One of these days, perhaps, 3D printing companies will discover the outer limits of the technology. Until then, we'll have to sit back and enjoy the show as additive manufacturing slowly transforms every industry it touches.
The technology has already played its part in the shoe industry, predominantly as a tool for prototyping models, but a recent deal between 3D printing pioneers 3D Systems and running shoe masters New Balance has the companies teaming to create a retail model that uses the former's services to develop the midsole on an actual retail product.
So, why 3D printing? I'm glad you asked. Using computer aided design, 3D Systems is capable of creating customized soles and ones that more properly conform to the style of the runner.
That's long been one of the issues with developing runner shoes, after all — we all run differently, and doing so without the proper correction can lead to injury due to the repetitive stress of effectively slamming your foot down on concrete over and over again.
The shoes are indeed hitting stores, likely this spring. They'll start rolling out to select locations, beginning with Boston. When I asked about the price, the only answer I got was "not cheap." Fair enough.