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Brief Published: 14 Mar 2013

3D-Printed Footwear by Nike & New Balance


Recent launches by two US-based sports giants – Nike and New Balance – demonstrate the possibilities of using 3D printing to create custom footwear at a rapid pace. Both companies have used a process known as SLS (selective laser sintering), a type of 3D printing that uses lasers to fuse powdered material into solid layers. 

New Balance debuted its bespoke studded running shoe at New York athletics competition the New Balance Games in January. The manufacturing process allows an athlete’s personal biomechanic data to inform the tailored design of the cleats (studs) and shoe plates, creating a shoe that is claimed to increase speed and optimise performance.  

In February this year, Nike announced it had used SLS to manufacture the lightweight (158 grams) Vapor Laser Talon studded football shoe. Nike also claims the design advancements can markedly improve a player’s speed. In contrast with conventional methods, the shoes can be prototyped and adapted in hours rather than months.  

Though professional athletes are the target market for now, shoes and insoles made with SLS are sure to become available to consumers in the near future.  

Technology plays a crucial role within sport and our quest for speed. For more examples of scientific innovations in sport, see the Stylus report Superhuman: Pushing the Limits of Human Advancement

More brands are beginning to see the possibilities within 3D printing and how it can boost their manufacturing processes. Stylus explores this development in 3D Printing: From Gimmick to Game-Changer

New Balance