Future runners looking for that elusive perfect fit could step into a pair of running shoes made from a synthetic bio-material that would envelope their foot like a second skin. Reacting to pressure, impact and movement, the shoes would puff to provide extra cushion when needed and even repair themselves overnight.

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Developed by London designer and researcher Shamees Aden, the self-healing concept shoes would be 3D-printed from material using protocell technology. Though individually not alive, protocells are basic molecules that can be mixed together to create living organisms. By combining these molecules, scientists are trying to generate artificial living systems that can be programmed to respond to light, pressure and heat.

“The cells have the capability to inflate and deflate and to respond to pressure,” Aden told Dezeen. “As you’re running on different grounds and textures it’s able to inflate or deflate depending on the pressure you put onto it and could help support you as a runner.”

Post-run, the protocells would loose their energy, so runners would place the bio shoes in a jar filled with protocell liquid to keep the organisms healthy. Aden says maintaining the shoes would be like caring for a plant and making sure that it has the correct natural resources to rejuvenate the cells. The fluid in which the shoes soak could also be dyed with food coloring, effectively causing the shoes to take on that color.

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As of now, the running shoes are only a concept, but Aden speculates they could materialize by 2050. Until then, the designer is using the project to educate people on the potential of protocell technology. So, makers of those barefoot running shoes, you’ve been warned.


Credit: Shamees Aden