Apple takes tech to the turf with smart shoe patent

The next evolution of fitness footware
An odor eliminator might be more useful

Get ready to say goodbye to your dumb old shoes, because Apple has been granted a patent for chip-equipped smart shoes.

The patent, which has the catchy title "Shoe wear-out sensor, body-bar sensing system, unitless activity assessment and associated methods" was filed back in July 2012 but was only just approved today.

It describes a method of placing a sensor and processor in the heel of a shoe, which it could use to alert the wearer of when the shoe is worn out and needs to be replaced.

The sensor would detect and record a wearer's usage habits, so if a shoe is rated for 500 miles of running it would be able to track the runner's distance along with how vigorously they are hitting the pavement to accurately gauge the shoe's condition.

It could also detect other activities, such as weight lifting, using pressure sensors to get a more complete picture of when the shoe's sole is worn out that is tailored to athletes beyond just runners.

For example, a basketball player puts unique pressure on his or her shoes from jumping and quick burst of sprinting and stopping. The sensor would detect all of those different actions and determine the shoe's condition using the cumulative data.

Making everyday items smarter

A worn out shoe would issue an alert using either a series of LED lights or through a wireless transmitter to an external display like a smartphone.

With an external display all of the collected data could be available to the user, turning the smart shoe into an easy way to keep track of workouts without needing any external pedometer.

Nike has been hugely successful with its Nike+ products, and the Apple patent could very well be the next evolution for the fitness line or even a direct competitor.

The patent also brings up the question of how long it will be until more chip-infused products become commonplace at home.

Wearable tech has its limits (you probably really don't need a chip to tell you when a pair of pants or socks are worn out) but an LED alert letting you know to replace a toothbrush or razor doesn't sound too far-fetched anymore.

Apple's always been famous for its great designs, so if it comes out with a sleek tennie in the next few years, we might just try them on for size.