As 3D printing technology matures, it's becoming useful for more than just making plastic weapons and trinkets. New Balance is the latest shoe manufacturer to use 3D printers to create footwear for professional athletes, highly customized to their specific needs and—more importantly—their feet.

Using a printing process known as selective laser sintering—where plastic powder is hardened layer-by-layer instead of an extrusion process—New Balance can create a spike plate that's lightweight but also caters to how an athlete runs. The design process for each plate involves analyzing biomechanical data for each athlete that's collected using sensor-laden shoes and motion capture technology. It might seem like overkill, but all this data allows the custom plates to perfectly support a runner's foot while they compete, which can in turn vastly improve their performance.


The price tag for a custom-printed shoe is probably astronomical at this point, and only worth it if you're a professional athlete. But as 3D printers become easier to use and more ubiquitous, it's not hard to imagine a not-too-distant future where you can get measured up for new sneakers at a store, and come back the next day to pick up your freshly printed kicks. [New Balance via Hypebeast]