The sportswear brand enters next level territory of customisation offering consumers the ‘perfect’ shoe.
Contracted New Balance athlete Jack Bolas ran a 4.01.44 indoor mile recently in what may be his most talked about performance to date. The reason being, he was the first ever athlete to be wearing 3D printed equipment specially formulated for his feet and performance levels. Sportwear giant Nike were first to announce their first printed shoes back in February with their Nike Lasor Venim Talon shoe that has similar design aesthetics in mind; to aid athletes’ traction during performance. Yet New Balance were first to have an athlete physically compete in a race, bringing further attention to what could be the future of performancewear.
New Balance began their research by putting Bolas into censored shoes to enable them to understand how his feet interact with the shoe alongside high-speed cameras tracking his every move in correlation with the track itself. Findings led the brand to use the correct number of spikes and situate them in the perfect position, while customising the amount and shape of the plastic cleats. The shoes were then printed using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology that uses biomechanical data, specially created software and high-powered lasers to fuse particles together to form a 3D shape, i.e. the shoe. Bolas then tested several prototypes before he decided on the winning pair.
Further research tells us that 3D printing and using such precise customisation is only the beginning. This process in comparison with standard manufacturing means not only lower costs but also a significant decrease in lead times. What would take a week, now can take hours, and this also gives researchers more time to play around with ideas as they can instantly print prototypes based on the runner’s strategy for a particular race to be trialled and tested, further increasing the product’s potential.
New Balance CEO Robert DeMartini told wired.com, “3-D printing unlocks an entirely new level of design, allowing us to elevate design within the company to ensure we bring consumers the best in both performance and design.”
The shoes aren’t available for consumers just yet but variations in designs based upon weight, running style and cushioning preference are already in talks and may well be on a shelf near you in the not so distant future.