The humble pair of shoes has seen many developments over the years. From their initial conception over 40,000 years ago to the blinked up versions that we wear today, it’s fair to say that shoes have come a long way. As modern technology continues to develop, and shoe designers explore new and exciting developments in footwear design, the footwear of tomorrow is continually being re-imagined and reinvented.
Although designing a shoe might seem like a straightforward process, it is actually a lot more complicated than it looks. However, the introduction of different shoe technologies means that we can throw the shoe designing rulebook out of the window and start again. And what better place to start than the very beginning – the original Back to the Future self-lacing shoes.
Anyone who has seen the Back to the Future movies will know that an entire generation has been patiently waiting for the day that self-lacing shoes become a thing. Finally, in 2017, this dream became a reality. Using 3D printing technology, Nike introduced sneakers that used an internal cable system made from a pressure sensor along with a fishing line to lace the shoes automatically. Once the foot is placed inside the shoe, a sensor responds to the weight and lights up the heel, signaling that the shoe is about to action lace-tightening mode.
Virtual Reality Shoes
Google has gone one step further in the design of shoes of the future by filing a patent for motorized virtual reality shoes. These shoes seek to solve a relatively simple problem – the mobilization of VR. As it currently stands, VR leaves players feeling tethered to the computer, which defeats the object of getting involved in a VR immersive experience. Google’s new shoes would seek to provide the sensation of walking without actually going anywhere, thereby solving the issue of movement in VR experiences. Although there is no guarantee that Google will build these shoes, it is yet another example of how VR technology is changing the world we live in today.
3D Printed Shoes
One of the biggest changes in shoe technology is the introduction of 3D printing. Although large shoe companies have previously had teething difficulties with the mass production of 3D printed shoes, the technology is advancing quickly and demand is increasing. Athletes’ shoes, in particular, have a long list of requirements – from stability to optimal foot control, which is where 3D printing excels itself. Using scanners, it is possible to produce custom shoes for professional athletes as well as bespoke pieces for the fashion industry.
Interactive, Connected Shoes
In 2017, American telecoms equipment and semiconductor manufacturer Qualcomm filed a patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office for an interactive, internet connected shoe. Although “internet shoes” have been around for a little while now, previous designs have simply used a device that connects to the wearer’s smartphone to track data. However, the Qualcomm shoe aims to reach much higher than that. The shoe will be able to recharge through the motion of walking and will contain vibration motors, pressure sensor pads, and sensors for motion, blood pressure, pulse, and body temperature. If Qualcomm proceeds with the design, the shoe will add to the already booming market for wearable technology, a market that looks set to continue on an upward trajectory for the foreseeable future.
Sustainable Material Shoes
With the trends for sustainable, environmentally friendly materials on the rise, shoe designers are taking note and constructing shoes from bio-culture, cellulosic fibers, cork, rubber, and bioplastics. These new shoes are being joined with water-based glue or heavy duty stitching instead of solvent-based adhesives. Some designers are taking recycling one step further and using recycled carpet padding and car tires to construct durable, long lasting shoes.
Whether you will be investing in smart shoes or ones made from sustainable materials, one thing is for sure – the shoes of the future will be a lot more advanced than ever before.