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Are ‘smart’ high heels brilliant or terrible?

Are ‘smart’ high heels brilliant or terrible?


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Lauren Goode/The Verge

A French company named Zhor-Tech was showing off two pairs of “smart” high heels at CES last week, adding to the list of tech companies that are trying to appeal to women with a variety of Bluetooth-connected, traditionally femme products.

The Zhor-Tech Digitsole heels come in two models: a pair with heated insoles and another pair with an adjustable, mechanical high heel. The heated insoles build on previous technology that Zhor-Tech has made under its Digitsole brand, whereas the adjustable heels are new. Both pairs also track your activity (of course!) and pair wirelessly with an app, where you can control the temperature or the height of your heels.

The adjustable high heels, which range from 1.7 inches high to 3.1 inches, are in theory a modern woman’s dream. Rather than schlepping around an extra pair of shoes — so when the high-heeled ones you feel obligated to wear start to hurt, you can slip into flats — you can just tap a virtual button and feel your heels sink closer to the earth. Sweet relief: there’s an app for that.

But the heated heals are probably much more useful. And if we’re talking aesthetics — and who isn’t when it comes to $300 high heels? — the Zhor-Tech adjustable heels aren’t exactly elegant. They look like an exaggerated tap shoe, with a chunky metal stump protruding from the heel, and feel heavier than most normal pairs of heels.

Granted, anytime you add tech to clothing, whether a smart shirt or self-lacing sneaker or self-raising high heel, all of those sensors and motors and wireless chips will have to go somewhere, adding some bulk to the product. But still, clomping around in thick high heels to relieve yourself of the burdens of high heels seems counterintuitive.

Not to mention that your high-tech high heels will need to be charged. For some reason, finding a microUSB port on the underside of the adjustable high heels gave me a strange delight, which was also possibly just CES delirium. The warming high heels charge wirelessly through a pad on the sole of the shoe, a much better solution. Zhor-Tech says the pairs should last four days on a charge.

Zhor-Tech is just one of the companies that showed off a connected product at CES last week aimed predominantly at female consumers. Nokia-owned Withings and L’Oreal introduced a Bluetooth hairbrush, Willow showed off a wireless breast pump, and there was even a mirror that scanned your face for flaws. The not-so-subtle underlying message of these products is often one of “You’re doing it wrong,” whether it’s letting you know your hair is tangled, your eyes have crow’s feet, or... let’s not even get into the unending pressure on women to breastfeed.

At least the smart heels claim to offer something more akin to comfort, rather than shaming. Zhor-Tech says the high heels will be shipping this year for $299 a pair, though the company didn’t say exactly when in 2017.