Sep 11, 2016 | By Benedict

Runners Service Lab, a Belgian footwear retailer, has shed some light on the customization process behind Phits Insoles, a range of 3D printed footwear products made by associate company RS scan and 3D printing giant Materialise. Twelve athletes used the 3D printed insoles at the Rio Olympics.

Since 1980, Belgian footwear retailer Runners Service Lab has advised athletes, professional and amateur, on selecting the perfect running shoe in order to maximize performance and minimize the risk of injury. Following the widespread adoption of 3D printing, the established retailer now has a new product on offer: Phits Insoles, a range of 3D printed insoles and orthotics designed by RS scan, a sister company of Runners Service Lab, and Materialise, the Belgian 3D printing company.

It is common knowledge that almost all major footwear brands are working on a 3D printed running shoe—Under Armor, Nike, Adidas, and New Balance have all made some kind of progress in the field, yet the running experts at Runners Service Lab have been working on custom-made, 3D printed running shoes for several years. Their products have even scooped health and fitness awards. Phits Insoles, the brainchild of RS scan and Materialise, have been used by athletes such as British marathon runner Paula Radcliffe, and are gradually becoming a must-have footwear product for sportspeople.

Although Phits Insoles are available from retailers across the globe, Runners Service Lab remains the company’s flagship location. Koen Wilssens, CEO of Runners Service Lab, believes that the store’s thorough fitting process is part of the reason why so many athletes leave satisfied with their custom 3D printed insoles: “We conduct a running or walking analysis on our 30-meter track, which has a 2-meter footscan plate in the middle,” Wilssens explained. “On the basis of this analysis we can give advice on shoes or orthotics to ensure that people can carry on taking exercise without injury.”

Although 3D printed insole designs offer their own inherent advantages such as intricate internal geometries and lightweight structures, it is the customization aspect—enabled by advanced measurement and scanning equipment—which enables athletes to take full advantage of the technology. “Custom work is vital,” Wilssens said. “We are able to give personalized advice and can personally assist each individual in his or her own way.”

In addition to providing an added boost and comfort level for athletes, Phits Insoles also make products tailored to those with injuries. Its range of 3D printed orthotics can give those suffering from shin splints the exact level of support they require. Gilles, a 14-year-old budding soccer player, was fitted with 3D printed Phits orthotics, and eventually recovered from his shin splints, enabling him to work on his dream of becoming a professional player.

Even Paula Radcliffe, the English long-distance runner who currently holds the women’s world record in the marathon, turned to Phits when she was recovering from a serious injury. The record-breaker believes that use of the 3D printed orthotics were key to her recovery, and Runners Service Labs hopes to offer similar services to the general public. “We offer orthotics because this enables us to provide work that is truly tailored to individual needs,” Wilssens explained. “A shoe can give the right support, especially if you can recommend the right shoe. Yet you find that with certain injuries, additional support—and above all, custom-made support—is needed.”

According to Philippe Vermaelen, Senior Consultant at Runners Service Lab, creating customized insoles of such high quality would be impossible without 3D printing. “The advantage of the new technology in the Phits insoles is that you can really take a fully customized approach,” Vermaelen said. “You can print accurately to within a tenth of a millimeter. That means you can also adjust the movement slightly. You have a certain dynamic quality that you can incorporate into the orthotic, and this is an advantage over the traditional way of working.”

Vermaelen added that the 3D printed Phits insoles also offer the advantages of being made from a  lightweight material and taking up relatively little space in the shoe, making them more comfortable for the wearer. Best of all, the shoe expert predicts that the 3D printed insoles will prove themselves a worthy investment, potentially lasting twice as long as a regular insole.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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