(KSL.com — December 5, 2015) — SALT LAKE CITY — A shoe insert developed in Utah recently snagged an innovation award from the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show for its ability to help athletes correct their form and avoid injury.
The Mettis Trainer shoe insert, created by Utah-based company Bend Tech, detects forces like balance and weight distribution to send real-time feedback to Android and iOS devices. It can also provide tips for specific sports, such as letting a runner know when he is hitting his heel or toe too much, according to Bend Tech founder Tony DeGreef.
“If you knew while you were running that you’re doing something wrong … and you have something that tells you that, the chances are you’ll correct yourself before you hurt yourself,” he said. “So before you feel that pain, you’re going to get a notification (from the app).”
What sets the insert apart from other activity trackers developed by shoe companies is the type of sensor it uses. While most devices use estimations based on data from force-sensing resistor sensors, the Mettis Trainer employs a single-layer Bend Sensor. Those sensors, which are made in Draper, are inexpensive to manufacture and more durable, according to DeGreef. He also said that, unlike FSR sensors, the Bend Sensors can withstand water.
“You can run through puddles. You can run through water. I don’t care if you go swimming with (the insert),” he said. “It’s not going to change. It’s still going to read.”
The Mettis Trainer is being marketed to runners and golfers, with specific apps in development for each sport. However, DeGreef said, the technology could be used to benefit any type of athlete. He has been talking to coaches of other sports while working on the product.
Previously, DeGreef used the Bend Sensors to develop and patent a medical bed that prevents bedsores. After that project, someone approached him about using the same technology to help golfers with their balance and runners with their form. DeGreef himself has a significant amount of exposure to sports. He has officiated football, baseball and basketball for the past 30 years, in addition to coaching various youth teams.
“One of the things that bugs me is I see so many injuries that you don’t need (to have gotten),” he said. “So many people hurt themselves and if they would’ve done one dumb little thing different they would have been able to not get hurt.”
DeGreef said he hopes the Mettis Trainer will be a low-cost tool to help athletes avoid injury and improve their game. The goal is to have the device available for purchase at the beginning of 2016.
The Mettis Trainer will be on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. It received a CES 2016 Innovation Award in New York City on Nov. 10 as an honoree in the fitness, sports and biotech category.