Iconic Australian bootmaker Blundstone has been making its popular brand of robust footwear for 150 years. Now, it has paired up with Monash University researchers to create a hi-tech smart boot to ease the heavy load on nurses, doctors and other health professionals.
The intelligent boot is fitted with sensors that can detect problem areas, such as postural changes or the lifting of heavy loads, to potentially prevent injuries before they occur. At this stage, the concept shoe is only a prototype and not ready to hit the market.
Frontline healthcare workers helped guide the project, with the design team regularly conducting workshops with nurses, doctors, and other health professionals to make sure the boot addresses specific challenges such as comfort, durability and hygiene.
Dr Rowan Page, from Monash Health Design Collab, said the technology captures important information about the day-to-day hurdles encountered by the wearer, and uses machine-learning techniques to provide real-time feedback and task classification.
“We’ve integrated a sensor system that analyses multiple parts of the foot to provide real-time feedback via a smartphone app that detects abnormalities and highlights potential issues,” Dr Page said.
“The shoes classify different tasks undertaken throughout a work shift and can identify different postures, changes in walking gait and the lifting of heavy loads.”
Ultimately, Dr Page says the data will be able to identify areas of high pressure on the body across the workday, and pinpoint potential problem areas.
With further development, researchers believe the technology could also highlight safety concerns, such as injury risk and fatigue, and prevent accidents and injuries before they occur.
Initial research highlighted comfort and hygiene as priority areas for healthcare workers when selecting shoes for work. It is why the boot’s upper – the material covering the foot – provides chemical and bacterial resistance to the wearer.
Sustainability is also at the forefront of the design. The concept boot uses synthetic and plant-based materials, a computer-knitted collar that eliminates material waste, an upper that provides chemical and bacterial resistance, and a sole made from a recyclable polyurethane.