Camper, the Majorcan maker of ultra-comfy footwear, is trying to make its shoes even more comfortable. How? Biomechanics. In partnership with researchers at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), Camper is applying science usually only used in sportswear.
The idea is to make regular “fashion” shoes as comfortable as orthopedic shoes or high-level sports shoes, but without the dorky looks usually associated with both.
Phase one of the project took place at the biomechanics lab of the university, led by Josep Maria Font. Researchers attached sensors to twelve models of shoes, six men’s and six women’s, and recorded the experiments with a motion capture rig containing 18 cameras. About 50 volunteers tried out the shoes.
The shoes were fitted with pressure-sensing insoles, as well as force-plates that measured the pressure between shoe and floor. Electromyography sensors, which measure electrical activity in muscles, were used on the ankle joint to determine how much energy was needed to walk in each shoe.
“We were able to determine which parameters were more closely linked to the comfort perceived by the user,” Font says.
The perception here is key. In sports, objective measurements may lead to changes imperceptible by the athlete, but that save him or her from injury in the long term. For fashion shoes, the dangers are usually limited to blisters. The study, then, focused on where the measurements matched up with what the wearers reported through surveys.
Initial testing was completed in 2012. The second stage involves testing new shoes against the models and also in the lab on live feet.