The Future Of Shoes: It’s All About 3D Printing

Libby Jane Charleston
on 16 January 2017

While 3D printing is still in its early stages, there’s no doubt it will change the way our products are created.

One industry set to benefit from 3D printing is the fitness industry, particularly when it comes to more advanced running shoes.

Several big fitness brands like Adidas have announced that they will be using high-tech printing in the production of limited edition sneakers – but these sneakers will not be accessible to all of us. That’s unless you have a spare $400 to spend on 3D printed shoes.

The ExoSols custom 3D printed orthotic system creates completely personalised insoles that can be slipped into any shoe. The insoles are completely computer-generate, due to a special foot-measuring app. It allows you to plan what kind of shoes you want and how you’d like them to feel.

Kate Maguire from Well and Good magazine decided to try out the 3D printing technology in her own shoes. She tried the 3D printed slip-in ExoSols orthotics; an insole she could use with every pair of sneakers she owns. When she ordered the orthotics online, she had to provide details about her size, fit preference and even supply several photographs of her feet.

When her insoles arrived, she tried them in her Adidas running shoes and immediately felt the difference.

“It was like I was running on clouds, with the sort of extreme cushioning you might find with maximalist sneakers. The insoles were so aligned with my feet that I felt weightless—and also weirdly energised, like I could seriously run for hours,” Maguire said.

“My knees—which tend to be my trouble spot—didn’t get as achey as fast. Although I ran four miles that afternoon, my body felt like it had just finished up only two miles.”

Next, Maguire tried the insoles in her triple-decker Keds to see how they’d handle shoes that aren’t as performance-driven as her Adidas shoes.

“At first the ExoSols seemed a little stiff in the slim pair of shoes (after all, it added close to a half-inch to underneath my foot). It wasn’t uncomfortable, just different. But there was an upside: My feet instantly felt more supported.”

“Ultimately I wore the orthotics in my shoes all day, every day throughout the week and felt zero discomfort. While these may still be a novelty purchase for many—especially as brands unveil them with as much hype as a new Apple product—3D printed shoes could definitely be a sign of the (pain-free, personalised, more sustainable) future.”

The technology to produce large numbers of shoes is not quite there yet, this new way of buying shoes could have a huge impact on the footwear industry. Instead of people purchasing shoes from a store that has shoes previously stocked in a warehouse, we could all be buying our shoes via the computer and receiving our custom-made shoes within days.

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