There’s a footrace afoot, with numerous competitors entering the 3D printed shoe market. In case you haven’t caught up with them, the benefit of 3D printed shoes might lay in the ability to scan a person’s foot and 3D print a shoe that matches their contours perfectly, providing comfort and support. If one of the many 3D printed shoe designers out there can perfect the process, it could be a pretty big deal for the way we walk. Most recently, we’ve been alerted to a British company called SELF Footwear, which uses a slightly different model that Hannah Rochell, the Features Editor of InStyle Magazine UK, calls, “Genius.” Rather than print the shoe itself, SELF prints the feet.
SELF Footwear makes no subtle allusions to the Cinderalla story of finding the perfect shoe to match your feet, already off to a good start in the 3D-printed footrace. They outline the process of printing bespoke shoes through the chapters, lingo, and even the illustrations of a fairytale. In fact, the company’s Creative Director, Elizabeth Dunn, says, “We want everyone to feel like Cinderella when they receive their perfectly fitting shoes. It’s hugely exciting to be working on a project that will make life so much easier for women who can’t find shoes for their feet.”
After the Chapter 1 “Once upon a time” stuff used to set the stage for their story, SELF Footwear gets into the actual process of how the shoes are made. Rather than relying on laser scanners, SELF Footwear has created a measurement guide, complete with video tutorial, that leads you through the process of measuring your feet. Next, a 3D printed model of your foot is made and London-based cobblers, Jack and George Savva, put the shoe together around your mould.
The whole process of making and shipping your shoes takes about three weeks. The shoes run from between £175 to £345, with the price increasing for more exotic materials. What that gets you is a bespoke pair of shoes that should fit comfortably, saving you from bunions, blisters and backaches. SELF Footwear also suggests that the bespoke process, if widely adopted, would cut down on the number of shoes ordered by shoe stores and, ultimately, wasted if supply exceeds demand.
I definitely buy into the marriage of 3D printing with footwear and SELF has done a good job of creating custom shoes, without the need for 3D printing the shoes themselves (and, consequently, selling something awkward and potentially uncomfortable). I also dig their overall branding, which is cohesive and has a, somewhat gendered, message that may resonate with a lot of people. I only hope that SELF takes the technological side of their business a bit further. Their measurement guide only accounts for the length and width of a wearer’s foot. Once they take full-advantage of 3D scanning/imaging techniques by offering further personalization for customers that have access to a Kinect or a 123D Catch app for a fully accurate 3D model of their feet, I’d be sold. Of course, the only shoes I could buy from SELF would be for my drag outfit, and nothing that I might wear to family events.
Source: SELF Footwear