New Balance is using 3D printing to create customized running cleats for its sponsored athletes. The spike plate in the above image was 3D printed using Jack Bolas’ biomechanical data from the New Balance Sports Research Lab. You can also see his name printed in the custom sole.
New Balance are not the first sports shoe company to utilize the design benefits that 3D printers can bring to their products. Nike has already used 3D printing to create prototypes of their Lebron X basketball shoe and the Vapor Laser Talon football cleat. But New Balance might be the first to take the process a step further and analyse an athlete in motion using a proprietary process that examines biomechanical data and creates an optimum spike plate to improve performance.
Each individual athlete runs on a special track that measures motion and foot pressure using a force plate, in-shoe sensors and a video motion capture system. Special software analyses the data and translates this into a unique 3D printed spike plate design.
At the moment the only athletes who will benefit from this process are New Balance’s sponsored elite runners, including 1500-meter World Champion gold medalist Jenny Barringer Simpson, 2012 US Olympian Kim Conley, 2012 British Olympian Barbara Parker and All-American runner Jack Bolas.
The costs of this process are currently very high but New Balance is looking to a future where any athlete can have a 3D printed sole that’s optimized to their running style.
“Ultimately, well be able to analyze someone’s running style and preferences and make any type of running shoe that is completely customized for them.” said Katherine Petrecca, New Balance’s manager of studio innovations.