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These smart insoles might be the missing link to running faster

Today’s column was supposed to be a deep dive into the best tech on show at the London Marathon Expo, a chance to show off how much stuff was on offer to the budding marathoner and helping them get faster.

Except there wasn’t much there, and I nearly managed to ruin my marathon before I’d even got into the event. I decided it would be a good idea to try the first challenge I saw when I walked in the door, running 400m at world record pace on a bouncy treadmill.

I did it – but the second I stepped off the treadmill I realised my hamstrings had turned to concrete and were in pieces. Oh no. Oh no. OH NO!

Yep, in jeans.

I did win a hat though.

I also got a chance to go hands-on with Garmin’s rather exciting new Forerunner 935 multisport watch (do check that out if you’ve got serious aspirations to do, well, any sport) and saw the new versions of the bone-conducting – but beyond that, only one thing stood out.

That was Arion, a smart insole that promises to paint a new picture of your running style to give you insider knowledge that even a top-end coach would struggle to note.

The insole is a super-slim little device that goes inside any shoe (including any with specially-made insoles already) and packs in eight sensors to monitor pressure.

The insole has a small cable that slips out the side of the shoe and clips to a (rather ostentatious) block that contains an accelerometer, gyroscope and GPS unit, taking the place of a running watch when it comes to tracking your runs.

That ‘monitor block’ glows rather brightly, although you can change the colors of the LEDs that indicate it’s connected. Some might not like it, but for me having that on my trainer would be like finally wearing a pair of LA lights trainers.

The result is technology that can see exactly where your foot is pressing down throughout each step on a run and can show where you might be losing speed due to an issue with running gait or form.

The demo I was shown by CEO Andrew Statham offered just that: a look at an elite runner who, it turned out, wasn’t using all their toes on one side and thus was suffering from a loss of power from their right leg.

A physio or coach saw that data and found the problem was in the thigh, where a ruptured muscle was causing an imbalance. Fixing something like that can boost speed by a few per cent, which really matters at elite level.

Fine, but what about the more hobbyist runner, someone who’s not going to be troubling the Olympic squad but wants to know a little bit more about their running style, find any possible injury issues and get a little bit faster?

Statham told me that was where the artificial intelligence baked into the software platform – available both online and through an app – came to the fore.

When starting up the system you’ll be taken through a training run, where you’ll be asked to log any pain and the location, intensity and frequency of it. From there the Arion platform will see if that data correlates with any…

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