Knowing your running gait can be valuable for athletes. This information can not only give merit to your running shoe purchase decisions, but also help you locate areas for improvement and injury prevention with each taken step. But while running gaits get a lot of attention thanks to the popularity of the activity, there’s another gait that’s worth analyzing — one that you exhibit far more often in a given day.
I’m talking, of course, about your walking gait. Which is exactly what the Baliston by Starck walking shoes are made to measure.
Featuring two embedded sensors in the midsole, these stylish kicks can help you track your typical walking motion and offer key insight for more efficient strolling. Plus, the sensors are also capable of tracking your daily steps, stairs climbed and intensity minutes throughout the day — similar metrics to what you’d find with a handy fitness tracker or running watch.
But these tech-heavy kicks don’t just stop at data mining. The $250 yearly subscription also grants you access to personalized insoles created in response to your measurables, as well as a replacement pair of sneakers once your original walkers become too worn. The shoes are then collected and recycled, helping keep your footwear rotation sustainable and eco-friendly.
But while the subscription service is intriguing and the embedded sensors sound informative on paper, is this new shoe model worth its heightened subscription price? To find out, I swapped the Baliston by Starcks into my normal shoe rotation to get a feel for their on-road impact as well as their data-mining capabilities.
I wore these stylish sneakers in a number of settings, from evening appointments with friends, to running weekend errands, afternoon strolls around my neighborhood and beyond. While my interactions with the companion Baliston Connect app were limited at this time (beta testing, am I right?), I also examined all the available features and noted how they catered to my desire of improved walking form.
If you’re curious about what AI-augmented footwear can bring to your daily strolls and jaunts, here’s what you can expect.
Baliston by Starck: What We Think
I want to like these shoes, and I think there’s an audience for the tech…but that audience isn’t me. While these sneakers stylish and versatile, I’m in too many shoes throughout the day between in-gym workouts and on-road jogs to make the tech seem worth it. Plus, a majority of the tracked metrics are already available through a smartwatch or running watch, so the cost of subscription only supplies the AI-driven gait analysis and a sleek profile for day-to-day wear.
Despite my experience, though, I do think the Baliston by Starcks are worthwhile for some athletes, especially those that use walking as their main form of fitness. The insight is helpful and the idea of recycling your shoes is great for the planet. It's ultimately a niche product for a niche audience...but that’s not always a bad thing, I guess.
There's plenty of style, and it's suitable for a number of looks.
One of the biggest perks to the Baliston by Starcks is that their profile doesn’t give off that “sporty” vibe like other walking-specific sneakers. Resembling a silhouette more suited for lifestyle garb, these kicks were plenty capable of fitting into a number of my chosen outfits throughout testing. While I wore the all-black sneakers, there are other colorways available for purchase. (According to the brand, you’re also able to add a secondary pair to your tracking platform...for an additional $200 per subscription term.)
As far as fit is concerned, I felt these shoes fit true to size, if not slightly larger. The lacing system is more or less an accessory piece as it doesn’t cover the same surface area as other sneaker silhouettes, yet there’s still enough lockdown to keep your feet from completely sliding out of the interior. I’d recommend opting for an athletic sock with medium thickness to help create a snug fit with these shoes, but the added room is less of a concern of mine, given the Baliston by Starck’s designation as a walking shoe.
The insight provided can be helpful for those who truly want to improve their walking gait.
When it comes to the embedded tech across the sensors, I found the information to be interesting when performing a personal gait analysis. To analyze your gait, all you do is launch the “Journey” tab in the companion app and then follow the instructions of walking across a flat surface for one minute at a steady cadence. This session can then determine your speed, walking cadence, heel impact force and more — all useful metrics when diagnosing walking pitfalls. The sensors are also plenty capable of showcasing which leg you favor when walking — which I found out firsthand, as I’m currently trying to nurse a leg injury and placing more weight on one side.
I also appreciate how the mined data is displayed in a simple, digestible manner through the app’s “Walking Quality Score.” As you pace along your day, this numeral changes depending on how your strides are taken. This can be excellent for those wanting to progress through changes in their gait, providing a simple readout to gauge their progress day in and day out. Of course, there are some flaws in how the score is determined — I saw a minor dip in my numbers when just shuffling my feet under my desk — but the app is young. I’m sure the bugs will be squashed as the technology gets out of its infancy.
Connectivity issues may leave your measurables askew.
In testing, I found the Bluetooth connection between the sensors and the companion app to be a little weak, which led to a few instances where my shoes weren’t paired properly for data tracking purposes. While this wasn’t a huge issue of mine, given the fact that I routinely wear a Garmin Forerunner 965 running watch for step tracking and other health data, I could see where this would be a problem for athletes relying solely on the Baliston by Starcks for these metrics. I also need to take into consideration that I was viewing my metrics through the beta testing app platform, too, so there could be more bugs or discrepancies across this platform than with the consumer-facing module.
In terms of the “Journey” tab, I also experienced some connectivity issues when trying to conduct my gait analyses throughout the week. The app itself, while stating that the shoes were connected, was a little slow to engage the walking module. This connection and delay was resolved by toggling my phone’s Bluetooth settings a few times, but the experience was by no means seamless.
I’m sure these dilemmas will be resolved as the shoes, sensors and app received routine updates, but at the time of testing, it’s hard to ignore these discrepancies. Additionally, I found it hard to get over the fact that the step counter, stair counter and other deliverables were already available to me through my running watch, which led to believe I was wearing the shoes just to wear them at times instead of for the sake of improved training. Plus, smartwatches and other wearables can already deliver stride length tracking, like the latest Apple Watch series — which begs the question as to whether this shoddy connection is even worth the $250 yearly subscription.
Only offering one design limits the Baliston by Starck's tracking abilities.
As stated above, I wear a number of shoes in a given day and often pace around my house during work hours in just socks or my go-to pair of house slippers. Due to these wardrobe choices, finding longer timeframes for the Baliston by Starcks to mine data was a bit of a struggle. These sneakers are, after all, meant for walking only, as there’s little to no performance notes across the silhouette that cater to training or running needs. Plus, the wider fit doesn’t lend itself to the different demands of more intense workouts.
I don’t deny that the walking gait analysis could be helpful, but to give athletes more options in terms of footwear, I’d like to see Baliston offer more performance-minded silhouettes down the road. This could give you more footwear options that cater to different settings, and all you would have to do would be to swap the sensors in and out before your given wear. In testing, I didn’t have an issue with placing or removing the sensors in their given midsole slot, so the practice wouldn’t be a burden if you knew the data capabilities could be trackable all day long.
Baliston by Starck: Alternatives
If you’re less than enthused about these new, innovative walking shoes yet still want to mine your step data and gait, fear not — there are a few alternative options for your training needs. For more stride-specific readouts, you can pair your normal walks with a Series 8 Apple Watch or the Apple Watch Ultra, the latter of which exudes performance-minded execution. If you’re more of a run-first-walk-second athlete, I recommend opting for the Garmin Forerunner 265 which boasts a fantastic AMOLED display for clear readouts. Both of these wearables feature excellent connectivity and data-mining capabilities, but I understand that watches aren’t everyone’s motif and the sensors embedded in the Baliston by Starcks are far more subdued.
As far as the walking performance goes with the Baliston by Starcks, the underfoot feel was comparable to a number of silhouettes I’ve strolled in, albeit without the infusion of AI. One of my favorite profiles for walking-specific needs has been the Keen WK400s. The constant curvature technology can be great for accentuating your gait for the sake of forward momentum, and the durable traction can be great for keeping grip across multiple surfaces.