In the near future, your running shoes might come from a printer.
Last month, Adidas announced Futurecraft, a printed running shoe midsole that can be customized to individual feet.
Futurecraft is still in the concept stage, but the idea is pretty cool. The company puts it like this:
Imagine walking into an adidas store, running briefly on a treadmill and instantly getting a 3D-printed running shoe – this is the ambition of the adidas 3D-printed midsole. Creating a flexible, fully breathable carbon copy of the athlete’s own footprint, matching exact contours and pressure points, it will set the athlete up for the best running experience. Linked with existing data sourcing and footscan technologies, it opens unique opportunities for immediate in-store fittings.
Running shoes, more than anywhere else in sports, are tough to buy. Each person has an individual gait, foot shape, under/over/neutral pronation… the list goes on. Combine that with individual preferences of low or high stack heights, minimal or maximal (or medial?) cushioning, lots of arch support or little, well, you get the idea.
3D Printed Shoes
The Adidas dream is a long way from prime time, and hurdles remain. Beyond working out kinks in engineering and materials, what about warranty issues if someone customizes themselves a bad shoe? Will there be a few standard lasts, or will every shoe be a one-off, unique to the consumer?
To us, these are fun questions that remain to be answered as Futurecraft develops from prototype to reality. As Eric Liedtke of Adidas put it:
“Futurecraft 3D is a prototype and a statement of intent. We have used a one-of-its-kind combination of process and material in an entirely new way. Our 3D-printed midsole not only allows us to make a great running shoe, but also to use performance data to drive truly bespoke experiences, meeting the needs of any athlete.“
Futurecraft 3D is possible through an open source partnership with Materialise, a pioneer and specialist in 3D printing. Yesterday, the brand also announced Futurecraft Leather, which uses a digital milling process to gently strip away at a single piece of leather, creating precision-engineered fit with the added benefit of drastically reducing adhesive use. This could likely be combined with printed soles or other new technologies.
Adidas teases that there will bemore news on this during the next six months. We’ll be waiting.