Casca, a startup out of Vancouver, is looking to meld 3D printing and additive manufacturing, retail and footwear that will bring mass personalization to insoles and shoes.
The company, which recently raised $3.5 million from Khosla Ventures, has launched its first store in Vancouver. Casca's system uses custom 3D printed insoles made from 100% recyclable materials, a digital app that scans your foot with a smartphone and shoes that are designed for better support.
Now I don't necessarily cover early-round companies, but Casca hit on a few key themes that interest me. On the business side, Casca melds additive manufacturing, retail, customer experience and personalization in one package. And then there's the personal side: My knee is basically held together by rubber bands and duct tape (actually two titanium screws) and I cycle through running shoes every 8 weeks due to cushion.
When I watched my meniscus repair a few years back, I saw what was left of a reconstructed anterior cruciate ligament from more than 30 years ago. The short answer is not much. Yet, the knee has held up ok considering I weightlift, squat, deadlift and put at least 25 miles of running on it a week.
So when you're dealing with this knee anything that may hold cushion, stability and get you a few more miles is worth looking into.
My current shoe rotation goes like this:
- Hoka One One Biondi for running. I may cycle Asics Gel Kayano running shoes for variety, but generally, there's not enough bounce for a long run. I'll buy VKTRY carbon fiber insoles.
- Day to day, I'm looking for some shoe that's like a sneaker, has cushion and support and can sort of pass at work. New Balance, Hoka, and Sketchers are in the rotation here.
The early indications are that the Casca shoes, which run $198 for the leather version, are solid. They feel good, have enough bounce and you can tell they're made for the long haul of standing around and supporting your foot. Typically, we're using running shoes for walking, cross trainers for working out and gear that isn't intended for all-day wear.
We'll update this article with a more developed review going forward, but so far so good.
The Casca plan
We caught up with Braden Parker and Kevin Reid, co-founders of Casca, to talk about the technology, vision and what needs to happen for the company to reach scale. Here are a few excerpts with the full interview in the video above.
The idea. Parker said the company's goal is to create an everyday shoe that offers support, thoughtful design and can be worn in any environment or social setting. Parker added:
As we started looking at how we wanted to provide the proper orthotic support, we really had this realization that everyone's feet are incredibly unique. And so to provide the true perfect support, you have to be able to create a unique component. And for us, 3-D printing was the obvious solution to that.
Impact of 3D printing on shoe manufacturing. Reid noted that Casca is in a "hybrid phase" where it is mixing 3D printing with legacy shoe manufacturing. Over time, Reid said that the mix will go more 3D printing. He said:
From day one I think we were experimenting with additive manufacturing to create prototypes. The shoemaking industry, the traditional kind of shoemaking industry is quite old school. So there's still a lot of half crapped up samples and stuff that you create. But I think leveraging technology to develop and iterate, it allows us to move really quickly and test a variety of designs and solutions. It's definitely improved our ability to develop.
Mapping the foot. The Casca app can map each foot to 10,000 points of data. From that data, the company creates a 3D model that aligns with the foot and provides posture and weight balance support.
3D printing in retail. Parker and Reid said Casca is experimenting with the role of 3D printing in a retail setting. The company's flagship store in Vancouver has a bank of systems creating insoles. Entire shoes may take a while. Parker said:
I think to be doing full shoes at that scale, there's going to be a lot of challenges. But we do believe that within ten years we'll be able to get to the point where you can see your entire shoe getting made in front of your eyes.
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