3-D Printed Bio Shoes Would Repair Themselves

Keeping these running shoes in good condition would be like watering a house plant. Continue reading →

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

Real Vintage Footwear

Scientists have found what they believe may be the oldest shoe ever documented. The 5,500-year-old right-footed shoe was perfectly preserved under layers of sheep dung inside a cave in Armenia. The shoe, made of tanned cowhide, is older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids, scientists say. Grass found inside the shoe may have been used to keep the foot warm or to maintain the shape of the shoe -- like a modern shoe-tree. Get the full story here.

Designed for Comfort

The moccasin-like footwear was created from a single piece of cow hide that was wrapped around the foot. A leather thong was used to stitch the back and top of the shoe through four and 15 sets of eyelets respectively. The shoe was worn and shaped to the wearer's right foot, particularly around the heel where the highest pressure is exerted in a normal gait.

Worn by a Farmer

The shoe's size corresponds to about a U.S. size 7 woman's shoe. It was probably worn by a farmer living in the mountains of the Vayotz Dzor province. "While small, the shoe could well have fitted a man from that era," said Ron Pinhasi, of the Department of Archaeology at the University College Cork, Ireland. Pinhasi was lead author of a study describing the shoe, that appeared in the journal PLoS One.

Armenian Cave

The entrance to the Areni-1 cave, where the leather shoe was found, is marked by blue plastic.

Map of the Site

The cave is situated in the Vayotz Dzor province of Armenia, on the Armenian, Iranian, Nakhichevanian and Turkish borders. It was known to regional archaeologists due to its visibility from the highway below.

Other Discoveries

The stable, cool and dry conditions in the cave provided exceptional preservation of the shoe and other objects inside. Besides the shoe, scientists found three pots, each containing a child's skull, and containers of well preserved barley, wheat, apricot and other edible plants.

Sheep Dung: Nature's Preservative

The preservation was also helped by the fact that the floor of the cave was covered by a thick layer of sheep dung, which acted as a solid seal over the objects, preserving them over the millennia.

Clues to a Mysterious Era

The discoveries in the cave provide clues to a so far under-documented era -- the Chalcolithic period or Copper Age -- when humans are thought to have invented the wheel and domesticated horses. Get the full story here.