Shoetopia: 3D printed biodegradable shoes that fit everyone

It can be hard to find shoes that fit you well. Maybe your feet are broader than average, or more narrow, or perhaps you have a higher or lower instep. Whatever the case, finding the right shoe can be a challenge, until now. 3D printing is ideal to individualise products at a relatively low cost, so why not 3D print shoes? That is exactly the idea of Zuzanna Gronowicz and Barbara Motylińska from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Poland, with their Shoetopia project. Not only do they create 3D printed shoes, the footwear is entirely made from biodegradable filament and natural textiles.

The global footwear industry produces about 20 billion pairs of shoes per year. One pair of shoes can contain 30 different materials, most of which are PVC and PU derivatives.

For their bachelor project, Gronowicz and Motylińska propose an alternative production and distribution model for footwear. Their main goal was to create fully compostable and functional shoes, while reducing the number of production stages and places. At the same time, they use 3D printing to let users make their own adjustments, thus individualising the footwear.

To make this happen, they created a concept of an online wizard and foot measurement application that allows you to prepare a personalised print file with a proposed algorithm for your shoes.

The designers took several factors into account for the shoe form, such as material consumption, print time, and limiting the amount of support material. The sole has a structure that uses as little material as possible, resulting in a lightweight and compact sole. The personalisation system gives you the ability to adjust its parameters to your weight and preferences.

To make the shoe more comfortable, the designers introduced textile. Due to their breathing properties and small carbon footprint, they chose on wool and cotton. To stiffen the upper part of the shoe and giving it a sporty urban touch, they developed a method to print directly onto textile. In the same way, they also attach details and fasteners. Thanks to that, the whole shoe is constructed without the need for glue or sewing.

With this method, the designers hope to make the shoe making process faster and cheaper, and eliminating the need for specialised shoemaking skills. So if the shoe fits, wear it.

Photos: Gronowicz & Motylińska