Any footwear designer will tell you that innovation is the lifeblood of the business. To appeal to today’s discerning consumer, shoe brands are like sharks — if they stop moving, they die.
In 2015, labels across the fashion and athletic worlds continued to push the envelope with surprising — and in some cases, game-changing — technological advancements. Some were meant simply to amaze the eyes with jaw-dropping designs, while others set out to improve people’s lives or the environment.
These six high-tech shoe launches were particularly successful at capturing the public’s imagination. Just think what shoe players will do in 2016.
The future finally became reality this year, when Nike’s Tinker Hatfield created a real working version of the self-lacing Nike Air Mags featured in “Back to the Future II.” Sure, only Michael J. Fox has a pair so far, and only a few of the sneakers will be released next spring, but the excitement generated by this once-imaginary style was universal: Both sneakerdom and nerdom went wild.
The German athletic brand reached next-level customization with a new 3D-printed running-shoe midsole that can be modified to fit an individual’s specific needs. And better yet, Adidas plans to help the environment by using recycled materials such as polyamide and gill net content to make the midsoles.
Over the years, United Nude has crafted plenty of 3D-printed styles for runway regulars such as Iris van Herpen. Its most amazing endeavor this year was a collaboration with five architects that resulted in wild, sculptural heels made from hard nylon and rubber. While graphic and beautiful, these towering platforms weren’t for the faint of heart.
Apps are the way of the world these days, and Altra logged on with a spring ’16 shoe featuring a razor-thin multi-sensor system in the midsole that tracks running details and communicates with an iFit app or watch. Sound a little similar to Nike+? You’re not wrong, but it’s nice to have a new competitor in the techie sneaker space.
The French label’s spring ’16 runway show had an aeronautic theme, right down to these heavy Velcro flatforms outfitted with flashing bulbs that mimic the lights on an airport landing strip. It’s just like Karl Lagerfeld to point the way in fashion.
Adidas isn’t the only athletic company changing the way shoes are made. New Balance paired experts in running and biomechanics with leaders in plastics engineering to create a high-performance running shoe with a 3D-printed midsole made from a newly developed elastomeric powder, DuraForm Flex TPU. The shoe will debut at the Boston Marathon in April 2016 and then roll out to select retailers.