State-of-the-art technology is evolving at an ever-increasing rate these days, especially within the footwear market. Designers are given more design and development opportunities than ever before, whether it's a new material compound, cushioning technology, moulding technique or improved development process, the freedom to create groundbreaking design has arrived. Here are some of the most recent influential innovations that have not only inspired today's generation of desigers, but could possibly revolutionize the way sneakers are designed for the foreseeable future. Read along for The 10 Most Influential Innovations Impacting Sneaker Design Today.
No. 10 - Vibram 5 Finger Shoes
The whole barefoot running fad has had a huge impact on footwear design over the past few years, and none more from a design perspective than the Vibram 5 Finger shoes. Mixing an ergonomic, individualized toe wrapping, thin rubber sole with a largely neoprene upper, Vibram struck a different cord with this design and created a super innovative barefoot running shoe that has inspired many designs since it’s release.
No. 9 - adidas Boost Cushioning Technology
Cushioning technology has been a constant source of inspiration for designers over the years. Some of the more current innovations include; MicroG, Lunarlon foam and a whole host of others. However, in my opinion, of the most current cushioning technologies, Adidas’ Boost technology offers designers a new and innovative technology that can directly affect the look and feel of a shoe beyond it’s cushioning capabilities. It’ll be interesting to see how designers take this technology further and incorporate it into different facets of footwear to create better cushioning and a totally different aesthetic.
No. 8 - Reebok Zig Tech
Every sports shoe designer that didn't come up with this, wished they did. When the Zig Tech dropped, the impact on the shoe design community was undeniable. The Zig Tech is a sleekly designed shoe that was executed beautifully and coupled with an excellent marketing strategy. The Zig Tech made designers realize that with modern technology and some imagination, new and exciting designs, stories, and possibilities could be developed even with the large amount of performance shoes currently on the market.
No. 7 - Ankle Support Technology
Embedding new support structures in sport shoes has developed very quickly over the past year, mainly due to a little known company called Ektio. Designing a sport shoe that has ankle support built into the sole and upper creates obvious design difficulties—something which Ektio seems to be handling well, and is still being designed and developed in new and different ways.
It’s also interesting to see how other brands are implementing similar technology and applying their signature twist, such as Under Armours CompFit technology.
No. 6 - Nike + Technology
Being able to track a user's individual statistics while wearing their footwear during various sporting activities offers designers a whole new realm of potential design and performance features that can be embedded into a shoe to better compliment this amazing technology. As the technology becomes cheaper and more accessible to the general public, the future of how footwear will enable reading biometrics and place that information into a visual format will continue to evolve in new and exciting ways. Nike’s recent announcement about the launch of their Nike + Accelerator program show’s just how serious they are about taking this technology far and beyond anything else currently on the market.
No. 5 - Nike Zoom Kobe VI
Again, aside from the obvious technology embedded in the Nike Zoom Kobe VI (flywire, tactile insoles), creating a low-cut basketball shoe for arguably the top Basketball player in the world really opened the minds of even the most seasoned footwear designer. Nike has created a dynamic and less constrictive shoe inspired by the low-cut soccer cleats that Kobe grew accustomed to growing up in Europe. These low-cut shoe’s allow for greater lateral & dynamic movement by the athlete, which have pushed a whole new dimension in the performance shoe category (specifically Basketball) for shoe designers to explore.
As a side note, another understated aspect of the shoe that has impacted the design community is the moulded rubber snake-skin material, again creating new channels and thought processes for the designer/developer to think about when designing.
No. 4 - ‘PrimeKnit’ / ‘FlyKnit’ Weaving Technology
Performance aspects aside (lightweight, form fitting, breathability), this innovation is just plain beautiful and brings an entirely new design aesthetic and manufacturing capabilities to the performance footwear industry. This innovation allows, for the first time, a performance shoe upper to be created in just one piece, somewhat simplifying the manufacturing process and creating new and dynamic development possibilities. Also, with an endless amount of stitching and patterns, this weaved upper gives the designer a completely new medium in the sports shoe category to generate new and exciting aesthetic and functional possibilities.
No. 3 - Micro-Cellular Moulding
Much like 3D printing, this exciting new technology will allow shoe designers to create amazingly complex structures that were previously impossible due to the constraints of the usual moulding processes. Micro-Cellular Moulding allows the designer to be freer with their designs and general thinking, as under-cuts and other issues are no longer a concern. Watch out for far more incredibly intricate soles and general moulds generated from this technology, offering innovative functions and wild aesthetics in the near future.
No. 2 - High Frequency Welding
HFW (a.k.a hyperfuse technology) has had an undeniably massive impact, and not just on the general sneaker consumer, HFW affords designers a plethora of new design capabilities. Being able to develop an upper without any stitching allows a designer to create a super sleek, strong, lightweight and clean looking upper that was previously impossible.
No. 1 - 3D Printing Machines
3D printing is currently on a fast track to completely revolutionizing the footwear design and manufacturing industry. With companies like Nike and New Balance already on board and creating shoes with 3D printed soles, the potential of 3D printing software in the footwear industry is undeniably exciting. This technology allows a designer to create super intricate and complicated structures that would have previously been incredibly difficult to execute. It also provides instant production, enabling you to immediately see your designs in a tangible form, something that previously took months to achieve.
Who knows where the future will lead with this innovation, but i’m sure a fully printed, functional shoe (sole & upper) isn’t too far away.