Micro-organisms that adjust your shoes

Sports company Puma is working on an experimental sports shoe that uses biologically active materials to adapt to the wearer’s foot.

The shoe, presented at Milan Design Week, is the result of a collaboration with research organisation Fraunhofer Institute. The upper of the shoe is coated with a biologically active layer that acts like a dense nanosensor net. At a microscopic level, it maps the areas of the foot that produce heat and sweat. The mapping creates a matching ventilation pattern, as living micro-organisms selectively remove material to create a unique fit. The microorganisms include bacteria, fungi and micro algae that can sense sweat or heat. The more sweat and heat, the more active the microorganisms become.

“The shoe is not unique by itself – it comes as a blank canvas. It evolves with you, when you start to wear it, and it becomes more and more an expression of your body,” said Charles Johnson, Puma’s Global Director of Innovation.

This shoe is not Puma’s first attempt at biodesign. Last year at Milan Design Week, Puma showed a collaboration with MIT Design Lab, which consisted of a line of sportswear. It featured a breathing shoe that enabled personalised ventilation by growing its own air passageways, deep learning insoles that improve the athlete’s performance through real-time biofeedback, a t-shirt that responds to air quality, and adaptive packaging.

The new shoe is part of Puma’s BioEvolution project and is still at an experimental stage, so no commercial version of the shoe is planned at present.

Photos: Puma / Innovation in Design