Sole Technologies, manufacturers of Es, Etnies, Emerica, and 32 snowboard boots, has created a first-of-its-kind "lab" to research the biomechanics of skateboarding. Studies are currently being conducted at the University of Massachusetts, using their biomechanical research equipment, but will be moved to Sole Tech's testing facility in August.
Realizing that skateboard footwear technology has been forced to borrow from other sports over the years, Sole Tech felt it was finally time to conduct specific studies on skateboarding in order to improve the quality and performance of their shoes and boots. One of the head researchers, Ned Frederick worked with Nike for many years doing similar studies for a variety of sports.
Frederick is eager to bring these new technologies to market as soon as possible and feels STI will raise the bar for all Sole Tech's competitors and change the way footwear for these sports is conceptualized and made. "It changes the rules for all the players in this business." But he emphasizes "a million times more important than any competitive advantage, is that fact that the research findings reported from this lab, will make these sports safer and make it possible for skaters and snowboarders to do it longer and better."The first and most important step in the research process is to study impact on the foot as a result of skateboarding. According to Frederick, the results are phenomenal. "The forces we measured when skaters land from a relatively modest 8 to 10 foot high bail, are similar to those measured on paratroopers, fully loaded with 80 lb. packs, and landing in simulated parachute landings. On a hard day these troopers might make 6 jumps. On an easy day a skater might make 60.""It's staggering to consider how much impact skaters bodies have to deal with… staggering," says Frederick. "Even the forces we measure in ordinary maneuvers, like an ollie off an 18-inch high platform, are quite high by the standards of more traditional sports like basketball and volleyball, which are generally classified as "high impact".
Special sensors inside the shoes pinpoint the locations underfoot where these great forces are being applied. This helps researchers know how much force they need to protect skater's heels from and where that protection needs to be located. The first technology to be created by STI is G2, which is a resilient material that outlasts EVA and many other shock absorbers, but still allows for great board control without that over padded feeling.
Another test being conducted involves a specially built device that simulates the heel bone slamming into the rear part of a shoe. "We literally did hundreds of these impact tests to find the right configuration and material properties of G2 to provide the optimum amount of protection," says Frederick. "We found out what we needed, where we needed it, and how to make it work best to protect skater's bodies. And we can prove it."
Sole Tech's Public Relations Representative, Tim Nickloff says "sometimes it is not a question of new technology, but rather what design will be most effective." According to Frederick, unlike many competitors' technologies, STI has applied the G2 in exactly the right spot.
All of STI's research and technology will be implemented in every Sole Tech brand in some way-whether it be the design of the shoe, or a new STI developed technology like System G2. Currently three shoes will have the System G2 technology, the Etnies Response, the Etnies Altius, and the re-release of Eric Koston's first shoe utilizing System G2 rather than an airbag. The Koston pro model has also been made considerably lighter than through STI research.
STI is not brand specific and will be incorporated in all four Sole Tech brands-and eventually into BMX. System G2, and other STI technologies will not influence the price of the shoes by much. "With a better understanding of what technologies work, and where they need to be, we are able to cut out unnecessary materials and build a shoe where nearly every aspect has a purpose," says Nickloff.