Feb 21, 2016 | By Alec
If you’re one of those people who has trouble finding comfortable shoes or has sore feet at the end of every day, 3D printing might be the solution you need. A new shoe concept from Charlottesville, Virginia called the OESH shoes has completely reimagined the purpose of footwear. Developed by dr. Casey Kerrigan, the OESH line of shoes takes a medical approach and designs footwear that minimizes the stress and strain on women’s feet with the help of 3D printed soles made from the mysterious ‘flubber’ material.
It’s a very interesting concept that could turn the entire footwear industry upside down. Developer Dr. Casey Kerrigan is actually a foot specialist, and has spent years studying the effects of shoes on the joints and the body, and any relations with arthritis. While the links were evident, Kerrigan has actually put her money where her mouth was and left her job as head of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Virginia to start her own little shoe factory.
As she explains to reporters from CBS19, all the research results pointed towards the soles of our shoes. “I had all this research and then I had this idea to make really tremendous shoes,” Kerrigan explained. “My research would say that a spring in a shoe is much better than a dampener.” For what today’s shoes are actually doing is hampering the natural function of our feet. Barefoot, our energy is efficiently used, acting as a spring that bounces us upwards. Shoe soles, however, act like an energy absorbing cushion – as if we’re stepping in sand. “That's not good. What you want is a spring. The spring, when you put energy into it, comes back out. That's what you want in a shoe. No other shoe has been able to provide that and our sole can,” she argues.
To combat this issue, OESH shoes have been designed from the sole upwards, rather than the other way around. In fact, the curvature and support found in traditional shoes actually amplifies the stress on your joints. By removing that excess, energy absorbing cushioning, your foot can finally start functioning naturally, helping your small muscles in the foot and reducing strain on your joints. “Most companies start with an off-the-shelf last. [We] wanted to create an entirely unique and women-specific fit for OESH shoes. By designing a custom last, she eliminated traditional design elements that amplify the stresses and strains in your body,” they explain.
What’s more, they’re not just focusing on women’s shoes to increase profits. “The athletic footwear industry has been dominated by male-run companies, and most women’s athletic shoes have been designed around a man’s foot form. [Our] last creates an entirely unique fit, conforming to an accurate woman’s foot shape,” they explain. Typically, women’s feet have a narrower heel and a wider forefoot than men’s feet. “OESH is accurately constructed to accommodate this fact with a subtle, ballet slipper-like heel fit.”
Together with husband Bob Kusyk, she opened the OESH shoe factory in Charlottesville, where they are now producing soles made from their own custom material. In contrast, most shoe soles (especially for athletic shoes) are made from called ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), while research shows this actually increases strain on joints. Their own composite (called ‘flubber’) is, in contrast, light and springy, and returns energy exactly when you’re vulnerable to strain. The only downside is that it cannot be extruded through an ordinary 3D printer. “so we invented a 3D printer that could print it,” Kerrigan said. Essentially, they have built a molding machine that is part 3D printer and part injection molding machine, that fills custom molds with the material. “It's a combination of materials and how we structure the molds,” Kerrigan said. It took three and a half years to develop the shoes and machinery.
And the shoes have been doing very well since then. Their first edition went on sale in 2011, and since them sales have steadily been increasing. All the shoes are women’s shoes, and you can currently find dress shoes, tennis shoes and sandals in their webstore – the sandals actually required a custom 3D printer to produce. “It's kind of fun every morning is like Christmas,” Kusyk said. “You wake up and look at the orders. Last night we had an order from Kyoto. Two nights ago it was somebody from New South Wales Australia. Our research-driven design has helped thousands of women suffering from foot and lower extremity medical conditions.” If you’re interested in finally getting shoes that fit, you can head over to the OESH webstore here.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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