Running Shoe Innovations

A new way to tie one on

Since the invention of the mastodon-hide sandal, humanity has continued to search for the best way to keep shoes snugly attached to your feet. (Velcro, you were this close.) Now, there's the new Inner Lock Lacing System from ASICS. Whereas the laces of most running shoes simply cinch the upper—tightening the shoe's sidewalls and pressing the foot down onto the footbed—the new Trail Sensor 2 WR ($110; asics.com), available in June, is designed to cradle the entire foot, resulting in a snugger fit that—in theory, at least—should save more energy for forward motion.

The Innovation
Two winglike inner sleeves are sewn inside the shoe's upper. One lace (blue) snugs the wings tightly around the foot, locking it down and back. The other (red) closes the upper, providing another layer of security.

The Result
A more secure fit that doesn't pinch blood vessels on the top of the foot.Plus less interior slippage means less wasted energy—especially uphill—which might make you faster. Look for a complete review in our Winter Buyer's Guide.

Bike Derailleur Innovations

A radical shift

Bike Derailleur Innovations
(Jameson Simpson)

Bike derailleurs still rely on the same basic mechanics that have been at the core of bicycle shifting since its advent, in the early 1900s. But major manufacturers are now developing electronic systems that promise faster and more precise shifts, lighter weight, customizable features, and improved ergonomics. Though nothing's official, production versions could be offered as early as 2009.

1. Computer: Integrated computers might register not only the usual speed and distance but also the current gear and remaining battery life.

2. Wires: Shifters and derailleurs will still be linked, but instead of steel cables pulling levers, it will be insulated wires carrying electrical impulses.

3. Hoods: Since designers won't have to contend with bulky mechanical internals, they'll be able to deliver more ergonomic shapes and possibly even built-in gear indicators on the brake hoods.

4. Battery: Power will come from an on-board battery. Lightweight lithium-ion cells are small enough to integrate into existing parts, such as water-bottle cages, and would last for days on a single charge.

5. Derailleurs: They won't look all that different. But inside, fast-acting motors will deliver quick, precise shifts of up to several gears at a time. There will likely be adjustment screws like those on current models.

Waterproofing Innovations

A new way to waterproof

Waterproofing Innovations

Witness shoemaker Hi-Tec's, er, high-tech answer to making waterproof shoes more breathable. The Problem: Trail-running and hiking shoes with a waterproof-breathable membrane (think Gore-Tex or eVent) struggle to let out trapped heat and moisture. The (Potential) Solution: Hi-Tec's new Ion-Mask water­proofing technology, which was first developed for the British military, will be available only in the V-Lite Altitude Ultra hiking boot, start­ing this fall ($120; hi-tec.com).

How It Works Boots are inserted into a vacuum chamber, a.k.a. the ionizer, along with a hydrophobic, Teflon-like chemical (1). The plasma-filled tube is electrified via ultraviolet lights (2), vapor-izing the chemical (3), which permanently binds to the fibers of the shoe, creating a water barrier (4) only a few molecules thick. The barrier allows air and vapor to pass through as easily as if the fibers were untreated. The process can be used with any material, from leather to mesh. You Saw It Here First Hi-Tec has exclusive rights on the treatment until 2009, at which point we expect to see it in other companies' clothing and footwear.

Diving Fin Innovations

Maiden voyage of the man-fish

Diving Fin Innovations
(Jameson Simpson)

Look out, Flipper. Biomimetic pioneer Ted Ciamillo has come up with a revoluntionary monofin that promises to propel a person completely out of the ocean. The 42-inch dolphin-tail look-alike, dubbed the Lunocet, uses winglike hydrofoils—the same technology that keeps an airplane aloft—to help propel swimmers through the water at nearly ten miles per hour. That's theoretically fast enough for a strong swimmer to mimic a dolphin's breach. Ciamillo plans to debut his invention this April in the Florida Keys, where he and his two-man crew hope to become the first swimmers to get completely airborne. $1,250–$1,800; lunocet.com

The Reaction
Unlike flat, old-school fins, the Lunocet's front edge is rounded so water flows easily around it. Plus the blades are visibly thicker near the middle (like a wing), so when a swimmer starts to dolphin-kick, high and low pressure points are created on either side of the fin, which creates hydrodynamic lift.

The Technique
The fin revolves around a pivot and comes with a six-speed tension system. Use a 15-degree angle in first gear to swim lazily or crank it to 35 degrees in sixth gear to go full-throttle. The setup reduces ankle strain and allows you to kick continuously at the most effective angle.

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