Footwear that also track and navigate
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Lechal smart insoles and buckles
Tracking the number of steps walked in a day and calculating the calories burnt in the process has become the favourite pastime of many a fitness enthusiast. There are many fitness bands that help track such activity, and remain paired with your smartphone. But Indian start-up Lechal is now selling fitness insoles and buckles for footwear that may provide a more accurate way of tracking movement because it actually only detects foot movement and not hand movement (fitness bands on wrists approximate distance walked through motion-detection tech and various sensors).
This rather unique wearable works with any footwear and pairs with your smartphone—and apart from fitness tracking, it can also assist in navigation. Globally, a few brands make smart soles for footwear, but we are yet to come across a comparable rival product in India.
What you get is a pair of insoles for your shoes, and buckles that can be laced up with your footwear—you can use either with any footwear, or deploy each on different pairs of shoes.The insoles can be cut to fit your shoe.
The critical part of the entire package are the two pods, which are fitted with sensors that track movement and location. These pods have rechargeable batteries (a dock is provided for charging) and pair with the Lechal app (free for Android and iOS) on your phone. The app also lets you configure each of these pods for the leg it’ll be worn on and the shoe type.
The insoles have a docking mechanism in which you can fit the pods—this is directly under the foot arch. You won’t even realize the pods are there. You’ll need to be careful, however, about the sports shoe you use them in. For they do add some bulk under your foot, pushing the foot itself more towards the top of the shoe. If you are wearing one of the newer-gen sock-like sports shoes (such as the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit), the soles might not fit well. But if it’s the more conventional designs (such as the Nike Air Zoom series), they do. Alternatively, you can install the buckles with the shoelaces, and dock the pods on those—this works beautifully with almost any shoe.
The biggest advantage of these wearables is that the pods track actual foot movement, unlike fitness bands which sometimes also mistake random hand gestures for walking. Through the app, you can start workouts and set targets—the pods vibrate once you achieve the goal.
Battery life is a strong point (the pods last about 12 days on a single charge). Navigation is quite uniquely handled too. Just punch in the location you’re heading for in the app and keep the phone in your pocket—the pods will vibrate on the right or left foot, to indicate the direction you need to take.
While these unique wearables don’t come cheap, they do have two distinct advantages—they are accurate in tracking movement, and they remain out of the way. The navigation capabilities are a rather nice addition.