Last year we were very excited about New Balance’s announcement that they would bring to retail a running shoe featuring a 3D printed midsole. The running footwear is designed for heal strikers, with a design formula similar to the company’s Fresh Foam line of sneakers. After almost 5 months, the company has finally announced the details of the launch. The sneakers will go on sale April 15th at 9am for $400. The original plan was to launch the limited edition sneaker both online and in the company’s Boston flagship store, with other select stores offering the footwear later in the year. It seems that the company’s launch plans might have tempered a bit since November though. New Balance is now only planning to sell 44 pairs of the shoes starting April 15th and there is no mention of it reaching further retail outlets at a later point. To give you an idea of how constrained supply is, if they offer the shoes in size 7 through 12, this would mean only 4 pairs of sneakers in each size. We were hoping for a bigger role-out of the 3D printed running shoes and wonder if it is an indiction of production woes with the technology.
Named the Zante Generate, the New Balance shoe is one of the first sneakers with a 3D printed midsole to hit the market (Under Armour launched 96 pairs of a similarly limited sneaker last month which sold out instantly). The lattice-like sole on the Zante Generate is created via selective laser sintering (SLS), using a specialized material consisting of sintering powder and a unique TPU material created by Duraform. Unlike selective laser melting (which creates shapes by melting a powder), SLS uses a laser to precisely compact the material. The result is a midsole that New Balance claims is comfortable, cushioning, highly flexible, and durable. While 3D printed limited edition sneakers are interesting, only a few people will ever get to experience them. What we can’t wait for is to see which footwear company will be the first to release a mass market sneaker featuring a 3D printed midsole!