Nov.18, 2014 | By Alec

Shoes. While it might be interesting to see how 3D printing have been applied in shoes design (just think back to the 3D printed DNA shoes), practical implementation is more complicated. Especially the large amounts of necessary materials and the wear-and-tear that shoes are subjected to, form large obstacles.

However, a very interesting company called Lyf Shoes seeks to turn that industry upside down. What if shoes could be fashionable, 3D printed, recyclable and customizable, and even contribute to a sustainable environment? That's exactly what Aly Khalifa, the founder of Lyf (Love Your Fashion) Shoes is offering us.

While, as the pictures show, the Lyf Shoes are very cool to see, it's important to realize that they are also produced in utterly different circumstances than most shoes. It's not something you tend to think about, but as Aly revealed to the Transition Consciousness, 'it's an ugly industry.'

Aly experienced this first hand, having worked in that industry for some twenty years. Visiting shoe factories throughout the world, he recalled how he'd get headaches from all the toxic glues upon crossing their thresholds. In China, young women work in terrible conditions, using carcinogenic glues – that can cause birth defects – on overheated factory floors. And then of course, there are the CO2 emissions from shipping and the waste. Current shoes, being a collection of hybrid materials and a load of glue, cannot even be recycled. The 300 million shoes that are annually thrown away instead just pile up around the world.

The concept of Lyf Shoes seeks to tackle all of that. Instead of polluting factories, their shoes will be assembled in the U.S. without even using glues, and will largely consist of recyclable, clean materials. In a nutshell, Lyf Shoes are a jigsaw puzzle that fits together perfectly, and can be assembled in about 90 seconds. And as they are assembled on site, you could theoretically get your shoes in any design you want to optimize your fashionable output – you can even design your shoes yourself.

If all these steps can be successfully realized, it would definitively be a change from a factory in India or Bangladesh. As they wrote, 'Our technology allows us to pursue many more fashion, fit and ecological advances than the big brands can - while still being competitive with them on price.' And to encourage recycling, you can take get a 15% discount when swapping your old Lyf Shoes for a new pair.

Lyf shoes is thus effectively aiming to bring the traditional cobbler back to work, though it would be a digital one. For one, 3D printing will take a prominent role in the production process. Specifically, this concerns the soles, which are also the most important aspect to customize. Ideally, Aly envisions a situation where you can simply go to the store, where they will measure your feet, 3D print your custom soles with an FDM printer and assemble the shoes on site.

However these shoes have also been designed to be little computers. Specifically, you can opt to place a little Arduino into your shoes. This will allow you to count your steps and track your own activities throughout the day. While it might be a bit Big Brother-ish for some of us, it's certainly a unique and cool feature.

For now, however, this interesting 3D printing project is stuck in its financing phase. They launched an ambitious $70,000 Kickstarter last month, but only managed to gather pledges for a seventh of that figure when their crowdfunding campaign ended at the beginning of November.

What does this mean for the Lyf Shoes project? We can't say right now, but it will probably simply delay the release of this environmentally-friendly footwear. As the entire concept emanates a sense of urgency and commitment, Aly and his team will doubtlessly attempt to find new avenues for financial support.

While we will thus have to wait a while for our fashionable 3D printed shoes to be delivered, this hardly damages the entire concept. If anything, the Lyf Shoes project emphasizes the fact that 3D printing technology is a perfect manufacturing method to contribute to sustainable and environmentally-friendly endeavours. Let's just hope that Lyf Shoes will get a second chance to change the world as soon as possible.

For more on this cool project, check out this short clip on Lyf Shoes:

Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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