From the woven grass sandals of ancient Egypt to the extravagant silk heels of 18th-century Europe, most shoes throughout history were custom designed for the individual. There were no shoe sizes, no racks of shoes to scrutinize and try on and certainly no mass-produced footwear geared toward sports and play. It wasn’t until the industrial revolution that shoes were made in bulk. But that’s starting to change as custom made- and fitted-footwear is made possible (and affordable) by 3D scanning and printing technology.
“One hundred years from now we might look back and see that the moment of industrialization where we had to fit into preexisting sizes and styles was a blip in the history of shoemaking,” says Elizabeth Semmelhack, senior curator at the BATA Shoe Museum in Toronto. “Today we’re moving back to bespoke footwear.”
At the forefront is FitStation Powered by HP, a state-of-the-art technology that scans your foot, analyzes your gait and creates a digital, 3D model of your foot. That model is sent to a 3D printer, which creates a unique insole that can be worn with any shoe. FitStation is powered by HP 3D scanning technology and HP’s Multi Jet Fusion printing technology, a highly-accurate, streamlined and rapid method of 3D printing, along with other digital manufacturing techniques. This 3D scanning and printing technology allows for the creation of custom insoles in an efficient manner, ushering in a new era of shoe shopping.