Earlier this year when I first read about the concept of 3-D printing shoes I became very excited–‘We have options!’ I thought. By ‘we’ I was, of course, referring to us ladies who wear size 12 women’s shoes and larger. By ‘options’, I meant having the ability to design and create a shoe specific to our sizing needs.
In the Wired Magazine article “3D Shoes: A Step in the Right Direction“ writer Daniel Burrus states:
What makes 3D printed shoes so enticing for consumers is that the shoes are tailored for each person’s unique feet…Additionally, because the current shoe sizing system is limited to half-integer measurements (6, 6.5, 7, 7.5, etc.), it’s only taking into account how long someone’s feet are. Finding shoes for wide or thick feet is difficult. 3D Printing solves all this.
Did you read the last line? 3D printing solves the issue of sizing for uniquely sized feet. Angels are singing and the heavens have opened! As a niche market of consumers in the footwear industry, this concept stands to open the door for infinite possibilities in the design selection and availability of large sized shoes.
So, you’re probably wondering how are shoes “printed”? According to the article, which goes in depth about the process of printing shoes made from a flexible synthetic rubber:According to the article, which goes in depth about the process of printing shoes made from a flexible synthetic rubber:
3D printers build things by depositing material, typically plastic or metal, layer by layer, until the prototype or final product is finished.
You can watch the actual process here in this great 1-minute video from Continuum Fashion. It’s quite fascinating to watch a shoe literally come to life.Continuum Fashion. It’s quite fascinating to watch a shoe literally come to life.
Also, in my search to learn more about 3D printed shoes I discovered NPR recently profiled one of the leading fashion/ footwear designers in the 3-D printing industry, Mary Huang founder of Continuum in Brooklyn, NY in their Weekly Innovation series. In addition to designing the shoes, Huang also designed the software used to create them. I visited Continuum’s site where I discovered futuristic shoes, including a new-age version of the classic round-toe wedge. Unfortunately, the shoes are available up to a size 10. I reached out to Continuum via email about offering availability in larger sizes and am awaiting a response. In the interim, Mary stated in the article that Continuum shoes range in price from $250-$395 per pair with a lead time of 3 weeks.
So, it is safe to say as fashion technology advances, women in niche categories will continue to see improved accessible options. Especially in the areas of size style and price. In the interim, custom footwear companies like Shoes of Prey offer unlimited styling options for women who wear up to a size 15.
What are your thoughts on 3D printing? Do you think this will actually improve your options and experience when shoe shopping? Or do you think this is a fad?