How Adidas Cracked The Code Of 3D-Printed Shoes

Adidas’s Futurecraft 4D, a winner in the 2017 Innovation By Design Awards, is the first 3D-printed running shoe to deliver on the promise of mass customization. But it hasn’t been easy getting here.

Adidas’s Futurecraft 4D is an honoree in the 2017 Innovation By Design Awards, Fast Company‘s annual celebration of the best ideas in design. See the rest of the winners, finalists, and honorable mentions here.

The soles look like intricate baskets woven from clear seafoam green toothpaste. The sensation underfoot is bouncy yet firm, and strangely, you can literally feel the air passing under your feet. There are only a few hundred pairs of Adidas’s radical new 3D–printed running shoes, known as Futurecraft 4D, in existence, but already they represent an early victory lap around competitors’ attempts, because they are actually coming to market en masse: By the end of the year, Adidas will have produced 5,000 pairs, with 100,000 more planned by the end of 2018.

Industry leader Nike has spent the past two years focused on building better foam midsoles that maximize athletic performance, culminating in its Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% and Nike Zoom Fly shoes, which went on sale in June. Nike, Under Armour, and even New Balance have all revealed 3D concepts in the past year, but most are either prototypes or rare limited editions. (New Balance has committed to large-scale 3D printing and manufacturing starting in 2018, but won’t reveal any numbers.) How Adidas, the second-biggest footwear company in the world, pulled ahead in the 3D race is a story of foresight, perseverance, and strategic collaboration. While the company has been raising its global profile by smartly leveraging creative partnerships with cultural icons such as Pharrell and Kanye West, it has also been upping its technical manufacturing game at its German headquarters, where designers and engineers have been experimenting with 3D printing since 2010. “If you can eliminate the block of foam under your foot, you have a lot of opportunity to tune and manage attenuate forces, a lot of different experiential benefits,” says Paul Gaudio, Adidas’s global creative director.

Adidas’s Futurecraft 4D is an honoree in the 2017 Innovation By Design Awards, Fast Company‘s annual celebration of the best ideas in design. See the rest of the winners, finalists, and honorable mentions here.

The soles look like intricate baskets woven from clear seafoam green toothpaste. The sensation underfoot is bouncy yet firm, and strangely, you can literally feel the air passing under your feet. There are only a few hundred pairs of Adidas’s radical new 3D–printed running shoes, known as Futurecraft 4D, in existence, but already they represent an early victory lap around competitors’ attempts, because they are actually coming to market en masse: By the end of the year, Adidas will have produced 5,000 pairs, with 100,000 more planned by the end of 2018.

Industry leader Nike has spent the past two years focused on building better foam midsoles that maximize athletic performance, culminating in its Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% and Nike Zoom Fly shoes, which went on sale in June. Nike, Under Armour, and even New Balance have all revealed 3D concepts in the past year, but most are either prototypes or rare limited editions. (New Balance has committed to large-scale 3D printing and manufacturing starting in 2018, but won’t reveal any numbers.) How Adidas, the second-biggest footwear company in the world, pulled ahead in the 3D race is a story of foresight, perseverance, and strategic collaboration. While the company has been raising its global profile by smartly leveraging creative partnerships with cultural icons such as Pharrell and Kanye West, it has also been upping its technical manufacturing game at its German headquarters, where designers and engineers have been experimenting with 3D printing since 2010. “If you can eliminate the block of foam under your foot, you have a lot of opportunity to tune and manage attenuate forces, a lot of different experiential benefits,” says Paul Gaudio, Adidas’s global creative director.

[“Source-fastcodesign”]