3D printing is breaking down all kinds of barriers when it comes to made-to-fit products, ushering in everything from titanium heel replacements to self-built bridges. Adidas has been exploring these possibilities when it comes to footwear for a little while, leading to the launch of its first 3D-printed trainer for the public, the 3D Runner.

A little over a year ago, Adidas unveiled a concept for a 3D-printed running shoe called the Futurecraft 3D. The shoes were early, tentative steps towards a future where Adidas customers can turn up to a store, have a jog on the treadmill and then leave in a pair of customized, 3D-printed running shoes.

Such a service is still a ways off, but the 3D Runner does mark more progress towards this goal. The shoe won't be customized for the customer's foot, but does feature 3D printing technology throughout, for what Adidas claims to be a better performing set of wheels.

The shoes' upper is made from a combination of open and lose knitted structures, something Adidas calls Primeknit. A 3D-printed web structure of varying density and a 3D-printed heel counter makes up the rest of the shoe, avoiding glueing or stitching and, according to the company, making for greater elasticity and support.

A number of footwear-makers have flirted with 3D printing technology, names like Nike, New Balance and Under Armor among them. And back in 2014, one startup called Sols launched a service that scanned customer feet and created 3D printed insoles. So Adidas finds itself in a bit of a footrace (sorry) to get the first personalized footwear service up and running (sorry again).

"This is just the beginning," says Mikal Peveto, senior director of adidas' Future team. "Creating customized shoes based on an individual's footprint – including their running style, foot shape, performance needs and personal preferences – is a north star for the industry and adidas is leading with cutting edge innovations."

Though the 3D Runner will be available to the public, it will be in a limited run, at least to begin. Priced at US$333, the shoes can be reserved via the Adidas Confirmed smartphone app from today and picked up at the new Adidas Flagship store in New York on December 15, the same day a limited number will also become available in London and Tokyo.

Source: Adidas

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