It made it into Time Magazine’s list of ‘Best Inventions of 2023’, the Moonwalkers ‘electric shoes’ of US startup Shift Robotics that enable you to walk almost three times faster than usual, up to 11,3 km/h without effort.
It’s not gliding like on rollerskates, but actual walking with the speed assist – comparable to pedal assist on an electric bicycle – monitored by Artificial Intelligence to adapt most naturally to your movements. While speeding up or slowing down, the shoes adjust themselves accordingly, and the wheels lock when you’re taking the stairs.
Moonwalkers strap on to your regular shoes like rollerskates, coming in one size only, fitting US Men’s sizes 9-12 (EU 42-45) and US Women’s sizes 10.5-13.5. (EU 41 -45). They are made of automotive-grade reinforced plastics and high-pressure die-cast aluminum for the structural components. Prepare for some heavy boots, as they weigh 2,5 kg each. And the price is heavy too: $1 399 USD.
The Moonwalkers have, besides eight wheels each, a hinge in the middle, so they can naturally bend at your toes like a shoe. According to the developers, it just takes ten steps to learn to walk them, as it feels very natural.
“These are not rollerskates. Moonwalkers do not freewheel; they don’t skate, ever. Thanks to our two modes, Lock and Shift, they move only when you do. This means you can go up and down stairs, step into mass transit, and confidently wait at the crosswalk. Our AI uses machine learning algorithms to adapt to a user’s walking gaits, making them an extension of people’s legs.”
Walking steep hills up to 10% shouldn’t be a problem as the developers ensure no freerolling down a hill ever. The Moonwalkers have automatic speed reduction for the descents and multiple redundancies, and layers of braking protection for reassurance.
Range of up to 11 km
Technically, they have a built-in motor of 60W and a 3.0Ah Lithium Ion battery, rechargeable via USB on a computer in one and a half hours. The range of the shoes for normal walking is 8 to 11 km, at two and a half times the average walking speed. Running won’t make any speed difference, as they are only optimized for effortless walking.
You should be able to use them like your regular shoes in almost every condition, including in the rain, as they are IP54 water-resistant. The makers say they have engineered the 8-wheel patented drivetrain, consisting of overlapping wheels to simulate much larger diameter wheels to climb over uneven terrain and gravel.
Nevertheless, the manual warns they are intended for “standard urban sidewalks and paved surfaces. Hard surfaces (concrete, asphalt, etc) free of major cracks and bumps. Not for use on gravel, dirt, grass, etc.”
The idea for the ‘world’s fastest shoes’ emerged with Shift Robotics’ founder and CEO Xunjie Zhang when he almost got hit by a car while scootering to work. He asked himself why he never walked to work – even though that’s much safer and more convenient.
“People have tried to enhance personal mobility with inline skates, skateboards, or bikes – all of which have a learning curve. But walking, on the other hand, is not only a safe, healthy way of getting around but also part of who we are.”
So when he graduated from Carnegie Mellon’s Robotic Institute, Xunjie teamed up with a group of race car engineers, roboticists, and sneaker designers to make ‘intelligent’ electric shoes you can effortlessly walk at a running speed. The result, Moonwalkers were put on the US market five years later, in summer 2022.