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MIT researchers and Puma cook up a new sneaker tech called Xetic

“Designed in the lab. Made for the street.”

That’s the tagline for a new midsole sneaker technology from Puma called Xetic (pronounced “zeh-tick,” we think), which the company created in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Design Lab. Resembling a 3D-printed structure, the sole’s intriguing mesh pattern — a series of stacked and interlocking figure-eights — smooshes together when compressed to offer support to the wearer.

“It has a very simple principle of self-reinforcing itself as load or pressure is activated,” said Romain Girard, senior head of innovation at Puma, during a press conference announcing the new shoe. “The goal is to create an intense or very deep cushioning.”

“We call it recurve,” Girard said.

all three Puma Xetic sneakers
The new Puma Calibrate Runner shoe, with a special Xetic midsole, was designed in conjunction with the MIT Design Lab. Image used with permission by copyright holder

The product comes with a slew of names, to be honest: The tech is called Xetic, because the shapes take their name from “auxetic materials,” structures that behave in a certain way when they are subjected to mechanical stresses such as compression. The shoe itself? It’s called the Calibrate Runner, and will come in three colors at launch: A simple white version for a cool, clinical look; a green-and-black model for more of a streetwear look; and a slick, color-blocked version that echoes ’90s fashion and is meant for collectors and the enthusiast market.

It will be available August 28 at $140, with other iterations to follow in the coming weeks.

“Puma’s innovation department teamed up with MIT Design Lab because we needed their high-expert engineering capabilities,” Girard said in a press release announcing the new innovation. “MIT has computer simulation possibilities, which enabled us to see the behavior of the material, and quickly find the optimal structure for calculated cushioning.”

Puma Xetic -- design insipration
Design inspiration for the Xetic midsole shows how the shapes flex, smoosh together, and reinforce the wearer. Image used with permission by copyright holder

The shoe appears to be 3D printed, as several sneakers now are and have been for years, Indeed, Adidas unveiled its Futurecraft shoe in 2017, a year after Under Armour revealed similar tech. (Nike was granted its first patent for 3D-printed shoes half a decade ago.) At the time, we called it an expensive theory no one would wear. But this one isn’t: The shoe is made from plastic, not foam, the company said. It’s also not recyclable, unfortunately, despite a growing trend in the industry to create more sustainable products.

“The current midsole doesn’t have any recycled components, but from an innovation point of view, we are currently working on developing a more sustainable approach to the midsole,” said Heiko Desens, global creative director.

The lamination process is a particular challenge at present, he said, but suggested that such an innovation was in the works.

The shoe was announced in partnership with Olympic medalist and BBC contributor Colin Jackson, who has worn Puma shoes for years. Jackson cited the Puma Disc shoe, which he said enabled him to break two world records.

“So I think both myself and Puma can claim that we are ‘forever faster,’” he said.

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