Will Future Olympic Athletes Wear 3D-Printed Shoes?

The entire world is aflutter with news of the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in London. In recent weeks, inspirational news about the training and preparation of the U.S. Olympic hopefuls has been somewhat tainted by news that this year’s team uniforms, while emblazoned with the American flag, will be made in China. A head scratcher if ever there was one.

On the flip side, there’s news that in the future, mass manufacturing of some Olympic gear might not be necessary at all. In the future, at least track and field athletes may be able to print their own running shoes in the comfort of their own home. The idea comes from creative engineer and designer Luc Fusaro, who is using 3D printing technology to design and ideally manufacture custom sprinting shoes for Olympic athletes.


Image via Luc Fusaro

Called “Designed to Win,” the concept is part of Fusaro’s final solo project for graduate school. Inspired by studies that show tuning the mechanical properties of a sprint shoe to the physical abilities of an athlete can improve performance by up to 3.5 percent, Fasaro feels 3D printers like the MakerBot can be used to help Olympians create their own custom fitted shoes. “Following 3D scanning of the athlete;s feet, a one-use, full sprint shoe is produced, complete with traction elements and shoelace features, and is the very first sprint shoe fully made with additive manufacturing,” reads Fusaro’s website.

So far, he’s only produced one prototype pair, which he continues to fine tune. According to Fusaro, the upper is still too stiff to offer optimum speed. More flexibility and comfort needs to be added. Still, even in this raw state, the prototype running shoe demonstrates the mind-blowing possibilities of 3D printing technology. What do you think: will hyper-customized gear like this become more popular in the future?


Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog

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