Blundstone Intelligent Footwear for Healthcare

  • 2022

  • Design Research

Designed By:

  • Blundstone Australia Pty Ltd
  • SensiLab (Monash University)
  • Design Health Collab (Monash University)

Commissioned By:

Blundstone Australia Pty Ltd

Designed In:


Healthcare workers face some of the most demanding workplace environments leading to discomfort, musculoskeletal injury, and fatigue. This project brings together Blundstone’s rich history in workplace safety with Monash University’s research into cutting-edge fabrication, sensor technologies, and user-centred design to develop an intelligent shoe that provides real-time OH&S insights.

Image: Narelle Portanier
Image: Narelle Portanier
Image: Narelle Portanier
Image: Narelle Portanier
Image: Jon McCormack
Image: Jon McCormack
Image: Jon McCormack
Image: Jon McCormack
  • MORE
  • This project was driven by a clinical need identified by design ethnography at Monash University. Clinicians needed data about pressure patterns in patients, especially those at high-risk of foot-injuries such as people with diabetes. Current systems for data collection were external, bulky, expensive, and too cumbersome to be used outside the lab for real-world continuous data collection. Through custom sensor research and development we designed a low-cost pressure and temperature sensing system underpinned by machine-learning data analysis. Together with Blundstone we researched advanced materials and manufacturing techniques to integrate these sensors into a bespoke lightweight shoe.

  • Co-design workshops were held online (during the Covid-19 pandemic) to develop the applications for our sensing technology. Through these, the need to support healthcare workers with a bespoke footwear solution was identified. Further research, through digital and remote ethnography, explored the day-to-day experiences of healthcare workers. In addition to providing machine-learning driven insights on gait, pressure, load-lifting, and task classification, the intelligent footwear also integrates a number of new material, manufacturing and design process innovations. These include; integrating sustainable materials, a computer knitted elastic collar, a lightweight ‘active’ midsole, and novel digital design workflows including scanning and 3D printed mould-making.

  • We researched community and end-user needs through extensive consultation, design ethnography, and end-user feedback. The sensors and machine-learning algorithms are capable of detecting fatigue and unsafe situations before they occur, tackling major risks in the healthcare sector. Advanced materials and processes allowed us to include sustainability considerations, including plant-based foams, contamination resistant and antibacterial microfibre materials, and new 3D computer knitting technology to “grow material” and minimise waste. The research, exploration, and data collected in this project will impact the design of future healthcare footwear and Blundstone footwear in general.

  • The shoe seamlessly integrates a complex sensing system into a purpose-designed pair of boots. Bringing technology previously only found in research labs out into real-world healthcare environments to collect rich data and provide real-time user feedback. Each pair of shoes is capable of sensing 32 regions of pressure, 12 axes of motion (orientation and acceleration), and 6 zones of temperature. Through machine learning, the shoes are capable of classifying tasks throughout a work shift. Identifying different postures, changes in walking gait and the lifting of heavy loads. Visualisation of this data can show patterns of pressure across the workday and compare this data to known scenarios. This is a unique and powerful research tool for collecting live data to inform workplace OH&S practice and future Blundstone footwear. The quantitative and qualitative learnings, also have implications in other industries beyond healthcare. In addition to the intelligent aspects of the footwear, our ethnographic and co-design research process revealed several opportunities to introduce features specifically for the healthcare industry. Through research into new materials and processes, we implemented a lightweight sole with durable tread, a high-performance pathogen and stain-resistant upper, and 3D knitted fabrics that are form-fitting and reduce waste in manufacture.