Birth of a new category-The Smart Shoe

For too many of today's kids, exercise means clicking a mouse or changing the channel, says Michael Phelan, director of marketing at Reebok Shoes....
December 1, 1999

For too many of today’s kids, exercise means clicking a mouse or changing the channel, says Michael Phelan, director of marketing at Reebok Shoes.

Hence the genesis of Traxtar, the world’s first pair of smart shoes, promising to deliver kids from the sedentary life when they hit stores on December 4.

How will Traxtar get kids interested in exercise again? By incorporating the interactivity of computers with athletic footwear. Sewn into the left tongue of each pair of Traxtar shoes is a microchip that measures how fast kids can run, and how high and far they can jump. Traxtar has three levels of achievement-gold, silver and bronze-with six scores in each. As kids reach each new target, the shoes will begin to flash colored lights and play celebratory music, signifying that they’ve attained their goal.

Traxtar’s measuring capabilities are not Olympic Games-accurate, but are meant more as an incentive to get kids active, says Phelan. By checking a card that comes with Traxtar shoes, kids can get an approximate reading on how fast they’re running, or how high and far they’re jumping. Each pair of shoes also comes with a CD-ROM, which kids can use to compare their performance with that of speedy animals like the cheetah, or professional athletes like Michael Jordan. There is also a Web site (, where kid surfers can find out more about the shoes, in addition to picking up health and training tips.

Reebok is hoping Traxtar, the first product to be released in its Smart Shoe line (there are four other generations of smart shoes in the works), will also have a salubrious effect on its bottom line. Though Phelan wouldn’t give out Reebok’s sales figures for the kids six to 11 athletic shoe category (Traxtar’s target demo), NPD Group analyst Steve Banks reports that growth in this US$1.4-billion sector has been stagnant since `94, as more kids opt for leisure footwear by brands like Skechers and Timberland.

Running between US$55 and US$65 in price, the shoes will launch in Footlocker and other select kids athletic shoe stores, before eventually moving into mass and department stores early in the new year.

‘Initially, we’ll be in focused distribution with a limited availability of inventory. We want to try and create a Furby kind of buzz around the product,’ says Phelan.

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