“Next-Gen” Combat Boot Designed on Maui
By David Kvasnicka
A new type of combat boot designed by a Maui physician is claimed to be one of the first “energy positive” shoes that can also withstand up to 10 times the impact force of regular military boots.
The inventor, Dr. Steven King, 44, quotes a Department of Defense document in which a test found that the “GUS” (Gravity Utilization System) was virtually inflammable, 25% lighter than standard issue boots, puncture-resistant, and more likely to prevent injuries such as stress fractures. It’s also believed to be bomb-resistant, but blast testing wasn’t conducted due to cost-constraints.
The GUS has a spring-action sole – unlike most gel or foam-padded shoes – that absorbs step impact and reverses the energy back into the leg, making it “energy positive.” Most footwear, King says, is “energy negative” and takes away energy from the wearer with each step. The rest of the boot is made up of advanced composites such as carbon fiber and Kevlar to protect the feet from punctures and flame.
Formerly in the military himself, King says that he’d like to see US combatants equipped with the concept boots to give them the edge.
“I was deployed, but as a podiatrist, I thankfully never had to shoot at people. This is my extra to help.”
But King envisions the boot’s use for other applications, such as construction, fire fighting and policing.
He has field tested the boot on hikes around Maui, including Haleakala, and in local competitions like X-Terra, Hana Relay, and the Kahakuloa Half-Marathon.
King says the invention was born in late 2007 but the decision to start the company, Kingetics LLC in Kihei, didn’t happen until January 2008. Since then, $250,000 has been invested in Kingetics, not including the close to $100,000 grant from the Department of Defense and US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, given to undertake a “Phase I” test.
However, despite the DOD recommending the concept be submitted for a Phase II grant, which pays “in the millions,” the DOD has so far rejected the idea, saying there was “no commercial use.” King attributes it to conventional thinking on the part of the DOD’s experts. In all, he says a lack of understanding of the fundamentally different concept is holding the Kingetic boot back from major adoption.
A Japanese footwear maker with many of the same elements currently cannot meet the high demand, says King, despite the hefty cost for shoes made with these materials. The price per pair of boots of this type is well over $1000; currently Kingetics is selling their GUS boots on their website for $1253 per pair.
King, a Maui resident since 1998, is a podiatrist, resident at Maui Memorial Medical Center and The Maui Medical Group (he is also an owner). He began the concept after breaking his own foot and experimenting with the spring-action sole – that acts somewhat like the suspension on a vehicle – as well as advanced composite materials.
King partnered with a carbon fiber specialist Paul Hewitt of Rocket Composite to develop the protective materials. They currently have several American manufacturers develop the various components, but assemble the boots here on Maui.
So far, around $100,000 has been spent on securing world-wide patents for the Spring Orthotic Device which is the mechanism that neutralizes step impact in the boots. The company is currently seeking investors.