Women will sometimes sacrifice the comfort and well-being of their feet, in order to wear fashionable shoes – it’s reached the point of becoming a TV sit-com cliché. The European ShopInstantShoe consortium, however, is looking to put an end to that scenario. No, the group doesn’t want to ban fashionable shoes, but it has been developing technology for making them more wearer-friendly. The result is a system that could be installed in shoe stores, which would allow women to get shoes custom-fitted to their feet, on the spot.

The ShopInstantShoe system would work something like this...

A woman would enter a shoe store, where an employee would obtain various measurements of her feet, using a specialized tool. She would then choose a pair of shoes in her size that she liked the look of. Those shoes, however, would need to have uppers made from a material developed for the project – that material is a composite consisting of leather fibers, and filaments of the shape-memory alloy Nitinol.

Her foot measurements would be fed into a computer, which would in turn send them to the store’s special “Shoptool” machine. The chosen shoes would be placed in this machine, which would heat and mold the uppers to the shape of her feet, using the supplied data. The heat-altered Nitinol would allow them to hold this shape indefinitely.

If the client were to then try the shoes on and decide she didn’t like them after all, they could simply be returned to the Shoptool, which would heat them back to their original “off-the-rack” shape.

Presumably, when and if the system goes into common use, it could be expanded to include men’s shoes. The project is currently concentrating on women, however, as they are particularly prone to foot problems caused by improperly-fitting shoes

The ShopInstantShoe consortium consists of seven companies and institutions from Spain, France and the UK.