High-tech custom-made shoes

High-tech custom-made shoes

Summary: If you're tired of searching for the ideal shoes that fit you well, a EU-funded project is about to help you. The Ergoshoe system uses a laser foot scanner to create a 3D computer model of your feet and 300 persons across Europe are wearing custom-made shoes designed with this system.

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TOPICS: Health
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If you're tired of searching for the ideal shoes that fit you well, a EU-funded project is about to help you. Taking a step forward for footwear, the Ergoshoe system uses a laser foot scanner to create a 3D computer model of your feet. Today, only 300 persons across Europe are wearing custom-made shoes designed with this system. But this number should vastly increase in the years to come, as it is estimated that customized shoes will only cost 10 to 20 per cent more than mass produced ones.

Here is how IST Results describes the project.

By using a laser foot scanner to create a 3D computer model of a person’s feet, the ERGOSHOE system bridges the design gap between shoe manufacturers and customers, allowing shoe comfort to be improved efficiently and at relatively low cost in the mass market, and in niche markets such as healthcare and worker footwear. In turn, it promises to boost the competitiveness of European shoemakers, who produce 700 to 800 million pairs a year, against Asian imports that amounted to 1.6 billion pairs in 2004.

On the picture below, you can see how one of your feet will be scanned before being digitized (Credit: CTC Groupe/Ergoshoe).

Ergoshoe laser scanning process

And here is a screenshot of the modeling software which will help to build the shoes of your dreams (Credit: CTC Groupe/Ergoshoe).

Ergoshoe designing process

These two illustrations come from a Ergoshoe flyer (PDF format, 1 page, 601 KB, in French) published by the CTC Groupe.

The Ergoshoe project is driven by INESCOP, the Spanish Technological Institute for Footwear and Related Industries. Here are some of its goals, as described on this page.

[The main objective of the] ERGOSHOE project is to introduce new methods and criteria among users, clients and manufacturers, which lead to production of made-to-measure footwear in effective way and reasonable costs, respecting functionality criteria according to different sorts of users, in particular: children, workers (security footwear), patients requiring special needs, especially related to diabetic foot syndrome, and people in search of functionality and better ergonomic issues.

Let's switch back to IST Results to discover what this project could bring for both mass and niche markets.

In the mass market, the system would primarily help manufacturers better adapt their designs to their customers at large while vendors could use the scanner and 3D model analysis to direct customers to shoes that best fit their feet. It would also allow customised shoes to be produced for individual clients, which Montiel estimates would only cost around 10 to 20 per cent more than a mass produced pair. The hardware and software costs between 6,000 and 15,000 euros to implement.
In niche markets, the ERGOSHOE technique also offers important benefits. The system was tested in a hospital for patients suffering from diabetic foot syndrome and allowed made-to-measure footwear to be returned to the patient from the manufacturer in around 10 days compared to the 30 to 40 days it takes using traditional measuring and plaster moulding methods.

So it's highly possible that soon you'll be able go to your favorite shoe store and order your perfect custom-made shoes.

Sources: IST Results, January 13, 2006; and various web sites

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Topic: Health

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