Why walk when you can… wheel?

Photo: Shift Robotics

While they aren’t available on the market yet, a new addition to your shoes created by US startup Shift Robotics is taking the internet by storm.

Dubbed the world’s fastest shoes, Moonwalkers were launched via fundraising site Kickstarter last year, raising more than $329,000 in just 48 hours.

The shoes, which resemble roller skates that attach to regular shoes, have a top speed of around 7 miles per hour, but long-distance walkers will be disappointed that the range of the shoes before needing to be recharged (which takes 90 minutes) via a USB-C cable is just 6.5 miles. Although, maybe with a recharging pack strapped to each leg, the range may be higher, and there may be an opportunity for an enterprising company to design some walking trousers with calf pouches…

While they are built for rugged urban terrain, the chances of them flying up a boggy Scottish hill are probably quite low. Although, they are waterproof to a point.

The shoes weigh in at 4.2 pounds.

While they may somewhat resemble rollerskates, the company is quick to say they aren’t. That’s because when you wear them, you simply walk and an AI drivetrain does the rest, adapting to your walking. The comparison the company makes is with the moving walkways in airports, you simply walk, only you go a little faster.

Inventor and founder Xunjie Zhang first had the idea to evolve the way we walk after a near crash on his scooter while commuting to work.

“I asked myself why I never walked to work–and it’s not just me, a lot of people don’t rely on walking. Which is surprising considering it’s much safer, easier, and more convenient–plus it’s better for the environment.

“The problem is that walking is just too slow and inefficient. So I made it my mission to enhance walking instead of replacing it.”

In search of a solution, Zhang went on to study at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotic Institute. From there, he teamed up with fellow jet propulsion engineers, as well as roboticists and sneaker designers. They spent the five years trying to find a way to increase the speed of walking, relying on the body’s own engineering.

Zhang said the Moonwalkers are intuitive, easy to use, and, most importantly, safe.

Compact and light, Moonwalkers can travel virtually anywhere. They feature an intuitive lock mode that allows the user to step onto a train, elevator, or walk up stairs without removing the shoes.

The Pittsburgh-based company said the learning curve is typically under 10 steps. To walk faster, you walk faster. To slow down, you walk slower. To stop, well, you stop walking.

As well as the relatively low range, for most people the price will likely be another drawback – a pair of Moonwalkers will set you back a cool $1,399 to customers in the US via their website. Moonwalkers are expected to ship in the US this summer.