The search for what could be deemed the "perfect" shoe seems to go on forever these days. 3D printing is frequently the technique of choice in these endeavors since it enables completely personalized shoes that are fitted to the user. However, how can we be certain that they are operating as planned? How about figuring out how to optimize for a person's running style or whether they are participating in a sprint or marathon? Thanks to a model created by MIT engineers, we may soon be able to determine the best style of running shoe for every particular runner, including ones who have had their shoes 3D printed.

Running is one of the most popular kinds of exercise today; according to Statista, 50 million Americans, or 15% of the country's population, will be running in 2021. However, there are many different kinds of running and runners, which accounts for the wide range of options on the market today. Another option is to use 3D printing to create shoes that are unique to each runner; brands like Adidas, Zellerfeld, and others have already embraced this concept. However, every runner is different, and so are the shoes they use. As such, what suits a professional marathoner may not suit a beginner, therefore shoe producers must ensure that their products are functional.

For this reason, shoe designers decided to consult MIT to figure out how to maximize the functionality of shoes, even those that are 3D printed. Co-author of the paper Anette "Peko" Hosoi, an MIT mechanical engineering professor, says, "With 3D printing, designers can tune everything about the material response locally." And they basically stated, "We can do all these things," when they came to us. How ought we to proceed? The answer is this model.

An Innovative Model can Forecast the Performance of 3D-Printed Shoes

Sarah Fay, a postdoc at the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) and the Sports Lab at MIT, claims that the model may pave the way for the creation of innovative and functional 3D printed shoes. The tool is anticipated to push shoe design to new heights, which is why additive manufacturing is also connected to it. It was tested on 3D printed midsoles with scaffolds that are intended to provide a precise amount of bounce or stiffness in particular places, because it was that good.

How was this accomplished? The model can replicate variations in gait depending on factors like height, weight, and leg length as well as the material characteristics of a shoe, such as the rigidity of the front and rear midsoles, thanks to computations made by the researchers. They were able to develop a model that accurately predicts gait by combining these with what Fay and Hosoi referred to as the "biological cost function"—a property that a runner may not be aware of but will nevertheless attempt to minimize. More precisely, scientists discovered that runners typically limit their leg energy expenditure and the impact their feet make on the treadmill. Hence, these can be tailored based on the shoe.

"We've allowed for enough flexibility in the model that it can be used to understand different individual behaviors and design custom shoes," says Fay in her conclusion. Far in the future, we hope to be able to 3D print the ideal shoe for you if you email us a video of yourself running. You may watch the video below or HERE to find out more about the model.


3D Printing Application to Optimize Shoes Design

To be able to create a distinctive shoe design and bring out the essence of a company, design software plays a very important role. Especially with the involvement of 3D printing technology, designing unique shoe models is becoming easier and easier. To take advantage of the advantages of 3D printing, many shoe manufacturers have applied Materialise 3-matic software to their design process.


Materialise software can help create automatic textures quickly and conveniently, minimizing human work and minimizing possible errors.

Users can use the textures available in the inventory of Materialise 3-matic software or design their own textures. However, when designing animations, users should pay attention to:

  🔹 Bitmaps must be grayscale-only images (jpg, bmp, png, tif).

  🔹 Bitmap images should be seamless.

  🔹 The size and resolution of the bitmap must correspond to the part on which the texture is printed.

  🔹 The maximum resolution is 16384 x 16384, and the maximum depth is 8 bits.

Not stopping at creating smart textures, with the slice-based feature, 3D models designed in Materialise 3-matic can also reduce the size and number of triangles on the design model:

  🔹 STL file size before vignette: 5.8 MB

  🔹 Number of triangles before the vignette: 119 000

  🔹 Estimated STL texture file size: 1886 MB

  🔹 Estimated number of triangles with STL motifs: 37 million

This is considered a breakthrough when it is possible to optimize the size of a design file, which helps reduce unnecessary time for the software to read the design file.

What are your thoughts on this new shoe performance model, which includes ones that are 3D printed? Do you believe that will alter the manufacturing process? Tell us in the comments section below or on our Facebook and LinkedIn sites!

To know more about the application of 3D printing in footwear manufacturing, let's look forward to the Webinar "Go No Chemical" organized by Vinnotek at the end of March!

*All Photo Credits: Melanie Gonick, MIT


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