These weird-looking VR shoes aim to change how we walk in virtual reality

The startup Freeaim is now offering a $5000 VR shoe developer version for corporate, and a consumer version is on the way.

Getting a VR headset is just the beginning of fully immersing yourself in virtual reality. Additional equipment is needed to not only see but also feel the virtual world.

Wearables like gloves and suits provide haptic feedback, while various motion controllers enhance the realism of VR experiences.

Another way to increase immersion is by recreating motion. Omnidirectional treadmills, equipped with low-friction surfaces or rolling components and a stabilizing harness system, track user movements with sensors and cameras to translate physical steps into virtual motion.

However, according to Freeaim, a startup that focuses on creating wearable technologies for virtual reality, these devices are bulky and can cost a lot. Walking with them may also seem unnatural because feet slide in any direction.

Freeaim wants to improve the walking experience with its new VR shoes, which resemble a combination of sandals and roller skates.

The shoes have motors that keep users within a small play space by negating their motion. The company claims that despite the wheels, the shoes are stable during use and that using them is similar to walking on a normal gym treadmill.

For now, users can walk, turn, slow jog, fast walk, sidestep, and crouch, and they plan to include walking backward. Fast running and jumping aren't possible.

Freeaim's VR shoes connect with other devices, such as a PC, via Bluetooth and have a Steam VR driver that allows them to be used with any Steam VR game or app that supports smooth locomotion. In the future, the company wants to bring functionality with Meta Quest and PSVR.

According to Newatlas, a developer version of the shoes is currently available to corporate clients for US $4,999. Next year, the company plans to launch a consumer version for around $1000.

This year, the startup secured a $316,700 early-stage investment for developing the consumer version.

Freeaim isn't the only company offering VR shoes. Cybershoes have been available since 2019 and, according to the maker, are now the most popular VR shoes in the US and EU. However, they appear to have less advanced tracking and feedback mechanisms.