Co.Design

Could The World’s Fastest Shoe Really Have Come From A Printer?

Designed to Win is catered to the shape of each athlete’s foot and comes straight out of a printer.

A student at the Royal College of Art in London claims he has invented the world’s fastest running shoe. French-born engineer and designer Luc Fusaro developed a prototype that can be architectured around the unique shape of a sprinter’s foot, weighs just 96 grams, and can shed fractions of a second off your time. Here’s the coolest part (aside from the fact that it looks like God’s slipper): It comes straight out of a printer.

Designed to Win, as Fusaro calls it, is fabricated through selective laser sintering (SLS), a method for creating solid objects by fusing powdered materials with a CO2 laser. The process allows Fusaro to take 3-D scans of a runner’s foot, use digital tools to cater the stiffness of the soles to the athlete’s physical abilities, then print the shoes out of nylon polyamide powder, a material that is “one of the strongest in the range of additive manufacturing,” Fusaro says.

You wouldn’t want to run a marathon in these things. “It’s not good for more than 400 meters because it’s too stiff,” Fusaro tells Co.Design. But for sprinting, it can improve performance by as much as 3.5%--or about .35 seconds, which, in a 100-meter dash, could mean the difference between silver and gold.

Fusaro tested the shoe on several competitive sprinters in London and hopes to refine it for the 2016 Olympic Games.

[Images courtesy of Luc Fusaro]

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3 Comments

  • Ben Griffin

    This concept draws attention, as others have previously, to the possibilities of mass customisation using rapid production technologies by showing us what the eventual products themselves might be.

    There are many potential applications for this kind of tech and the product opportunities increase as the processes become faster and more accurate, new materials become available and costs come down.

    However, what's really of interest is not so much the potential product designs themselves, but the service system designs required to convert this world of potential into viable business models.

    On his website, Luc notes that custom designed footwear "is still a privilege exclusively reserved to world class elite athletes". If the accessible solution lies in mass customisation via RP tech, then how do we get there? How would the service be delivered? What are the barriers and how do we overcome them?

    I hope Luc is inspired to look beyond the product design and maybe come up with some winning ideas. Best of luck!

  • Althaea

    Wow!  This is so amazing!  We are so used to hearing about tech breakthroughs all the time that we scarcely even notice when an article like this passes by.  But, truly, it is amazing that this technology exists.

  • Steven Hall

    "...can improve performance by as much as 3.5%...which, in a 100-meter dash, could mean the difference between silver and gold."

    If this shoe can achieve the claimed level of improvement then the results would be much more impressive than merely the difference between silver and gold. Had Darvis Patton been wearing this at the 2008 Olympics then instead of coming in 8th place he would have won.

    By the way "3.5%--or about .35 seconds" is a clumsy construction. 3.5% of 10 seconds is exactly 0.35 seconds but 3.5% of, say, 563 is 19.705 seconds and that could not be considered to be close to 0.35 seconds at all. It is best to avoid equating a percentage to an absolute value without also presenting what the starting value is.