We're constantly trying to improve our running performance with the aid of technology, but our wearables mostly serve as guidance and feedback systems. This pair of shorts created by Harvard engineers, however, can actively make you run faster.
How? By reducing the metabolic cost of making those legs move. As the wearer runs, flexible wires anchored to the back of the thighs and the belt are pulled so as to act as a second pair of hip extensor muscles. By observing the oxygen intake and CO2 production, the researchers found that the shorts cut the metabolic cost of running on a treadmill by 5.4%.
The result would mean cutting down that marathon time - which, yeah, might be considered cheating - but could also help with injury rehabilitation.
The shorts are part of a wider project being carried out by researchers including Conor Walsh, who we previously spoke to about the tech. What made this study different to a similar one previously carried out by Stanford is that they tried applying the force later in the stride.
Giuk Lee, who led the study, said: "Our goal is to develop a portable system with a high power-to-weight ratio so that the benefit of using the suit greatly offsets the cost of wearing it. We believe this technology could augment the performance of recreational athletes and/or help with recovery after injury."
Right now, they have to be tethered to get their power, but hopefully one day we'll get wireless superhuman running shorts. The team says it plans to keep researching into how they can reduce the cost of running on the body.