Recently, we came across an interesting interactive promotional display of new shoe technology by Asahi Corporate, at one of the train platforms in the center of Tokyo. An apparent first in the world, “SHM (Scre Home Mechanism) shoe technology” is supposed to “keep knees healthy and the walk enjoyable”. The product is targeted to anyone with troubled knees, either for future pain prevention or for current support of the knee joint movement. However, this product mostly focuses on the growing aging society in Japan, which is proportionally, the highest in the world (65+ make 23% of the population in 2010).
According to the Asahi research, each year, about 30 million knee joint transplants are performed in Japan, mostly among women over 50 years old. As a result, already in 2003, Asahi started developing SHM shoe technology, cooperating with orthopedic surgeons and researchers in Japan. It took them few years of clinical research and product development, followed by marketing and began selling them from 2006, but not until recently has it become a mainline capmaign.
The SHM technology is embedded into the heel of the shoe and apparently lightens the burden on the lower exterior knee joints, which supports the knee and is responsible for rotation when stepping on the heel. According to Asahi, this unique shoe structure; takes off the pressure of body weight when stepping on the heel, creates slight exterior rotation form the center of the heel to the tip toes while stepping on the foot, and controls movement of knee joints. Moreover, this mechanism creates an effective use of the inner thighs, which support the knee as well.
The display was particularly interesting, although aimed to the aging society, it was fairly interactive including touch screen panels which featured personal health questions and a virtual physical examination. A built in television screen then displayed a detailed clinical explanation by physicians, and there was a movable display with wide variety of products. Questions such as: “Is it painful recently, to walk down the stairs?” or “You prefer taking the escalator rather than the stairs?”are set so as to determine your knee’s age (i.e if there has been excessive wear and tear). If the answer in most cases is “Yes”; your knee’s age is apparently over 70. The most interesting question for me was “Recently, is it hard to sit seiza? (Japanese traditional sitting position with folded knees)”. The majority of non Japanese people I am familiar with (including myself) –regardless their age- are absolutely incapable of spending more than 5 minutes in that position, which brings me to think about our Western knee’s age!