Adidas Just Released 3-D Printed Sneakers. Could This be the Answer to Our Foot Pain?

Photograph by @mervinkaye courtesy Adidas.

A limited number of new Adidas’s new 3-D-printed sneakers, called the “3D Runner,” went on sale in New York City on Thursday. The $333 sneakers are constructed with a web structure that’s thicker in areas that need more force absorption and thinner in areas that won’t experience as much force, and, according to the press release, have more elasticity than your typical shoe.

While the release of a shoe made with a buzzy technology to some extent feels like a marketing stunt, the concept of 3-D printing footwear could have a bigger impact on foot health.

“Creating customized shoes based on an individual’s footprint—including their running style, foot shape, performance needs and personal preferences—is a north star for the industry, and Adidas is leading with cutting-edge innovations,” said the senior director of Adidas’ Future team, Mikal Peveto, in the press release.

That idea of a totally customized shoe for your foot shape, made easier with the help of 3-D printing, is something Lee Firestone, a DC podiatrist with Foot & Ankle Specialists of the Mid-Atlantic, said he’d be eager to see.

“We have a population of patients who would love to have orthotics—say somebody was training for a race and they needed those orthotics within a day or two—the benefit of being able to custom-design an orthotic for somebody and have it printed in the office and ready for them within a day or two or three—athletes would love that,” Firestone told Washingtonian in June.

Firestone also sees a big potential for how 3-D printed shoes could assist his diabetic patients, who often experience nerve damage in their feet, by providing them with custom shoes that don’t rub on the unique pressure points their feet have. Additionally, those who suffer from bunions or hammer toes could potentially find relief with a shoe designed specifically for their foot shape.

“Think about how many people—especially women—are looking for a stylish shoe that accommodates their bunion deformity—and they’re stuck,” says Firestone. Those women can chose between the cute shoes that hurt their feet or clunky orthopedics. But with 3-D printing, they could someday have the same stylish silhouette customized with a wider toe box that wouldn’t contribute to bunions.

Firestone says that he’s already using 3-D scans of feet instead of having them step into a mould—a sign, he says, that the process of easing foot pain is getting faster. Though $333 Adidas sneakers are currently cost-prohibitive for many people, it too seems to be a a good sign for the future of healthier, happier feet.

Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.