Adaptive Shoes

  • One of the most important pieces of clothing that we have is our shoes. Shoes protect our feet from dangerous surfaces, keep feet safe from the elements, and look fashionable. However, since human feet vary so vastly in size and shape, making shoes that can conform to the feet of multiple people is a difficult challenge. The shoe industry's solution to this problem is to have thousands of plastic molds, known as lasts, for different sizes of feet. This is very expensive and takes up a lot of space. However, small shoe manufacturers are unable to acquire so many lasts. We solved this problem by creating a last that automatically adjusts to one's foot. 

    Our automatically adjusting last is made up of 4  3D printed pieces - 2 moving side pieces, a moving front piece, and a stationary center piece. To individually move the sections of the last we used 3 stepper motors, with metal screws and nuts to allow the turning of the motors to move each piece forward and back. Since the stepper motors require both a microcontroller board and their own drivers, all electronics, with the exception of the motors, are housed neatly in a box outside of the Last. The whole thing is powered by a combination of USB computer power and a wall adapter. 

    For controlling the last we used a Rhino plugin called Grasshopper which is a block-based programming software which can manipulate Rhinoceros 3dm files. This, used in conjunction with Firefly which allows Grasshopper to communicate directly with Arduino microcontrollers, allowed us to make a program that analyzes a 3d scan of somebody's foot, and used data collected from that scan to move the model to match the user's foot.  

     

    This product will not only allow small shoe manufacturors to have one versatile last instead of thousands of staid lasts, but it will also allow people with irregular feet to have shoes custom made to order.

  • One of the most important pieces of clothing that we have is our shoes. Shoes protect our feet from dangerous surfaces, keep feet safe from the elements, and look fashionable. However, since human feet vary so vastly in size and shape, making shoes that can conform to the feet of multiple people is a difficult challenge. The shoe industry's solution to this problem is to have thousands of plastic molds, known as lasts, for different sizes of feet. This is very expensive and takes up a lot of space. However, small shoe manufacturers are unable to acquire so many lasts. We solved this problem by creating a last that automatically adjusts to one's foot. 

    Our automatically adjusting last is made up of 4  3D printed pieces - 2 moving side pieces, a moving front piece, and a stationary center piece. To individually move the sections of the last we used 3 stepper motors, with 3D printed screws and nuts to allow the turning of the motors to move each piece forward and back. Since the stepper motors require both a microcontroller board and their own drivers, all electronics, with the exception of the motors, are housed outside of the model. 

    For controlling the last we used a Rhino plugin called Grasshopper which is a block-based programming software which can manipulate Rhinoceros 3dm files. This, used in conjunction with Firefly which allows Grasshopper to communicate directly with Arduino microcontrollers, allowed us to make a program that analyzes a 3d scan of somebody's foot, and used data collected from that scan to move the model to match the user's foot.  

     

    This product will not only allow small shoe manufacturors to have one versatile last instead of thousands of staid lasts, but it will also allow people with irregular feet to have shoes custom made to order.

  • Process Post:
    Our idea for an adjustable high heel shoe came from the initial brainstorming days of the studio as we were thinking of common problems that come about from everyday shoes. We thought about high heel shoes and how they are commonly worn, but also very uncomfortable. Forty-two percent of women say they would wear them even if they are “extremely uncomfortable.” That being said, after a long night of dancing or walking around the city ones feet get very tired, and heels can often cause severe foot fractures. We decided to create a shoe that can be used as both a flat and a heel without compromising on fashion.

    We started out designing a heel that would compress while walking. This compression would happen using springs in the heel. After lots of discussion, we decided we would make the heel adjustable rather than compressible.  Eventually we decided on a heel that locks in many positions. The user can walk around with flat sneaker-like shoes on. When the user gets to their final destination, the user can adjust the heel to a desired height, allowing them to have the heel they want without the incredible discomfort. 

    Our first idea (a compressible heel) incorporated a spring allowing the user to have a more comfortable walking experience. We tested a few iterations of this but it was very unreliable. We also tried to create a wedge heel with springs in it. After prototyping a basic rectangular design with one piece that would be adjustable, we found that adjustable levels would create a more functional product. 

    We did a walking study to measure where the front of the foot bends when one walks. This study showed us where to split the shoe, complimenting the natural bend of the foot. From this study, we created our various iterations of the adjustable heel. 


    Iteration 1: Adjustable heel with slots on top and channels on the bottom:
    The first iteration of our adjustable high heel was comprised of a bottom layer with a track on it and the top layer with square slots. The heel mechanism slid on the bottom track and locked into the square slots. To adjust the heel, one would need to lift the top layer with the square slots, slide the heel mechanism on the track, and lock it in place by placing it in one of the square slots. After putting pressure on the heel, we realized that this iteration was not very stable. We also discovered that adjusting the height of the heel was not easy, and would be a pain for any user.


    Iteration 2: Adjustable heel with two channels
    The second iteration of our adjustable heel was comprised of two layers, both of which had channels. There was an adjustable heel apparatus that would slide easily on the channels. While this idea was more easily adjustable, there was no stable way to lock the heel in the various locations.


    Iteration 3: Wedge shoe with 2 heights
    After exploring various innovative shoes, we stumbled upon many wedge-type shoes. We had the idea of a channel, and from that we decided that creating an adjustable wedge would be more practical, and more aesthetically pleasing than a pump-style heel. The adjustable wedge is made up of a channel, with ellipses screwed together, creating the heel. This wedge shoe had two heights; the set wedge height, and a flat. The flat would be achieved by folding the heel into the bottom of the shoe. This channel was large so that the heel and the screw portion of the heel would fit in the bottom of the shoe, allowing a flat to be created. This model is created out of wood. Unfortunately, it was difficult to lock the heel in place to make it a stable and secure wedge.


    Iteration 4: The Final Iteration
    Our final iteration is a new and improved version of the wedge heel. We switched to 3D printing for the final iteration. This allowed us to design channels for the heel to slide on, a layer to lock the heel in place, and a layer for strap channels. Additionally, 3D printing this shoe allowed us to create a slight heel in the model so that the transition from a flat to a wedge would be more comfortable and sturdier. Finally, we create indents in the adjustable channel so that the wedge can vary heights, bringing back the multi-stage adjustability of our first and second iteration.

  • The main purpose of our shoe is to create a high heel shoe that can be both fashionable, but also comfortable. In this adjustable wedge one can have the shoe be flat and comfortable when they are walking around in the city, and then when they get to their destination they can adjust it into a fashionable wedge. The common problem with high heel shoes is that they are uncomfortable and impractical when walking around. With this shoe, someone can have a comfortable and fashionable way to solve this problem.

  • Large shoe companies, such as New Balance, have the resources and space available to purchase and store hundreds, even thousands of models of feet which they use for shoe making. These are known as lasts. A last is a modified casting of a foot. However, smaller companies and shoe makers can neither afford nor store such a vast array of lasts. Even companies such as New Balance see the quantity of lasts that they own as a burden. Our product reduces the number of lasts that a company would need to just a few. It does this by being automatically adjustable. 

    The concept of our project was to create an adjustable last that could change itself into various different shapes and sizes of feet. We first thought of how to do this completely manually, but quickly discovered that it would be much more interesting to have the design automatically adjust itself. We decided to make the product automatically adapt to a person's foot based on a 3d scan of his or her foot. We decided to do this using Grasshopper, a plugin for Rhino, and Firefly, which allows Grasshopper to interface with Arduino microcontrollers. 

     

    We had a few initial decisions to make. The first was how to slice up the last to allow for movement. This took a great deal of thought. We considered cutting up a model of a last and having the parts move, having just certain sections move away from a central piece, and even more abstract ideas such as using air bags to allow for more uniform growth. In the end, we decided to cut up a last and have several pieces move away from one central piece. We understood that this would not create a perfect replica of a foot since there would be gaps. Instead of focusing on creating a perfect model of a foot, we instead decided to focus on accurately representing the general shape of a foot as a proof of concept. Some much more advanced technology could be implemented later to make the model more accurate.

     

    We also had to decide how to generate the linear motion required to move the piece. We considered buying linear actuators, but decided there were better, more creative solutions. We found a simple way to make a linear actuator out of a chapstick container, and continued with the idea of using a screw to generate the motion.

     

    Our first iteration included a main base piece with two moving pieces. This was inspired by a shoe horn, which fits into any shoe to help it hold its shape. Although this design was a good proof of concept, there were several flaws. Since only two pieces were moving, the gaps between pieces became very big. Also, in this design we used servos. While these are small and allow for high degrees of control, they only allow for 180 degrees of rotation, which was not sufficient for our needs. 

     

    Our second iteration took several slices of material away from the last to create three moving pieces. This design switched over to stepper motors on an Adafruit motor shield for an Arduino. These allow for very precise control of continuous rotation. This design was very close to our final design, yet it had one major flaw. By removing the slices of the foot we hoped to make it so that the average men's foot (men's size 9.5) would be in the middle of the last's scale of movement. So, we started with a size 9.5 last and removed material so it could in theory shrink down to a men's size 8. However, when it was fully compressed there were pieces of material sticking out creating an unusable model.

     

    For our final iteration we kept the same geometry as in the second iteration, but instead of removing slices of material we just split the last into several pieces. We started with a men's size 8.5 foot instead, knowing the last would not be able to get any smaller. That way it would still be a relatively accurate model of a foot at size 9.5. In the final iteration we switched over to EZ Drivers to control the stepper motors as they interface with Firefly better. 

     

     

  • To start off our project we started to brainstorm ways that we could make sports shoes easier to use, and, ultimately, have multiple uses. One group member recalled an experience at a triathlon that he was watching, and pointed to the turmoil and hardship that comes with the transition between running and biking. So, we quickly went from there and came up with the idea to create an exoskeleton to a biking shoe that could be strapped onto a running shoe. From the cusp we broke up into factions. Jesse became the sketcher, creating sketches on paper and on Rhino that would be put into T-Splines, Max became the "T-Spliner", creating the shoe and the 3d model on Rhino using T-Splines; a Rhino based software that allows for easy morphing, and Leo became the "grasshopper", creating a way to adjust the size of the shoe in order for the user to change sizes easily. 

    Our product was designed on the basis that the user would input his/her size shoe, and also any other specifics such as wide feet, and be able to 3d print an exoskeleton within a few hours to his/her running shoe so that it can clip onto a bike. 

    1st Iteration

    After we made our first prototype which was made of cardboard, we realized that the design concept we were using was very good and could go further, but our design was also very small and unrealistic for use in a triathlon. The design from our first iteration would have to be adjusted to actually lock onto the pedal. After our first iteration we needed to decide not only how the shoe will lock to the pedal but also how the users running shoe will fit into the exoskeleton. These changes were being made to better the design, and our final product. After our first iteration we felt that our product was well made, but could be edited further. So, we took it back to T-Splines for adjustments to make an actual 3d print.

    2nd Iteration

    The structure and design of the second product had all of the necessities, including slits for Velcro straps and a connection for the bike clip. The main problem with this iteration was miniscule size. Since the printer could only print to a certain size in one piece we knew that this was going to be a problem, and in our next iteration we needed to come up with a solution. 

    3rd Iteration

    In our next design which we solved our problem by printing the exoskeleton in two different parts. We were only able to print one half of to begin but it was enough to  realize that we had created a usable, shoe like product that one could not only be stepped into, but walked around in. This design also had the capability to lock into an actual bike pedal. The biggest problem with this iteration, the last one before the final, was that the shoe was too big, and somewhere in the T-Splines and Rhino process the model that we were basing the exoskeleton off of got scaled up too big. Once this was scaled back down, and the toe overhang was brought down a tad, we printed our final product. 

    Grasshopper:

    Grasshopper was used to allow the shoe to become easily customizable. We used different components to adjust different parts of the shoe. We did this because no shoes are made equal; therefore, one shoe will not fit all. With these functions one can adjust the width at different points as well as the length of the exoskleleton. This was made under the futuristic goal of having 3d printers readily accessible in users' home's

  • The product we have created has been specifically chosen to appeal to triathletes of a beginner level. While many may think that cycling shoes are non-essential for entry level triathletes, they are actually a nessesity for all triathletes, beggeniners and pros alike. Many competitors are turned away by the extortionate prices that the average cycling shoe costs. Our product solves this plight by making a cheap, reliable and simple product that can be 3d printed within hours, and size adjusted on Grasshopper. The cycling shoe exoskeleton that we have created provides enough support with the velcro straps, and elevated curves on the sides to allow the user to experience the full feeling of having a real cycling shoe on. Another bennefit that our exoskeleton offers is that when the competitor needs to remove his/her cycling shoe and change into running shoes all they need to do is loosen the velcro, and step out.

    Our exoskeleton cycling attachment is important because it offers an alternative to expensive cycling shoes for entry triathletes and cyclists alike, and it can be detattched from your shoe whenever your would like to remove it. Some athletes never purchase cycling shoes because they just do not feel the need to change shoes for more performance, but our product avoids that problem so you never have to make that decision in the first place.

  • We created a breathable shoe that changes as you walk and cools your foot down in the process. It is composed of three main parts; the heel, the sole, and the outer shoe.

    The sole is 3D printed and works like a bellow. There is a hinge in the shoe that allows the heel to expand and contract. When the heel contracts it pushes air through your shoe and cools your foot down. The sole has origami around it that expands and contracts as you walk, creating the air-tight bellow.

    The upper part of the shoe is 3D printed and is meant to camouflage the origami in the heel and add cohesiveness to the design. It uses the same pattern as the origami sole, but doesn’t expand and contract.

    The heel is made of fabric and is laser cut. It is made of layers of fabric stacked on top of each other to look like a sneaker. The layers are all sewn together. The outer shoe is what holds all the parts together and makes it look like a shoe. 

  • This studio was partnered with New Balance to develop a new, adaptive shoe. We started off by learning about shoe innovation. After coming together as a group, we brainstormed to the point of choosing to work on a kinetic shoe. Specifically, we wanted to make a shoe that uses the energy of walking and somehow changes with that energy. Originally, we experimented with the harnessing of walking energy. When someone walks, they typically start by putting the heel down first, and then transferring weight first towards the ball of the foot foot, and then to your toes. In a lot of shoes, your heel comes off your shoe completely as you walk. We wanted to use this heel motion to power the movement of the shoe.

    The fireplace bellows was also an inspiration for this mechanical design. Our first prototype was based off the goal that when your heel is up and off the shoe, a spring pushes a button up, and then when you put your heel back down it pushes the button down. We wanted to turn that button into a sort of bike pump mechanism, so that as you step it builds air up and blows up a sculpture accessory, and then the air lets go all at once through the sole of the shoe and cools your foot down. 

    We also explored designs that inflate with each step. "We have the air, so let’s see what we can blow up", so to speak. And we started to look at other forms of power in place of a pump. We investigated springs and shocks. With the air pump element, the shoe is required to be sealed, which adds a different level of complexity.

    After all this exploring that happened in the space of a couple days, we decided that the blow up air pump idea was simply not enough of a project—too obvious of an idea and just overall not a strong enough design. We set off brainstorming once again. Thinking of the shoe as only air powered and air pumped put us in a corner for brainstorming, because it shut our minds out to other options. We finally got back in the swing of brainstorming when we thought of origami. We were talking about the "blow up" shoe idea to our coaches and New Balance employees and described it as a shoe that can breathe. We then bounced off the breathing idea and thought, “What if we have a shoe that actually breathes?” We came up with this idea almost mocking the constant advertisement of shoe companies that say they have “shoes that breathe”, which really means that their shoes allow air to cool them down.

    We did a fair amount of research, bouncing off the “origami and shoes that breathe” idea. We found some 3D origami patterns that expand and contract. We thought, “What if we could put this pattern on the side of the shoe so as you walk it expands and contracts with the movement of your foot inside the shoe, using the same lifting of the heel concept as the blow up shoe?” Stylistically, with the origami pattern now being breathable, there would be different parts of the shoe that are seen at different times. The origami will be in between the expanded and compressed stages, depending what part of the walking cycle your foot is currently in.

    When the origami is compressed only one surface will be showing, which would mean the shoe could simulataneously be one unified color, and a mosaic of colorful, fragmented explosions occurring between the planes. The shoe could appear to pulse, in a way, with every step to form fit to your foot. Obviously, we did not want to make a shoe out of paper. We wanted the main plane, which is seen when the shoe is compressed, to be made out of one material, and the colored plane, when the shoe is expanded, will be made from another material.

    Upon first experimenting with origami patterns, we were drawn to that of the water bomb. We found that Grasshopper is quite a good program for origami, and is actually often used to create origami patterns and shapes. We sat down and started to slam out the mechanism to try and figure out how we can get our shoe to “breathe.” We went back to the heel-powered/stepping motion concept. Our challenge was that we needed the shoe to expand to get the origami to move, a problem presented by the two-axis construction of water bomb origami.

    We decided to add a hinge into the sole. This way we can allow the shoe to function like a flip-flop but possess a more stylish and versatile design. We are thinking of the sole in two parts, the toe sole and the heel sole. The foot is going to stay secure to the toe sole and the heel sole will flop as the person walks. The toe sole will have to connect to where the foot fits into the sneaker, so that it can keep the foot inside of the sneaker. If the toe sole doesn’t connect to the top of the shoe, there will be nothing holding the person’s foot in place, and they would walk right out of the shoe. The ankle connection to the toe sole is crucial to stabilizing the shoe.

    To ensure the consistent flip-flop motion (and thus, the breathability component), we added a spring. The spring connects to the ankle brace and the heel sole. This allows for the shoe to expand and compress as the person walks. And as we dove deeper into the project, we realized we need to change certain aspects of our design, one of which is the origami pattern. The water bomb origami pattern that we were using needed to be pulled in two directions to expand and contract. We realized that this wouldn’t work for our shoe because the heel is only going to be pulled in one direction. Essentially we needed to make a glorified accordion fold. We worked on creating our own original accordion fold patterns, and explored how we might get them to fit around the shoe. As we experimented, we realized the folds in the patterns we were using never completely shut. We planned on having the origami pattern open and shut, thus appearing a different color depending on whether the origami was open or closed. We considered making the origami smaller, to make it easier for the origami to open and close and we will still get our color variation.

    In the end, our shoe ended up splitting into three main parts, the sole and mechanics, the 3D printed heel, and the fabric that makes up the rest of the shoe.

    Making the fabric part of the shoe was all done in Rhino and laser cut. We designed the shoe flat so that we could then sew it together to create the 3D. The shoe is made out of three main design layers, a base and two more layers to make it look attractive. We laser cut each layer out of a different material then placed them on top of each other to sew together. We ended up needing two extra layers of felt on the base just to keep the shoe stable and together.

    The upper part of the shoe is 3D printed. We designed it in Grasshopper, and purposely made it noticeably different but still similar to the origami pattern. It consists of a triangulated texture gradient, which essentially means it consists of isoceles triangular prisms that get more intense as it wraps around the shoe and then gradually smooths back. Unfortunately, for some reason this component and the hinged sole were 3D printed in a bright blue, rather than the cherry red we had specifically picked out to work with the fabric color scheme. But overall it was a successful and functional project.

  • 4th and Final Iteration:

    For our final iteration, we had our 3D-printed sole with the louvers bolted into the holes and the felt draped on the top.

    The main idea of our "pores" shoe is to allow for both breathability and the cooling down of your foot. Although most running sneakers use moisture-wicking material (mesh), we found that many peoples' feet are still very much heat-induced while wearing them. Our goal is to naturally "cool down" your feet with louvers that manually open and close like window shutters. Also, our triangulated design soles allow for more breathability of your foot. 

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