In the world of 3D printed shoes, a strategic announcement from Feetz and DSW came out this summer. Bringing custom fit 3D printed shoes to retail is a high goal and it will be interesting to see how they define it as a sustainable product. Also in the world of 3D print shoes, there’s a new type of life hack to create your own custom fit 3D printed orthotics which is fascinating how they combined 3D scanning with 3D modelling and then 3D printing.
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Customized 3D Print Shoes from DSW
Today, we’ve got something really cool to talk about in 3D print shoes. There has been an announcement just recently this summer from Feetz. They announced a strategic partnership with DSW, which is a big shoe retailer that most of you living in the United States know of them. It is a big shoe warehouse style retailer. It is Designer Shoe Warehouses. Feetz has announced a partnership with DSW to bring custom fit 3D print shoes to retail. That is really impressive and it is an exciting goal for 3D printing.
There is not a whole lot of detail that has been announced about exactly how the shoes are going to be made. But the idea and what they are saying is, is that they are going to use whatever Feetz technology is for 3D print shoes, and DSW’s distribution installed retail and customer base is to bring an affordable, custom fit, sustainably made 3D print shoes to customers. I would love to know what they define “sustainably made” as. I don’t know what material they are going to be 3D printing with. I would be interested to see if it would be sustainable. Sustainability; I know a lot about in terms of the furniture industry and in terms of sustainably harvested wood for use in furniture, desks, tables, or chairs, anything really that uses wood. It is a sustainable source of material. Are they clear cutting forests down and are just robbing the earth of the wood and leaving nothing but waste behind them, or are they planting a tree for every tree they cut down?
That is a sustainable model of material harvesting for use in commercial purposes. I’m really interested to know what they mean by sustainably made shoes. I will keep a close eye on this one and go to my local DSW in the future and see what they are doing as well as ask questions and try to read about it. The custom fit aspect of 3D print shoes is legit. My sister has an unusual foot situation, her feet are two different sizes. She has a tremendous problem buying shoes because she has to buy two pairs of shoes and gets one pair to fit well. She is two sizes different between one foot and another. This is not all that uncommon. Statistically, there is quite a bit of people having this issue.
Custom fit shoes are ideal for them and for everybody. Both of my feet are essentially the same size and I am somewhere between a 12.5 and a 13 size men’s shoe. Depending on how the shoes run, they are either going to be too small or too big or just right. It is a pain in the butt. If you can go into the store and your foot is measured, and these things are made or tailored exactly to fit you, that is exciting. I would like to know what the design of these 3D print shoes are going to look like. They are not really showing that in the press release. When Feetz put out this press release, they just show up conceptual image of a shoe from the side and it really didn’t look like much. It is not really one of the final designs. It is just some art to put out with the press release, and it is really more about the text for a custom fit 3D printed shoes is the issue rather than the design of the shoes.
Shoes make a serious fashion statement. They’ve got to be considering the design of this carefully. Feetz has gone through a series A funding level, which is the equity funding, so it means big time money has been put into this. We talked about that last week, about jumping in or dipping your toe into the water or whether you are going to bootstrap it or raise capital. These people raised serious capital to do this, and you have to if you want to deploy this at a retail chain across the country. They have existing investors who are on the board and are pretty heavy hitters. They have Erin Kelly, who is the Director of Innovation at DSW, is joining Uli Becker, who was the CEO of Reebok. Vijit Sabnis of Khosla Ventures is also on the Feetz board.
They’ve got, especially with the former CEO of Reebok, somebody who understands shoes from not only a style and a fashion or a pop culture standpoint, but also from the practical reality of manufacturing shoes. They also understand the manufacturing realities of wholesale, retail, and making shoes at a certain cost that are going to be able to retail to another cost. I am really excited about the idea. I am glad to see that somebody is doing this. This is one of the things that will push the envelope. Whether it succeeds ultimately or not, I love it conceptually.
I have seen other, not 3D printed shoes printed, but awhile back around 2001; there was another retail store chain in Greater New York City called Custom Foot. They were like a mall store where you will go in, get your feet measured, pick a style of shoes, and they will make a custom fit pair of shoes that would just fit you. You can go and order shoes that have a custom size. It didn’t succeed. I thought it would, especially at a certain level of customer, people want things that are exactly made for them and customized for them. There is some parallel there to what the promise of 3D printing will do to a lot of products.
It concerns me that in a major retail chain in the United States, the custom shoe thing with that company didn’t succeed. Of course, I don’t know all the details, but the company may not have been properly funded. They may have made some major mistakes. It could be a lot of other things that is wrong with that company that have nothing to do with the potential market for custom shoes.
Certainly for a lot of situations, custom fit shoes would be very nice. It would be cool if you can come up with customized and unique designs, like if you think about the wedding industry. They have shoes that you buy that the women can dye to match the color of the bridesmaid dresses and the color scheme of their wedding. If they brought the side of the custom fit aspect that if you could do some unique other aspect design into these shoes. For decades at Disney Land and Disney World, they have the mouse ear hats that every three to ten year old wants to wear around the park. They right there, on demand, will write the child’s name and stitch the name right into it, so that is customized and it is yours. It would be cool if these shoes would have a color or some other aspect of design that could be customized in some way. They are not talking about that here with Feetz, but clearly, that is something that I think is an opportunity that they must be considering. They don’t want to let customers be designers and have the look of the brand to be different all over the place.
There are ways to handle that to maintain the integrity of the brand, which gives customers the personalization aspect. With the increase in popularity in the United States with tattoos, more and more people are getting tattoos and having their own personal things that are important to them or their own personal style reflected on their own body. They would be wise to come up with a customized aspect to the shoe itself in terms of design.
Another thing that is very closely related to this, that made the news this summer is also about shoes and customizing. It is about 3D printing your own custom orthotic. There is a blog post which is like a life hack kind of thing or an Instructables kind of thing, where they are suggesting you get some ingredients together and you can create a mold that your feet step into using homemade play-doh. It is going to harden like a rock eventually. You create the stuff, you step your foot into it, and you shape it into the shape of an orthotic without changing the mold of the bottom of your foot. To use one of the many available sort of home scanning apps that exist where you take a bunch of photographs with the program from different angles that tells you what angles to do it and stitches it together, there are a lot of different programs like 123D Catch.We backed that Bevel 3D photograph app and accessories, more than a year ago, it still hasn’t got there yet but I know it is coming.
The ideas with this life hack is showing you how you can make a custom orthotic which basically is just an insert that would go into your shoe and that is molded to fit your heel and arch. This is for proper arch support. People who are going to the doctor spend lots of money to go get custom made orthotics, it’s a very expensive process. It reminds me of the 3D print braces where somebody molded and scanned and figured out how to create their own version of Invisalign braces to get their teeth straightened.
It is a similar type of a life hack, and I don’t know how many people who would go through and do this because it is a very lengthy process. Once you do it and you get the mold of your orthotic and made and scanned, you can print new ones and print a pair for every shoe that you have if you want. I have done something similar to this even though I don’t have a need for orthotics all the time. I live in Southern California so I’ve got a pair of flip flops. I’m originally from the north east and lived there for a long long time, and about 12 or 13 years ago came out to California, fell in love with it and haven’t looked back. Flip flops are just a way of life out here. I got a pair of flip flops and the shoe is made and you stick it in your home oven with 200 or 250 degrees or something, and heat it up for a while and take it out before you wear them for the first time, you stand in them, and they mold to fit your feet. They are the most comfortable flip flops I’ve ever had. They fit so well even though they are 4 years old and look ratty as all heck. But they are super comfortable.
I can see this and I have even done running shoes where you go into a special running store. You buy a pair of shoes where they have an insert that is not quite these orthotic but it is an insert that is moldable that they heat it up and then you step on it. They then bend it and curve it up around your foot and help support your arch. It feels better in them than any of the other running shoes. I’ll take those and put them in my ski boots when I go skiing in Colorado. I have forgotten and left my inserts in those ski boots for an entire year, forgot them there, and when I want to put them in my running shoes, and I am out of my inserts and my running shoes don’t fit very well.
For those that get benefit from proper arch support or proper orthotic insert in a shoe, I can completely see where going through the process to create 3D print shoes orthotics, whatever that may be if you use playdoh or you use some other method, but to get to a 3D file of your particular custom orthotic or insert model, to get to that and be able to 3D print your own, or taking it to a service bureau and getting them printed in any material you want – maybe a more flexible material rather than a harder material – makes a lot of sense. Making a pair for every pair of shoes that you have would make a lot of sense.
I like it. This is one of the things 3D printing is all about: customization, making it your way, making it completely fit you. I applaud all these efforts in the world of 3D print shoes by Feetz and these life hacks. However, I am skeptical about the sustainability Feetz is claiming with their 3D print shoes. I hope this doesn’t mean they are using some bio plastic which really does not necessarily mean sustainable. We will crawl down that rabbit hole on that another day.
- Feetz Announces a Strategic Partnership with DSW Inc. to Bring Custom Fit 3D Print Shoes to the Masses
- 3D Print Your Own Custom Orthotics, Your Feet Will Thank You
- Diving into Your 3D Print Business Feet First
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