Maintaining astronaut bone and muscle health in microgravity is an ongoing concern for NASA. Last month, the ForceShoe, designed by XSENS, was flown to the International Space Station (ISS), where they will help NASA collect data for studying the force placed on crewmembers’ bodies during exercise on the ISS Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED).
The ARED device provides the ability to perform weight-bearing exercises in space by supplying resistance through the power of vacuum cylinders. While it has helped provide better health outcomes for crewmembers, there is still progress to be made in understanding the effects of exercise on bone and muscle health. The Force Shoes Investigation is an engineering evaluation. Although a number of force shoes are under evaluation on Earth, NASA elected to fly the ForceShoe on the ISS because it offers comprehensive load measures.
Researchers will use the shoes, which look like high-tech sandals, to measure exercise loads and ground reaction forces. The shoes measure force in three axes: up and down, side-to-side, and front-to-back. They also capture the torque, or twisting force, applied underfoot during ARED exercise. Lessons learned from missions in microgravity can be applied to people on Earth who are restricted from activity due to injury or aging.