One startup, one story: what if shoes could talk?

How connected shoes are improving the lives of feet. Let’s meet Digitsole

Imagine a shoe that knows when you’re tired. Impossible right?

What about one that automatically adjusts cushioning to adapt to running terrain and training intensity? It couldn’t be real.

What if I told you a company had developed shoes that could do all this, and analyze your gait, and provide real-time running coaching? As well as being able to tie their own laces…

Science fiction you may think, but all this is already possible with Digitsole’s Run Profiler, the latest innovation in footwear by Karim Oumnia, whose life mission has been all about shoes. He invented the lightest football boot in the world, as well as the first breathable shoe.

One day, Karim was contacted by a longstanding French company specializing in hunting products. The CEO invited him to go hunting, in March, in the center of France. It was freezing and all the hunters who’d been out for hours had frozen feet. Karim lasted five minutes before he asked the CEO to drive him home. He refused – until Karim came up with solution. So he could get home, Karim promised a remote-controlled heated shoe. Once back in the warmth, he set about figuring out how to create one!

The digital revolution had begun – and henceforward Karim’s imagination knew no bounds.

Quick to see the potential of fitting electronics to shoes, Karim was also aware it wasn’t going to be easy. He had to find something able to withstand shock vibrations, humidity and dirt – the three things sensors detest the most. It took four years to develop reliable electronics with maximum functionality.

Today, Digitsole is the only company in the world with twin expertise in footwear and electronics.

The first digital product, launched at the 2015 CES (Consumer Electronics Show), was a connected insole to control shoe temperature from your smartphone. It created a massive buzz – lots of people suffer from cold feet apparently – and was voted one of the best innovations.

A raft of new functionalities followed: calorie counting, posture correction, and soon a shoe specially designed to correct children’s gait before bad habits develop (it will have flashing lights too). Also in the pipeline, a retractable heel for ladies.

Digitsole technology has the potential to improve posture and comfort for millions of people, particularly those who are hard on their feet or who work in harsh conditions, from soldiers and the police to construction workers and ski instructors.

Connected footwear also heralds new relationships with customers, who are required to provide information such as their name and email when they download the app. Even established brands are aware that the intimacy this affords stands to revolutionize their business models.

In 2017, Digitsole will be looking for new investors to help it reach its goal of being the world leader in connected footwear. Of the 21 billion pairs of shoes sold worldwide every year, Karim reckons Digitsole could sell as many as 10, 15 or even 20 million pairs!

If you’d like to know more about startups in France, click here to read the new Business France book about 35 success stories.

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