homes and gyms worldwide.

Altra introduced the IQ sensored shoe and associated iFit app to great fanfare and effect at Outdoor Retailer. Altra substituted their traditional Pro-Form uphill treadmill challenge races, which always draw a crowd, for a choreographed presentation of runners on belts above the booth. The runners demonstrated IQ on the run, every half hour, for 3 days. I heard some of the performers, who included road and ultra elites, logged 20 miles a day!  What a way to get your miles in during the long indoor show. The small booth was packed and the "show" was a huge hit.

Altra Running IQ Demonstration

The iFit fitness app and site along with compatible ProForm, Nordic Track, Reebok, FreeMotion, and Epic equipment allows you to not only aggregate all your fitness data from the machines, from the road, or from your more mundane activities such as daily walking steps but if so equipped actually lets you ride or run routes such as the Boston Marathon or Tour de France.  Icon has a partnership with Google so Google Maps Street Views can be displayed on screens at the machine, with automatic adjustment of the slope, just as on the real course. Imagine exploring Paris or Rome on foot! There are also hundreds of workout programs with the machines automatically adjusting to follow your program.  iFit costs $99 a year.  Machines and/or gym memberships extra!

So... to get outside the gym and to better capture what goes on inside the gym for athletes Icon purchased Altra Running and is developing a iFit IQ sensored shoe, the IQ, which will launch sometime in the 2nd Quarter of 2016. They also presented a  line of reversible "fashion" everyday watches the iFit Duo line, one side activity data, the other side classic watch. Along with the Duo the line will include a full range of activity bands and a GPS watch the Ridge which can display the IQ's stride data.
iFit Duo

iFit Duo

Altra IQ Run Shoe
The IQ shoe and associated iFit Ridge Watch and iFit phone app are liable to be of most interest to runners.
The IQ has an embedded sensor array and a coin style battery.  I believe its a force sensor and not as often seen accelerometers.
Altra IQ Midsole Sensor
IQ will measure and display (on iFit Ridge or iFit phone app) the following running data:

  • landing zone (heel, mid foot, forefoot) to "gauge efficiency"
  • impact forces
  • cadence
Audio and visual feedback will be provided via the app.

The iFit IQ sensor technology will first be applied to a single shoe, the IQ, a neutral trainer with 23mm stack. No need to call out heel and fore foot stacks as Altra is Zero Drop! It will weigh 8.6 oz 244g Men's 7.1 oz 201g Women's and will be on sale sometime in the 2nd Quarter of 2016, Approximate retail $200. An iFit app for IQ shoe data will be included free.
Altra IQ

Altra IQ

Some may say that forcing the consumer into a single shoe is limiting but I think starting with a controlled shoe platform is a wise move to get the tech right. It remains to be seen if Altra will create removable IQ insoles and/or into what other shoes in their line they may embed iFit sensors.

The app will display audible cues to help deliver live form improving feedback. I saw prototype data displayed on an iPad as a runner ran on the treadmill above.
Altra IQ iFit app in action.
The runner on the treadmill is Altra athlete Zach Bitter who was 6th at the World 100K Championships in Qatar and who recently ran 100 miles on an indoor track in 12:08. He ran close to a marathon a day in the IQ during Outdoor Retailer!

The trick to the success of IQ  and its technologies will be in developing on the run feedback that is useful without glancing at screens continuously. Personal trainers will certainly use the app with their clients at the gym but I don't have  a trainer and need the feedback on my wrist and in my ear, particularly over varied terrain.

If the tech is there and the interface is well done I am confident Golden Harper, Altra founder and a genius at evaluating and transforming "form" and bio mechanics into innovative shoe design as well as simply expressing running form tips can translate this data into useful feedback for the runner. I have picked up and have applied one of his tips regarding arm carriage: "pump back and recover forward". 

There is a ways to go from what I saw to fully develop and test the IQ concept by the 2nd quarter of 2016 but Altra is well on its way. The market will determine the value of a "closed" iFit ecosystem and the $99 annual subscription, first year included with purchase of an activity band or watch. For many and especially those with indoor fitness regimes I think it could well be worth it.  I hope Icon and Altra get to the point where an IQ insole and iFit can be used with any shoe but starting "inside" to get it right is certainly a valid approach.

Tackl has more information on the IQ  here including that the sensor has been subjected to bending testing equivalent 

Back to shoes... 
Altra was kind enough to provide us with pairs of their Lone Peak 2.5 trail shoes. A first run on Park City single track was very promising. Love the forefoot feel climbing and descending. 
Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5

I will also be testing and reviewing Altra's new Impulse, a very light 8.6oz 244g Men 7.1ox 201g, 23mm stack "stability" shoe. I usually don't care for stability shoes but The StabiiPod technology instead of building up or firming up the medial side of the shoe, something I can't stand, creates a tripod of support focused on the forefoot an area where I do like stability.  

Altra Running Impulse

The Lone Peak and Impulse were provided at on charge to Road Trail Run. Road Trail Run has a affiliate relationship with Altra Running.. The opinions herein are entirely our own.
Interested in other shoe brands, packs, illumination introductions at Outdoor Retailer? All our coverage at RoadTrailRun's summary page here

1 comment:

Alica said...

There are many and especially those with indoor fitness regimes I think it could well be worth it. I hope Icon and Altra get to the point where an IQ insole and iFit can be used with any shoe but starting "inside" to get it right is certainly a valid approach.