Our shoes might be going high-tech.
Are you ready to have trainers that need a smart phone to buy?
Trainers have become a thriving industry, capitalizing on celebrity partnerships, social media influence, and exclusive limited editions that attract eager fans lining up outside stores on release days. These footwear items have never been more coveted in the fashion world. Occasionally, I indulge in buying a new pair, usually opting for online purchases without much consideration for the size. I simply hope they will fit, and if they don't, I endure the discomfort of breaking them in, resulting in weeks of hobbling around with painful blisters, and very possibly culminating with a sale online.
However, those days of discomfort may soon become a distant memory, thanks to Asher Clark, a descendant of the renowned Clarks shoe family, who has a bold vision for the "next generation of footwear." To explore this innovative concept, you need to undergo a physical measurement of your feet.
Gone are the traditional tape measures and peculiar devices found in shoe shops. Instead, You step onto what resembles futuristic scales, complete with a monitor that instantly showcases real-time images of the soles of your feet.
From where you place all your weight, to measurements for everything from "instep girth" to "arch height", it was a far cry from "looks like a seven-and-a-half to me" that we are all used to when getting our feet measured. Soon after, this scales-like machine transforms a scan of your feet into a 3D model and sends it straight to your phone, ready to form the basis of a custom pair of shoes.
According to Clark, this is the future method of acquiring our new sneakers that will appeal to all.
He explains, "Ten thousand years ago, humans crafted shoes using materials available in their local surroundings."
"Nowadays, we are left with no alternative but to follow the same principle."
Asher and his brother Galahad, the seventh generation of the esteemed Clark family, ventured into the shoe industry with the launch of Vivobarefoot in 2012. Their objective was to design shoes that provide the sensation of being almost barefoot.
These shoes are remarkably lightweight and thin, resembling plimsolls. It takes some time to adjust to them if you are accustomed to pounding the pavement in regular trainers. However, the Clarks are unapologetic in their conviction that these shoes are superior for our feet, as they keep them closer to the ground, maintaining a wider and more natural position.
The next stride they aim to take involves enhancing their environmental impact, which is where your feet, resembling a pair of feet from a video game, become relevant to the equation.
For a "Vivobiome" customer, the initial procedure involves scanning their feet using a smartphone app in the comfort of their own home. This app utilizes the Unreal gaming engine to generate a 3D representation of their feet, allowing them to customize their new shoes and even virtually try them on.
If the customer decides to proceed with an order, the shoes will be produced through 3D printing, utilizing local and sustainable materials. According to Clark, the entire process, from scanning the feet to wearing the impeccably sized shoes, would take less than a month.
The complete implementation of the Vivobiome initiative is expected to be operational by the middle of next year.
At the heart of this initiative will be state-of-the-art "speed factories" reminiscent of Tesla's efficient production facilities. Similar to Elon Musk's electric car company, these factories will house the entire shoe manufacturing process under one roof. The first speed factory is scheduled to be established in Ireland in 2024, with additional locations planned for Germany and the United States.
Vivobarefoot understands that their mission of environmental sustainability can only be achieved if their shoes are affordable. However, the price they anticipate charging for their sneakers is significantly higher than what you could typically find for multiple pairs of shoes.
Admitting the cost of implementing innovative approaches, Clark acknowledges, "Doing things differently comes with a higher price tag." The company aims to launch their shoes with a price point of £260.
To test and refine the initiative, Vivobarefoot has introduced a "pioneer program." Individuals who successfully apply for the program will receive three pairs of shoes and will be requested to provide feedback.
Foot scans are set to begin in July, and the distribution of the shoes will occur between August and February.
The success of Vivobiome upon its launch will likely rely heavily on word-of-mouth recommendations, as the brand does not have a prominent figure like Michael Jordan to propel it to instant fame and success.