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2020-2022 research project


Based on all the Indigenous models and research, we transfer the design to 3D printed footwear.

Hereby our mission is to link the oldest of shoemaking knowledge with the newest of technology. 


The basic shoe designs, tailored to a particular person, are based on Indigenous footwear which resembles barefoot walking. The aim of the current 18 month study is to validate and refine the design and biomechanical guidelines for these shoes by means of a pilot study. Twice 50 people will be scanned, fit with shoes and evaluated before and after the test period. Adjusting the shape of the shoe depends on the foot scans of each individual person. In order to allow the foot to evolve to more “barefoot” an adaptation of the foot scans – based on design guidelines acquired in the PhD (2015) of Willems – is implemented.

To honor the communities we work with, we keep a close collaboration with the Indigenous cobblers involved. Once the proof-of-concept is validated revenue will be shared with the respective communities.



Participants scan their foot in 3D to have an avatar and design the shoe around their feet. With a minimum of material to protect against injury, the three examples of indigenous footwear have inspired another type of footwear: the Future Footwear Foundation’s 100 % personalized 3D-printed shoes.

The designs developed for FFF are based on Indigenous footwear. The challenge was to retain the barefoot, biomechanical and environmental benefits in designs for modern city wear. In all cases form follows the anatomy and function, not the other way around, and intervention in form related aspects is minimal.

FFF also performed tests to understand which physical properties of hides and furs—for instance,

thickness, stiffness, water permeability and intrusion, resistance to surface wear, and thermal insulation makes Indigenous footwear so effective on specific local substrates (Ghent University, 2013), and then used this knowledge to design printed soles for use on surfaces found in other environments, such as cities.

FFF promotes working with thin, lightweight materials to enhance the barefoot feeling and proprioception; they are also breathable, non-toxic, and sourced close to the production unit. While Indigenous production is subtractive in the sense that raw materials are cut from larger pieces and then reassembled to manufacture the final object, 3D printing is an additive process, using just enough material to create a fully formed object layer-by-layer. According to Rifkin (2014), 3D printing uses approximately 1/10 of the material used in subtracting.

 FFF was granted an 24 month research grant by the Industrial Research Fund, Association University Ghent, Belgium, 2020-2022. 

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