DAILY HAMPSHIRE GAZETTE
Computer helps design shoe that walks on air
By MILTON COLE
AMHERST - Walking on air.
The very thought is so pleasurable that the expression is used constantly to describe emotionally inspiring success.
But now a computer and a former Olympic athlete have merged knowledge and technology so they could make "walking on air" totally commonplace.
Dr. Gideon Ariel of Belchertown and his Computerized Biomechanical Analysis company in Amherst have designed shoes in which one does walk on air.
How efficient the shoe
They are the result of a survey on how efficient is the design of shoes in general, and how can they be made more efficient.
The result of that survey and study could be shoes that have one walking on air.
And if the air-shoes are the most unusual of the products of CBA, they are not the only ones.
For example, there is a new exercise machine that makes it unnecessary to have a large room to house it, and makes it possible to do all your exercises in half the average-size bathroom.
There is a tennis racket with a pivoting handle that enables a player to absorb the shock ofa ball hit at him and return it with maximum force and accuracy.
And there is a study being made for the Department of Defense on how to make the foot soldier more efficient as far as equipment and uniform are concerned, and what is the most efficient way to hold and shoot a submachine gun.
These are some of the more unusual studies that have been or are being made. But there are others, enough others that the business started by Ariel six years ago has now grown into a multi-million-dollar firm that is expanding.
Take the air shoe.
Originally the U.S. Bureau of Standards contracted with CBA several years ago to do a survey on the efficiency of design of the common shoe.
The study, including filming of people walking and then slowing the film down to analyze frame-by-frame what happens when a person takes a step, showed that the common shoe is not an efficient design.
The protruding heel causes a person to step onto the heel of the foot first, putting the strain of each step on it. and then expanding that strain up through the leg into the lower back.
"It showed that the way we walk and the kind of shoes we walk with can be a cause of lower back trouble as well as the cause of foot and leg problems
"The computer showed that the most efficient way to walk is the way we walk barefoot, with a rolling motion so that the force we generate as our foot hits the ground will cause a rolling motion, pushing the body forward on the foot. instead of jarring the force up the leg."
How to utilize knowledge How to utilize that knowledge'
After the report was sent to the federal agency. Gideon and his compatriots at CBA worked on putting theory into reality.
One shoe was designed, aimed at providing the rolling motion, but still sending some of the ,jarring motion up the legs. Then came the idea of using that jarring action to provide forward motion
The air shoe was born. The prototype is designed for athletes, and has been used successfully in practice by the members of the U.S. women's volleyball team.
They have found that they jump higher, and they end up ith fewer leg problems, muscle pulls, etc. as a result of landing on their feet after a jump.
Basketball players are experimenting with them, along with runners.
The design is of a regular nylon-bodied running shoe, with the rubberized rippled or cleated sole.
But the inside has another rippled rubberized insert running the entire length of the shoe. In the outside of the heel of the shoe is a small air intake valve.
A rubber-bulb pump is inserted into the valve and the insert is filled with air, like filling an auto or bicycle tire or a football or basketball.
Then the shoe is put on, laced and tied. And when one walks on it, he or she is literally and actually walking on air.
Air forced out
Each step forces the air from one spot in the insert into another by use of computer-designed valves, and the result is a cushioned step whether walking or running or jumping, and a rolling effect when one walks or runs.
"They should end problems with leg muscles, shin splints, bone spurs, etc. And they should cut foot fatigue for runners," Ariel said.
Right now the design has been acquired by the Pony Shoe
Company, which makes footwear for au kinds of sporting activities.
Ariel figures that the shoe will be used in Olympic and other national and international competition. He believes it will find a place in sports, particularly basketball, and perhaps football as well.
But it also should result in use in regular shoes worn by the general public, and could have the nation, if not the world, walking on air, and being healthier for it, if Ariel and his computers are correct.
"Imagine how great this would be for paratroopers or others jumping from considerable heights." enthused Ariel.
The graying but husky University of Massachusetts doctoral graduate also is enthusiastic about the exercise machine he has designed.
Originally used weights
Originally he designed one for the Universal firm, one of the top such companies in the U.S., using the established method of actual weights attached to pullies and handles.
It was different and easier to operate than others on the market at the time, but still quite bulky and spaceconsuming.
The latest design, made possible by the omniscient and omnipresent computer, is a simple large cylinder connected to a variety of bars or pedals or overhead handles.
The computer is hooked up on a shelf as part of the system. You press a button, and the computer asks if you want to exercise.
You press buttons that indicate that you want to do weight lifting, and how much force or poundage you want to lift.
The computer then sets the valve that controls the hydraulic fluid in the cylinder and thus the amount of force necessary to lift the piston in the cylinder.
It eliminates the need for the actual weights to be there.
One of the people involved with Ariel in his enterprises is former U.S. Treasury secretary William Simon. He is interested in forming their own manufacturing firm to turn out the new tennis rackets that CBA has designed.
Doing research on tennis racket efficiency and how the ailment, "tennis elbow," occurs, CBA and Dr. Ariel found that the impact of a ball on the racket, sends a jarring force through the racket handle up the arm and against the elbow joint.
The computer suggested a rotating handle that would use that force to twist the handle, making it so the face of the racket is directly against the ball each time it hits the racket.
This not only eliminated the jarring force going into the elbow, it also made possible the opportunity for a perfect return shot.
Using that racket, which Ariel says will be produced by someone within a year, either their own firm or one of the regular sporting goods manufacturers, with the tennis ball CBA designed for Spalding. could make for much improved tennis
DR. GIDEON ARIEL demonstrates how the computerized exercise machine his Computerized Blomechanical Analysis firm of Amherst designed, with computer operating hydraulic piston to provide the same resistance as weights used on traditional exercise machines. (Richard Carpenter Photo).
PUMPING UP the sole prepares the new "air shoe" for use. It was designed by Computerized Biomechanical Analysis in Amherst, and CBA president Dr. Gideon Adel is getting the shoes ready. (Richard Carpenter Photo).
DAILY HAMPSHIRE GAZETTE August 1978