05/20/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT
It's the ultimate running shoe. Push a button or a sequence of them, and the computer that sits on top of Adidas' new Micropacer flashes numbers that tell a wearer the distance, time and average speed that's been run or walked. Program a number derived from a formula based on your weight, and the computer will display how many calories have been burned in the effort.
Avid runners and those who walk for fitness usually keep methodical records of such things in notebooks or on scraps of paper. "Here we've taken the need for a daily log of their experiences, and we've put it in a nice little package," says Bill Mintiens, 31, head of shoe product development at Adidas (U.S.A.) and a member of the 10-person team that spent more than two years perfecting the shoe, which can cumulatively log daily and monthly records for up to a year. "We looked at the growth of the computer industry, specifically home computers and computers on wristwatches," Mintiens goes on to explain. "It just made sense to blend it with running."
Weighing in at 11.9 ounces, the Micropacer is made from kangaroo leather and comes in a flashy silver-and-blue design. The battery-powered computer that distinguishes the Micropacers from ordinary sneakers is about the size of a digital watch. It plugs into a cushioned socket in the tongue of the shoe, and wires connect it to a sensor in the midsole. Water and weather resistant, the computer registers on foot impact.
Although there is no technical reason, other than minimizing potential auto-related damage, only the left shoe is computerized "because people are normally running against traffic," says Mintiens, who puts in about 35 miles a week. "It's on top of the shoe because that generally doesn't come under any stress. It's an out-of-the-way place, and you can lean over and read it easily."
Priced from $100 to 125 (a combo nylon-mesh-and-leather version retails for about $100), Micropacer appears to be a hit even before it has reached the market: Spurred on by recent publicity and customer inquiries, retailers have requested that distributors moderately increase their orders. Building up inventory to meet the demand has delayed the shoe's debut from sometime in May until October. Women will have to wait still longer because Micropacer comes only in men's sizes 6 to 13.
Adidas has been delighted at the interest shown in the shoe. Yet the company admits it has a few shortcomings. "Unfortunately it does not tell you the time of day or date," Mintiens says. For that, you'll still have to wear your watch.