PUMA Smart Shoes of the ’80s, reissued for today

Puma the RS-Computer Shoe is a reissue of a 1986 design.

The First Computerized Running Shoe in 1986, the Puma COMDEX RS Computer. The letters RS stand for “Running System”, the computer Shoe used a computer chip embedded in the shoe to measure speed, distance, and calories burned. These functions are a lot like a stripped down Fitbit or another modern activity tracker — it just required a connection to Commodore 64 computer or an Apple IIE to read the data.

Puma SE’s latest contribution to the world of retro footwear — or is it the wearable tech movement? — is a revamped 32-year-old sneaker with computers in its heels.

The German company is selling a refurbished version of its 1986 RS-Computer shoe, which presaged an era in which athletes use gadgets to keep track of steps taken, distances covered and calories burned. The newer version retains the predecessor’s look, from the streamlined colour design up front to the bulky, design up front to the bulky, “Back to the Future”-era device sticking out the back.

Much has changed since 1986, of course. For one thing, Puma in recent months has struggled to keep pace with consumers turning away from minimalist retro sneakers in favour of chunkier styles influenced by the fashion runway. While shoppers for a while were snapping up revived versions of classics like Puma’s Clyde and rival Adidas AG’s Stan Smith, they have this year favoured bulkier footwear inspired by luxury brands’ designs, like Balenciaga’s $900 Triple S.

Back to the future: Puma revamps 32-year-old RS-Computer shoe
Back to the future, Puma revamps 32-year-old RS-Computer shoe

Then there’s the technology difference. In 1986, the RS-Computer shoe uploaded data on an athlete’s steps, distances and calories via a 16-pin connector to an Apple IIe or Commodore 64 home computer. The shoe probably won’t intrude much on the turf of exercise-tracking companies like Strava Inc. and Garmin Ltd. That’s because Puma plans to sell only 86 of them globally.

Now, it’s equipped with Bluetooth technology that links with Android and Apple Inc. smartphones. It comes with a mobile app too, that manages and processes data — and, not incidentally, has old-school 8-bit graphics. The only thing to plug in now is a USB cable that recharges the lithium-polymer batteries.

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