Part of the equation is found in Lawrence, MA, where Trampas TenBroek, manager of Sports Research within the Advanced Products Group, heads the Sports Research Lab located within one of New Balance’s five New England manufacturing plants. Add to the equation a state-of-the-art motion capture system, high-end pressure analysis equipment, a 35 meter long runway with an embedded glass top force plate, a “smash-lab” for mechanical testing, and a team of professionals from some of the best universities in the country and you are getting close to an answer.
In this ultra-modern environment, engineers and biomechanists study elite athletes and their New Balance footwear to find out exactly what happens to the body and shoe when performing a dynamic movement. Raw data is transformed into readable information and ultimately results in the perfect shoe.
The motion capture equipment comprises an eight-camera 500+ system from Qualisys. Six of them are placed around a treadmill or a force plate where they record and calculate the 3D coordinates of markers attached to a runner’s leg to give the researchers precise information about angles, movements, and forces. The other two cameras are Oqus HSV, Qualisys high-speed video cameras, capable of recording high-speed video images of up to 10 000 frames per second.
One camera captures every split second of a landing – from heelstrike to toe-off – whilst the other takes high-speed images of the sole at it sits underneath a Kistler glass top force plate embedded into the runway.
Heel-strike to toe-off: high-resolution images with Qualisys High Speed Video
Although setting up a lab and optimizing it to get good, consistent data, can be quite a daunting task, Trampas TenBroek says that they have been greatly helped by some features within the Qualisys system. He brings up the common problems of unwanted reflections and says that the automatic masking function, has
made a big difference to help getting rid of unwanted reflections.
“We utilize the ability to capture high speed video often. For designers and engineers to be able to see the shoe clearly each millisecond during a very dynamic movement is invaluable.”
Senior Manager Sports Research and Performance Validation