With sprinting events at the elite level decided by fractions of a second, athletes are always on the lookout for anything that can provide even the smallest advantage over their rivals. We recently looked at Nike’s Pro TurboSpeed suit that is claimed to cut down a runner’s wind resistance by using golf ball-like dimples, but footwear plays an equally, if not more, important role in an athlete’s performance. Now French engineer and designer Luc Fusaro has employed 3D printing technology to create lightweight sprint shoes that are customized for individual athletes that could prove the difference between winning and losing.
Fusaro developed the sprint spikes as his final master degree solo project at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London where he is currently studying. By first scanning the feet of the athlete to create a digital 3D model, Fusano designed soles of varying stiffness before producing the physical items from sintered nylon polymide powder using an additive 3D printing technique.
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He then tested the various soles in the lab to tune the mechanical properties of the shoe to the physical abilities of the athlete before again using the additive manufacturing process to produce the final athlete-specific “Designed to Win” prototype shoe that added a stiff upper and weighs just 96 g (3.4 oz).
Fusaro claims his custom shoes could improve an athlete’s performance by up to 3.5 percent, which can be the difference between claiming gold or going home empty handed at the elite level. While Fusaro’s custom shoes won’t be on the feet of any athletes at the upcoming London Olympics, we wouldn’t be surprised to see 3D printed athlete-specific shoes become the standard footwear for sprinters well before the next Olympics in Rio in 2016.