3D Printing, Biofibers and Tracking: This Will be the Shoes of the Future

The design of the shoes is evolving at an accelerated pace, thanks to technological advances such as 3D printing and the ability to adapt organic material, such as algae, in biofibers. We talked with designer Jeff Staple about the "slippers of the future."

As the sneaker design technology continues to advance, sometimes even the most experienced beast cannot keep up.

With emerging futuristic options such as 3D printing, it can be difficult to discern what features are simply a fad and what is going to be maintained and redefined the concept of a modern shoe. To help us imagine what tomorrow's shoe would look like, we have turned to designer Jeff Staple, who has spent the last two decades shaping urban fashion in New York City.

In the beginning, Staple began his own design studio and opened a store called Reed Space on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a site that quickly became a benchmark for the growing culture of sports shoes. In 2005, hysteria erupted in the queue as crowds cried out for the purchase of the rare $ 300 Dunks of Nike Pigeon from Staple. Today, the rows of buyers that accumulate to get the latest designs are normal.

At present, Staple directs his communication agency of the same name, Staple Design, which offers consulting services to brands such as Gap, Levi’s, Puma and Timberland, among others. We talked to Staple to hear his thoughts on the shoe of the future. This is what he expects for footwear in the next decade.

The shoes will be 100% recyclable

The most prominent trend on the horizon, according to Staple, is the push towards adapting closed cycle technology and total recyclability in shoe production. Brands such as Adidas have been at the forefront of integrating these efforts, with their debut in April of Futurecraft Loop, a 100% recyclable shoe made of only one type of material and avoiding toxic glues.

"The total recyclability is being able to take a shoe and not having waste in it, it is a completely closed cycle," Staple explains. "You can reuse and redo the shoe completely without a single percentage of waste."

The Futurecraft Loop, which is also manufactured with 3D printing technology, can be returned to Adidas, where “they are washed, crushed and melted into material for components of a new pair of shoes, with zero waste and nothing is thrown away”, The company explained in April.

Still, Staple says that closed cycle production is in its initial stages. The next challenge will be to scale the process so that it is available to a mass audience, since so far Future craft has only been available in limited lots and at prices above $ 400.

Biofibers like algae will take center stage

While materials such as ocean plastic have become common in the world of sneakers, Staple says that next we can expect to see sneakers made with another type of marine material: seaweed.

“The next trend after the shoes that are printed will be the growing shoes and the seaweed shoes,” says Staple.

Although it can be difficult to imagine a shoe made with algae, companies like Vivobarefoot are already selling styles made with Bloom, a hybrid material based on algae. In addition to being better for the environment by using natural and organic fibers, "algae could help clean up an industry that is notorious for its harmful environmental impacts," writes Kelly Bastone in a recent article in the Outside magazine on Bloom technology.

“Bloom is just a cleaner and better material,” explains Outside Guillaume Linossier, founder of the Saola sneaker company, which respects the environment. “And its production results in cleaner waterways. For me, it's a double benefit. ”

Your shoes will track your steps

As consumers continue to adopt healthier lifestyles and experiment with wearable tracking technology such as Fitbit, Staple says he believes we will see an increase in the number of shoes with tracking capabilities.

While companies like Nike and Under Armor have previously offered smart training shoes as early as 2012, these models were offers that didn't resonate among consumers, according to the Wareable technology website.

"The truth is that these smart shoes have never taken hold," writes Keiran Alger, Wareable writer. “The Nike’s Training + shoes disappeared silently shortly after the great marketing fanfare vanished, while Under Armor and Altra's connected shoes have not really made a dent in the traditional footwear space. At least for now. ”

But Nike and Under Armor gave the sneakers with tracking chips another chance when they both launched renewed models in February 2018.

"Even something like a Fitbit or a watch, because no matter how discreet it is, it's another thing you have to wear," says Staple. “For fans of watches or jewelry, if you wear a FitBit or Apple Watch, you can't also wear your Rolex or Chanel bracelet. So putting it in shoes is fantastic because you are going to be wearing shoes when you go out. ”