Unifold is a new project by Horatio Yuxin Han and Kevin Crowley of the Pratt Institute that aims to make shoes more affordable for everyone.

"These days, almost all shoe-making methods require a complicated production process, often inquiring molding," Han, a Chinese designer, tells Co.Design.

The complicated methods of shoe production make them expensive: Over 300 million people around the world are too poor to afford shoes, making them vulnerable to foot-borne diseases.

Unifold is one possible solution: origami for your feet.

Unifold shoes would cut down on production, shipping, and storage costs, making shoes more affordable to everyone.

Here's hoping Unifold succeeds: it's a rare thing indeed when a design that can save millions of lives through affordability can also manage to be so fashionable.

Co.Design

Footwear Origami That Could Save Millions Of Lives

These new foldable shoes aren't just fashionable. They could save millions from the spread of parasitic foot diseases in the developing world.

With an equal mixture of carelessness and deliberation, we choose our shoes. A pair of pumps might be picked because of the way they go with a certain dress, or a pair of sneakers laced up because of how they impact our theoretical running speed. It's a luxury to forget why we wear shoes to begin with. In the developing world, shoes help prevent the spread of deadly parasitic diseases, yet over 300 million people have no choice but to go without shoes every day. And why? Because shoes are a luxury, and the nature of a luxury is that it is something that many can't afford.

Unifold is a new project by Horatio Yuxin Han and Kevin Crowley of the Pratt Institute that aims to make shoes more affordable for everyone. "These days, almost all shoe-making methods require a complicated production process, often inquiring molding," Han, a Chinese designer, tells Co.Design. With Unifold, Han was trying to discover a simpler way of not just producing shoes but shipping and storing them. The genius trick? Footwear origami. Unifold are shoes you fold.

Made from ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), otherwise known as foam rubber, a pair of Unifold shoes don't require molding, lacing, sewing, gluing, or any other advanced production techniques. You simply buy a pair and fold them up around your feet. Because Unifold shoes are easier to manufacture--you just cut a sheet of foam rubber into the proper pattern--they're cheaper for consumers to buy, and as an added bonus, they can be shipped and stored flat en masse, further cutting down the price the end user has to pay for a pair. In fact, Unifolds might not even need to be manufactured. In the developing world, for example, Han suggests that a pattern could be downloaded and then brought to a local shop to be printed out.

Right now, there are two patterns of Unifolds: an elegant Asian-style slipper, and a sandal with a more elaborate folding design. "By necessity, the style of the shoe had to be informed by folding techniques, which limited my freedom," admits Han. "However, these limitations in technique encouraged me to explore some more unusual and surprising details for the look of the shoe."

Although right now Unifold shoes are still a concept, Han and some of his fellow students at Pratt are hard at work making Unifold shoes a commercial reality. Here's hoping he succeeds: it's a rare thing indeed when a design that can save millions of lives through affordability can also manage to be so fashionable.

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6 Comments

  • JoergenGeerds

    Are you sure that this will save millions of lives? humanity evolved over a couple of millions of years, our feet are made for walking, and shoes/sandals/boots have only been around for the last couple of thousand years. walking barefoot may be a social stigma, but it doesn't kill you. malnutrition and no access to save drinking water kill you. not having shoes is very much a first world problem. the origami idea is cute... the headline is pathetic.

  • Phunken

    Thats an arrogant first world assumption that its not a life saving invention worth pursuing. You haven't factoring in modern day hazzard like broken glass and sharp metal and syrings that cut and introduces deseases mentioned. Shoes like this offer ppl who wouldnt have access to shoes an opportunity to attain one, who are we to say they can't choose footwear to protect themselve and clean water... Start small.

  • static

    According to the World Health Organization, this headline is a far cry away from pathetic. It's quite on target.
    As for humanity evolving over "millions of years", are you, as it seems you are, claiming that parasitic diseases are incapable of evolving as well?

    http://www.who.int/vaccine_res...

    See paragraph 3 for how many millions can be saved via this simple technique.