New Balance 3D printed performance running shoe

New Balance 3D printed performance running shoe

Global athletic brand New Balance is to launch its first high performance running shoe with a 3D printed midsole said to represent a "breakthrough" in balancing flexibility, strength, weight and durability.

Most 3D printed shoes made to date are rigid and heavy – and not appropriate for running. But New Balance says its 3D print midsoles have properties that are very similar to the traditional foam midsoles found on athletic shoes.

The designs are based on underfoot pressure data from heel strikers with more cushioning elements in areas of higher average pressure.

The new midsoles are the result of an exclusive collaboration with 3D Systems and its newly developed elastomeric powder, DuraForm Flex TPU. Production involves selective laser sintering (SLS), a process which converts new powder materials into solid cross-sections, layer by layer, using a laser.

DuraForm Flex TPU powder gives the resulting parts a "previously unavailable" combination of strength and elasticity that is ideal for performance running shoes.

"This project represents an unprecedented technical collaboration in footwear", says Sean Murphy New Balance senior manager of innovation and engineering.

"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."  

In 2013 New Balance was the first athletic brand to have a track athlete, middle distance runner Jack Bolas, compete with data-customised, 3D printed spike plates. Since then the company has also created customised soccer cleats and baseball spikes for its elite athletes.

"With 3D printing we are able to pursue performance customisation at a whole new level," adds New Balance President and CEO Robert DeMartini.

The limited edition running shoe will launch first in Boston in April 2016 and then in select New Balance retail locations around the globe.

New Balance is the only major company to make or assemble more than 4m pairs of athletic footwear per year in the US, as well as owning five factories in New England and one in the UK. The company in 2014 reported worldwide sales of $3.3bn.