Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lights In The Loafers

Sometimes you just have to find out how things work.

When I was a kid, my friend and I used to steal alarm clocks and smash them just to see what was inside. We had no intention of ever learning how to make or repair alarm clocks and we made no effort to put them back together. The simple act of destruction was enough.

Due to my lack of mechanical aptitude, and the fear of eventually getting caught stealing stuff, I gave up the alarm clock habit but never lost the fascination for discovery. I still hold a certain reverence for inventors and artists even though I am woefully lacking in anything that might even remotely equate to creativity.

Follow directions? Sure. Make something out of nothing? Don’t count on it.

But the curiosity still haunts me.

So it was recently that my uncle and I began talking about my son’s light-up Spiderman shoes. As he streaked by, oblivious to the blinking red blur that was his feet, we wondered aloud as to how the shoes worked. Since my uncle was leaving town the next day, I was assigned the task of finding out. I began to feel a childlike rush as the thought of dissection in the name of discovery once again filled my head. This time, I was determined not only to destroy but also understand.

Unlike alarm clocks, shoes don’t respond well to being smashed by a rock so I was forced to rely on a more skillful method of gaining entry. Thanks to my experience in the kitchen I have become pretty handy with a knife. So with a few careful incisions, I was able to fillet the first shoe like a walleye and separate the sole from the upper.

My inner child marveled at the waffle-like sole, its grooves filled with wires each terminating in a small Light Emitting Diode (LED). At the heel was the power source, a small box of encapsulated resin containing a standard watch battery. Inside the box, a small vibrating wire completed the circuit allowing the shoe to light up with each step.

Light up shoes were first introduced in 1992 by L.A. Gear. As the novelty for adults wore off, shoemakers turned to kids. These days nearly half of all children’s sneakers have some sort of light emitting from one place or another.

Early designs used mercury tilt switches. They were reliable, but the mercury resulted in a sneaker that was considered hazardous waste by the US Environmental Protection Agency. After discovering the disadvantages of the mercury tilt switch, designers substituted a plastic tab depressed by the weight of the wearer. They were environmentally safe, but not reliable. Plastic fatigue would set in and the light would stay on until the batteries discharged. Sealing the battery and switch in resin prevented this from happening but rendered the solder points as the weak link in the system. Once broken, those points are impossible to fix without tearing the shoes apart. Unfortunately putting the shoes back together is just as difficult.

As of late, the market for adult light up shoes is thin. Gone are the days of grown men and women blinking up and down neighborhood basketball courts and cops following the Rudolph-like trail of escaping crooks. But thanks to the internet all hope is not lost.With a little ingenuity, simple step-by-step instructions and a few basic tools, it is once again possible to be the coolest person in the office. The experts at Talky Tina Press now offer everything you need to pimp your wingtips.

It gives new meaning to “light in the loafers”.


Meg said...

Fascinating. I've always liked tearing stuff apart and seeing it's insides and mechanics. Question, though. How does your son feel about having his Spiderman shoes dissected?

The Poodle's Friend said...

I was about to ask the same question!

Sven said...

I wisely bought him a new pair of shoes before I took those apart. Nonetheless he was distraught, until he saw the insides. Then he was fascinated as well.

mollymcmommy said...

LMAO i was going to ask that same question!

my kids have those shoes too and now i am that much more wiser for knowing how they work, very cool! LOL! :)

i would wear a pair, hands down.


heartinsanfrancisco said...

I've never seen anyone fillet a shoe like a walleye. This is great stuff! And thanks, I've always wondered how they do that. When I see little kids running around with their feet streaming light, I always have serious foot envy.

How does your son like his new ones?


Attila The Mom said...

Oh geez. This seems like such a guy thing! LOL

Except for Meg, I mean.

Kevin Charnas said...

Dude, that's cool...seriously. I'm surprised that the batteries in them still aren't considered hazardous waste.

I was wondering what your son thought of the whole thing, but the trade off was fair. :)

the adult shoes, however? if everyone wore those, I'd have an anxiety attack.

Sven said...

Kevin: Or a seizure.

Rhonda said...

You and my son would get along fabulously. I can't tell you how many electronics we've lost as a result of his curiosity.

I'll be sure to tell him how the flashy shoes work!

kim said...

lol.. i cant believe you guys disected his shoes
i have to admit i was always curious, thanks for the 411 :)

Kim Ayres said...

Boy am I glad you're not a surgeon...

Nikki said...

all I want to know....did you pimp your wingtips?