Walking In 3D: Get Inspired By These Shoes Printing The Way Forward

When you talk about fashion and innovation, 3D technology is never far behind. With its products increasingly permeating how we approach concepts and design, it was bound to make its way into a multitude of varying industries. In our Fashion Tech series, we’ve discussed what 3D printing is, how it works and noted some of the movers and shakers so far. We’ve even highlighted shoe production such as the Nike Zoom Superfly Elite sneakers and the Adidas Biosteel trainers. What’s even more exciting is that there are more designers are undertaking the technique in increasingly ingenious ways. It’s no longer just about making a showpiece for special occasions or for the shock factor. As creative director of United Nude – Rem D Koolhaas – explains:

“[T]he 3D printing technology allows us to experiment with new shapes much quicker than before, without big development costs and for very small quantities.”

Today’s post will look at how some designers are approaching 3D for a little inspiration this Friday:


This prototype project by Zuzanna Gronowicz and Barbara Motylinska, two Polish students from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, approached 3D from the perspective of sustainable design. To be more specific, a biodegradable sneaker modified via an app. Using a ZMorph multitool 3D printer, they were able to create a sneaker prototype using natural textiles and malleable, biodegradable filament. But the duo went even greener and eliminated the use of glue in its assembly. Thanks to their idea to print the filament directly onto the material, the she is even more eco-friendly and as additional durability since this technique strengthens the upper. But how did they plan to make sure consumers hold on to their shoes for longer; reducing the 300 million shoes disposed of each year? They custom-made and app that would put the consumer in the driving seat, design and modification wise, as well as, aim for perfect fit via its foot-measuring tool.

[Image: Courtesy of Shoetopia / Design Indaba]


Yes, this 3D printed shoe concept by Seattle-based pensar studio is another addition to the ever-growing mass-tailored industry. However, it’s not just that they’re looking for perfect fit, but to improve the wearer’s stride as well. Through data retrieved from pressure sensors and accelerometers, the result would be a shoe that responds to body moves. If you have over pronation or under pronation, this not only affects the lifespan of a regular shoe, but your comfort as well. It also you to possible injuries. Even neutral pronation have specific needs. [Read more about pronation here]. But it usually takes a lot of store hunting and trying on sessions to find something that’s closest to your needs. But DNA’s approach wants to combine data acquisition, user behaviour, and rapid prototyping to give the shoe optimal function, while the user has input on the shoe’s aesthetics. With specific data, the 3D printer would be able to come close to customized footwear perfection.

[Image: Courtesy of Pensar Studio]

Under Armour’s ‘ArchiTech Futurist’

Don’t let the minimalistic exterior fool you. Inside the shoe’s 3D-prnted lattice sole, Under Armour (UA) has incorporated high-level underfoot technology.  With athletes in mind, UA wanted the wearer to have infinite cushioning but also the sensation of ‘power’. Thus, the plastic fibres interwoven in the sole via 3D-printing are perfect for shock absorption and full stride comfort. No man is an island, so this comfort is coupled with an external compression sleeve to strengthen the foot by locking it in place. By placing the zipper in the centre of the upper, they wanted to make the art of slipping Architech Futurist on as painless as possible. In summary, they approached 3D printing with work-horse support in mind.

[Image: Courtesy of Under Armour / Design Boom]

Adidas Futurecraft 4D

This 3D project makes it onto the list for a variety of reasons. For starters, the German sportswear firm plans to mass-produce them in 2018. And we know what you’re thinking. Nike, New Balance and Under Armour already have shoes out there, right? True, but as a report by Reuters explains it, “[T]he technique [is mostly used] to make prototypes, soles tailored for sponsored athletes and a handful of high-priced novelty shoes.” Only 5000 will be available this ear, but they plan to make as many as 100,000 pairs u the end of 2018.

Using a process known as Continuous Liquid Interface Production, they are able to 3D print a mid-sole in a faster, more adaptable and cheaper way than the traditional form of printing.

Secondly, they’ve gotten more ambitious with their 3D with their partnership with Silicon Valley Company, Carbon. Using a process known as Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP), they are able to 3D print a mid-sole in a faster, more adaptable and cheaper way than the traditional form of printing. To explain what exactly what CLIP is, we’ll quote The Verge’s description, and “the design is essentially pulled out of a vat of liquid polymer resin, and fixed into its desired shape using ultraviolet light.” The technique is said to be more durable than traditional method that relies on injection moulds for plastic. Considering this technique is fairly new, it’s understandable why they aren’t making a large quantity just yet.

[Image: Adidas]

There’s more than one way to approach this 3D technology. Perhaps you don’t want to go straight into printing and prefer to use the 3D imaging like True Gault. They may not print the shoes, but by creating an app where consumers can scan their feet for perfect fitting high heels, it’s making it possible to live in a world where high heel shoes fit right. So whether you’re planning to re-invent the wheel with your spin on it or looking to shake up the game entirely, we do hope to see more African designers dabbling with 3D. And if you already are, get in touch with us ASAP!

[Image: True Gault]

%d bloggers like this: