A Look At 3D Printed Shoes: Hybrid, Fully Printed And Plain Weird

In the eternal quest to find more things to do with 3D printers, shoes have been in the spotlight for a while now. But how practical is additive manufacturing in this field really?

Adidas Ultra 4D running shoes with 3D printed midsole.
Adidas Ultra 4D running shoes with 3D printed midsole.

This is where [Joel Telling] of the 3D Printing Nerd YouTube channel puts in his two cents, with a look at a range of commercial and hobbyist ideas and products. Naturally, the first thing that likely comes to mind at the words ‘3D printed shoes’ is something akin to the plastic version of wooden clogs, or a more plastic-y version of the closed-cell resin of Crocs.

First on the list are the white & spiky Kaiju Gojira shoes from Fused Footwear, printed from TPE filament to order. TPE is softer to the touch and more flexible than TPU, but less durable. In contrast the Adidas Ultra 4D running shoes (from their 4D range) are a hybrid solution, with a standard rubber outsole, 3D printed midsole with complex structures and mostly fabric top part. Effectively a Nike Air in initial impression, perhaps.

Meanwhile ‘3D printed’ shoes ordered off Chinese store Shein turned out to be not 3D printed at all, while [Joel] seems to be really into fully 3D printed shoes from Zellerfeld, who appear to be using TPU. While it’s hard to argue about taste, the Adidas shoes might appeal to most people. Especially since they’d likely let your feet breathe much better, a fact appreciated not only by yourself, but also family members, roommates and significant others. So which of these (partially) 3D printed shoes would you pick, or do you have some other favorite?

7 thoughts on “A Look At 3D Printed Shoes: Hybrid, Fully Printed And Plain Weird

  1. too bad my shoe size is bigger than my print bed. of course with the material being porous, its gonna stink and stay that way forever. printing a new pair every month is a lot of plastic for the landfill, but at least it would be well on its way to biodegrading.

  2. I bought a pair of Adidas 3D printed shoes when they first game out, at least the outer soles were 3D printed, and they weren’t exactly comfy. Going from boost foam to 3d printed was not enjoyable. They reminded me of the Nike SHOX or whatever gimmick that was; very stiff and bulky.

    They are holding up physically fine mind you, so there’s potential there. Perhaps you can get custom-3D printed soles one day, where they build them to suit your body weight and activity style. I’d be willing to try them again in that case, but for now, boost foam it remains.

  3. Being able to 3D print replacement midsoles for boots would be fantastic.

    Midsoles are now made from urethane, and hydrolyse after a few years and disintegrate or let the sole go. Repair is impossible as the materials structure has gone, and glue won’t hold.
    Except for the most expensive boots, replacements are not available.
    Quality leather boots and shoes that might last 20 years or more with light use, are rubbish after 7.

  4. as a flat-footed nerd, i just want to make my own custom orthotics so i’m not at the mercy of a podiatrist. would be nice to save the money, and to be able to experiment with it. thought about it for a while and couldn’t decide if it would be best to print solid pieces and try to find a good foam to coat it with, or to print a mold and fill it with some sort of squishy polymer resin.

    not that i have the time anyways. solved it for now with stretches hah

  5. Ey, this is awesome, thank you for the write up and the link the shoes. Joel actually has the Meka Mid’s in the Translucent colorway (https://fusedfootwear.com/products/fused-footwear-meka-mid-3d-printed-footwear?variant=43078712950968).

    As for your footsies breathability, I make sure all FUSED footwear has some strategically placed vent holes. Together with the natural pumping motion that happens while walking, those holes work well enough to keep my feet healthy in the sweltering Hong Kong summers.

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