NASA Testing Odd-Looking 'Earth Shoe' on Space Station

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It’s doubtful you’ll be seeing these during the Paris Fashion Week Men’s show next month — unless you’re channel surfing and catch a glimpse of astronauts exercising aboard the International Space Station.

Which they do a lot, it turns out; two hours a day, every day in an attempt to stave off muscle wasting, bone loss and other not-so-wondrous side effects of living in zero-gravity.

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These space-age Earth Shoes are an attempt to get more information about exactly what is happening to the astronauts’ bodies during their workouts on a resistive exercise device specially designed to operate in weightlessness.

The Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, or ARED, has proven its usefulness, with astronauts returning after long-duration spaceflights in better condition than previous crewmembers who didn’t have the equipment available.

“There is still progress to be made in understanding the effects of exercise on bone and muscle health,” Andrea Hanson, an aerospace engineer with NASA contractor Wyle Science, Technology & Engineering, said in a NASA interview.

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Enter the ForceShoe, an extreme platform sandal designed not for looks but to assess the loads put on astronauts’ bodies during ARED exercises. The shoes are outfitted with sensors to measure forces in three different directions – up-and-down, side-to-side, and front-to back. It also can detect the twisting force, or torque, under the foot during ARED exercise.

“We are eager to understand how joint forces may be different between exercise performed on the ground and in space,” Hanson said in the NASA interview.

Researchers hope the information will lead to better and more effective exercise regimes.

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A pair of ForceShoes, developed by a company known as Xsens, was flown to the space station Wednesday night aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule that carried three new crewmembers to the orbital outpost.

An engineering assessment of the shoes is expected to begin soon.

Hanson and NASA’s Human Research Engagement and Communications Office have not yet replied to a Discovery News query about how much the space shoes cost.