For women, buying the wrong shoes can be about more than just esthetics. If they end up with shoes that don't fit properly, they can develop foot disorders such as bunions, hammertoes or ingrown toenails. That's where the European Union's DemoShopInstantShoe project comes in. Established a few years ago, the collaborative effort is now about to release a device that instantly adapts off-the-rack shoes to a custom fit.
To use the ShopInstantShoe system, women will first need to locate a participating shoe store, and then choose a pair of shoes in their size that utilize the technology.
Such shoes will look normal and fashionable, but their uppers will feature a layer of special material glued between the soft inner liner and the leather on the outside. That middle layer will consist of leather fibers and wires made from Nitinol, the latter of which is a shape-memory nickel/titanium alloy.
Women will then have their feet scanned using a portable in-store device called the DOME. Foot data from that scan will subsequently be fed into another machine – the Shoptool – which will heat the shoes' uppers, allowing them to be quickly molded to the precise contours of the individual buyer's feet.
While this should result in a custom fit, it's still possible that women may not like the shoes once they actually try them on. This won't be a problem, as another session on the Shoptool will return them to their neutral shape, and they can be returned to the store's inventory.
The DemoShopInstantShoe consortium consists of six organizations from Spain, France, Switzerland and Portugal. Plans call for its ShopInstantShoe system to be commercially released later this year.