October 23, 2017

3D Printed Running Shoes

Printing has been around for hundreds of years. Millions of books and newspapers printed for the mass market, incredibly cheap and available to all. However, advances in technology has brought around a new type of technology, 3D printed. Printing horizontally across the page along the x-axis, but also vertically off the page along the y and z-axes.

This is not necessarily the newest technology around with its ability to transform additive manufacturing gaining momentum throughout the early 2000s. Since then, it has only been developed further, being manipulated and customised to take on a multitude of tasks from parts in machines to human body parts.

I was lucky enough to use 3D printing technology on a recent work experience
I was lucky enough to use 3D printing technology on a recent work experience

Most recently of which, 3D printing has been developed to assist shoe manufacturers in developing new designs and increases performance in their shoes; his is been done most notably on two occasions.

New Balance

The first to do this was New Balance, gaining access to a newly developed material (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) which they have been able to manipulate into a power which can be 3D printed. This therefore can be reproduced on a large scale for a fraction of the cost of traditional EVA foam soles. Alongside this, the sole maintains its cushioning and durability, yet loses the majority of its weight with most of the sole being empty space.

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New Balance 3D printed sole
New Balance 3D printed sole

These shoes were announced in November 2015 and are set to be released as a limited edition shoe in April 2016. You can read more about the shoes here.

Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit

For me, the biggest announcement as of yet surrounding 3D printed shoes is certainly the latest release from Nike, the Zoom Superfly Flyknit. These are a completely new type of spent spike, designed for the 200m/ 400m. Whilst integrating the Flyknit technology which we have been aware of for a few years now, the notable edition to these spikes is the inclusion of a specific 3D printed spike plate.

This spike plate takes spikes to a whole new level, eliminating the need for small individual spikes which you have to screw in yourself. Although a few people might like being able to change the length of spikes used, here the spike plate becomes completely personal to how you run, being shaped around individual biomechanics, shown here by a Nike statement:

Working off of Felix’s insights, they employed computational design to dial the spike plate to her prescribed flex and fit, with a new last created from a 3D print of Felix’s foot. Next, Flyknit engineers translated the feel Felix favors in her everyday Flyknit trainers into race-ready uppers. Pixel by pixel, they adapted the knit to reduce volume and extend the upper to a three-quarter height that helps support a larger portion of the foot and facilitates fluidity in motion. The result, in Felix’s own words, “feels like an extension of your foot.”

Before we get too excited, it must be noted that these spikes are exclusively a one off. Designed specifically for Allyson Felix and no one else, there will not be any release to the general public of these specific spikes.

3D printed spike plate for Allyson Felix
3D printed spike plate for Allyson Felix

Despite this, these are a great insight into the innovation which is happening currently at Nike. With the recent release of the new Zoom Victory 3 spikes at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon, I am sure we can expect a lot of new releases in the coming years and it is really exciting to see where 3D printing may take commercially available spikes.

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