3D printing has become a popular new technology in the past few years, and shoe companies have been experimenting with how to use this technology to improve their products.
Here are how some of the top shoe companies that are implementing 3D printing into new products.
Under Armour are releasing their second shoe in their Architec line, which uses 3D printing to create the midsole, or cushioning part of the shoe. This shoe, called The Futurist, uses 3D printing to create a more stable midsole which provides more stability for weightlifting while still keeping enough flexibility for other workouts. Since they are not able to 3D print on a massive scale yet, The Futurist is a limited edition shoe which will cost $300, if they are not already sold out.
Adidas took a similar route as Under Armour, and decided to use 3D printing to create the midsole of the shoe. The current 3D printed shoes they are selling are the 3D runner pumps for £240, but are looking to use printing for another purpose.
Instead of exploring the potential of 3D printing to mass produce shoes, Adidas is looking to use it as a way to personalise shoes for their customer. They plan on having customers purchasing shoes from their store to run on a treadmill which gathers information on the users running style and feet. They then use this information to create soles in-store which fits to the person’s foot contour and minimalise the pressure points for a more comfortable experience.
Instead of using a 3D printer to form the midsole of the shoe, Reebok have chosen to focus more on printing the exterior of the shoe. Their shoes, the Liquid Speed, uses their printer to create the outsole of the shoe, which provides more support than usual for athletes. Their shoes are the cheapest of the on this list, but will still set you back $185.50.
Nike had a different approach to 3D printing, and have actually partnered up with Hewlett-Packard (HP) to create the one of a kind Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit. If you are hoping to get your hands on these shoes you are out of luck since the shoe is custom made specifically for Olympic athlete Allyson Felix.
Unlike other shoe companies, Nike has focused on the prototype aspect of 3D printing. They have found that 3D printing cuts down the time it takes for them to build a prototype shoe from a couple months to just a few hours. This is important, especially when catering to Olympic level athletes, since it allows them to tweak the shoes when the athletes provide feedback, then provide another updated pair to try out almost immediately. This was especially important when creating the shoes for Allyson Felix since they had to go through 30 versions and make 70 tweaks to get the flexibility and pop she wanted.
Companies have only just started exploiting the benefits of 3D printing when making shoes, but the process may end up being used more frequently in the coming years.
University Student studying International Business at Richmond, The American International University in London and Intern at WePlay Digital Sports Agency.