Brooks Running Company is aiming for a June retail rollout for a line of personalized running footwear it's creating in partnership with computing technology giant HP Inc. and Superfeet, a company that leverages 3D printing technology to produce customized footwear, according to a story from Fortune.
The effort combines Superfeet's FitStation system and Brooks Run Signature to create shoes based on an individual customer's biomechanics. The FitStation units use 3D scanning to make complete scans of a customer's feet to determine how the shoes should be constructed.
All of the shoes will be manufactured at Superfeet's corporate headquarters in Ferndale, Washington, which can produce up to 500,000 pairs of shoes annually, according to Fortune. The June availability will be limited to special orders.
By using 3D printing technology, Brooks is just a few months away from fitting right in with athletic shoe market leaders Adidas, Nike and Under Armour, all of whom have been experimenting with 3D printing technology for shoes and other products for a while now.
Out of that group, Adidas has arguably led the way, but it's still very early in this foot race. None of the big brands has gone into very wide production with their new 3D print-based shoe designs, so this segment of the shoe market remains wide open.
Brooks, then, may be able to make a quick impact. That being said, 3D foot scanning is not new to the sector, nor is the concept of using it to manufacture shoes for a market of one. Major shoe brands are likely looking into this kind of technology in one way or another, and start-ups such as Invertex and Shoefitr (the latter acquired by Amazon in 2015) have garnered much attention for their respective innovations in this realm.
Competition is incredibly tight in the athletic shoe market, and the players aren't batting an eye about spending resources to invest in technology they feel might give them an edge. But, as with 3D printing in general and other shoe sector innovations, the use of custom-fit technology may move only in small increments toward the mass market, despite what seems like obvious appeal to fitness fans and other serious shoe-buyers.