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New balance’s latest shoes come with 3d-printed soles
IF YOU CURRENTLY own a pair of running shoes, the odds are that the midsole—the shock-absorbing layer in between the inner and outer soles—is made from molded ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), which is squishy, resilient foam.
As a cushioning material, EVA foam isn’t bad. It’s elastic, affordable, and can be dyed a variety of colors. But an EVA midsole offers the same degree of support throughout the shoe, and what you really want is different levels of support across different parts of the foot. Also, EVA breaks down and compresses with repeated use, and this degradation is the reason many runners replace their shoes every few hundred miles. For these reasons, shoe companies have been actively experimenting with materials to replace EVA.
Two years ago, running shoe giant New Balance teamed up with Somerville, Massachusetts–based 3D-printing company Formlabs to develop a new type of sole. Now the duo are debuting TripleCell, a footbed technology whose components are made of a proprietary photopolymer called Rebound Resin.
For its first shoe in this lineup, New Balance is re-releasing its classic 990 Sport with a TripleCell heel. The $185 runner is lighter, more supportive, and more durable than the EVA version. Two more performance-oriented models with TripleCell components will be arriving within the next year.
Rough and Tough
3D-printed shoes aren’t precisely a new idea. For example, Adidas has also begun developing similar automated 3D-printing facilities that might allow customers to order digitally printed, personalized products.
But rather than focusing on the shoe’s appearance, New Balance decided to find ways to improve its performance. The company gave Formlabs a formidable list of properties the new material would be required to have.
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