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New Balance x Nervous Systems Adaptive 3D-printed Midsole Running Shoes

12.02.15 | By
New Balance x Nervous Systems Adaptive 3D-printed Midsole Running Shoes

It appears the race is on in the running shoe category to bring 3D printed midsoles to the consumer market. Just a heartbeat ago it was adidas with their concept Futurecraft 3D running shoes. Now New Balance is also announcing their own proprietary adaptive and customizable 3D printed midsole running shoes, developed with the aid of generative design studio, Nervous System.

The new class of running shoes builds upon the success of a widely available model, the New Balance Fresh Foam (amongst our recent gift guide picks). The research team’s goals of enhanced comfort, flexibility, and durability underfoot was accomplished using this data gathered from test runners, as noted by Nervous System:

For the midsole, the primary data we are working with is pressure data from a runner’s foot strike. New Balance has worked extensively on data to design processes for previous projects like Fresh Foam. We had multiple sets of data available to us that were captured at the New Balance Sports Research Lab in Lawrence, MA. The data is recorded by a grid of sensors underfoot that show the force as the foot hits ground and pushes off through time.

A close inspection of the dimensional array of foam cells in the midsole reveal a “highly controllable anisotropic, macroscopic foam structure” (think “airy” instead of “dense”) in lieu of the usual uniform cushy foam or air bladder solutions of current running shoes. This cellular structure is not only strong, but more lightweight, and adaptive to various foot strikes and movements.

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Most fascinating are these exploratory midsole designs inspired by all varieties of naturally occurring patterns, such as those created by the veins of leaves or the branching filamentous structure of a fungus.

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From Sean Murphy, New Balance Senior Manager of Innovation and Engineering:

This project represents an unprecedented technical collaboration in footwear. To deliver this level of performance with a 3D-printed component, we paired experts in running and biomechanics with leaders in plastics engineering, material development and generative design. These are the types of collaborations that will drive footwear design and manufacturing in the future.

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Reflecting the technological roots of the project, the limited edition running shoe model will be unveiled at the upcoming 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in January. Look out for these New Balance 3D-printed midsoles running shoes in-store in spring, April 2016; the fully customizable version is scheduled for availability in 2017. More details at New Balance.

Gregory Han is Tech Editor of Design Milk. A Los Angeles native with a profound love and curiosity for design, hiking, tide pools, and road trips, a selection of his adventures and musings can be found at gregoryhan.com.