Forget fine Italian craftsmanship or handmade-in-America labels — when it comes to the next generation of running shoes, we’re going back to the machines. New Balance has just launched its first ever 3D-printed running shoe because if your competitors are doing it, you’ve gotta do it too. Taking its cue from Adidas, which recently debuted its Futurecraft 3D, New Balance has announced a very high-tech update to its Fresh Foam Zante model, which will now feature a 3D-printed midsole.
Heralded as the first-ever running shoe to utilize 3D printing technology in this way, the Fresh Foam Zante will make its debut in April just in time for the Boston Marathon. This limited edition collection will feature “a couple hundred” shoes, and New Balance plans to sell the latest model in more locations later in 2016. By using elastomeric powder as its material, the athletic wear company believes that it has managed to overcome the material challenge of printing a light, flexible, yet durable sole. In a process called selective laser sintering, the company explains that cross-sections of the shoe’s sole are added one level at a time through laser application.
“This project represents an unprecedented technical collaboration in footwear” Sean Murphy, New Balance Senior Manager of Innovation and Engineering, said in a press release. “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.”
New Balance has certainly experimented with 3D printing with its shoes in the past. In 2013, the company began producing 3D-printed, cushioned spike plates, used most often by competitive runners. “In 2013 we said this was the future of footwear manufacturing and today we are proud to bring the future to consumers with a fully 3D printed midsole,” New Balance president and CEO Robert DeMartini said. “With 3D printing we are able to pursue performance customization at a whole new level. The New Balance Innovation Team is showcasing the latest in performance running and these advancements signify an important step forward to becoming one of the world’s top athletic brands.”