(Editor’s note: This story updates a November 2015 story that announced New Balance’s initial plans to create shoes with 3D printed midsoles.)
On April 15, New Balance will be selling 44 pairs of new, state-of-the-art running shoes that will be the first to incorporate 3D printed midsoles. Several other brands have also been developing 3D printing for footwear, but the New Balance Zante Generate will be the first of its kind available to consumers.
The 44 pairs will be sold for $400 each at the New Balance Experience Store at 583 Boylston Street in Boston and on NewBalance.com beginning at 9 a.m. ET. (The brand is releasing 44 pairs as a nod to New Balance owner and chairman Jim Davis, who bought the company 44 years ago.)
The new midsoles leverage the benefits of 3D printing and breakthroughs in materials science to achieve an optimal balance of flexibility, strength, weight and durability in an intricate honeycomb midsole structure, the company said in a release. “Within this incredibly flexible midsole, hundreds of small, open cells provide cushioning and structure,” the release said.
The upper of the Zante Generate is taken from the Fresh Foam Zante v2, which features a bootie construction with an engineered mesh through the midfoot to allow for soft, supple support. The shoe will have a 6mm heel-toe offset. The 3D printed midsoles are being manufactured in the U.S. and assembled by New Balance’s factory in Lawrence, Mass.
Through an exclusive partnership with 3D Systems, New Balance is creating midsoles made from a newly developed elastometric powder and a process known as selective laser sintering (SLS). That process involves converting the DuraForm TPU Elastomer into solid cross-sections, layer by layer, using a laser.
“New Balance is at the forefront of 3D printing and has been utilizing this exciting and innovative technology to customize product for our athletes for a number of years,” New Balance president and CEO Robert DeMartini said in a release. “Our unique position as both a manufacturer and retailer allows us to bring the world’s first 3D printed running midsole to market. The Zante Generate demonstrates the strength of New Balance design and innovation and will allow consumers to own a piece of running technology history.”
New Balance, a privately owned Boston-based company, says the latest designs of the 3D printed midsole are based on underfoot pressure data from heel strikers with more cushioning elements in areas of higher average pressure. This data-to-design formula is similar to the protocol New Balance designers used to create the brand’s award-winning Fresh Foam collection.
Several other brands are also working on 3D printed footwear concepts, but this is the first announcement of a shoe that will be available to consumers.
New Balance has been developing its 3D printed footwear technologies for several years. In 2013, it developed track spikes for middle-distance runner Jack Bolas with a data-customized, 3D-printed spike plate, the first time the technology has been used in competition. In 2014, Kim Conley won the 10,000-meter run at the U.S. championships in a pair of custom-printed spikes. The brand has also used the technology to create customized footwear for baseball and soccer players.
“In 2013 we said this was the future of footwear manufacturing and today we are proud to bring the future to consumers with a fully 3D printed midsole,” DeMartini in a previous statement. “With 3D printing, we are able to pursue performance customization at a whole new level.”