Shoemakers bring bespoke footwear to the high street

May 22, 2018

AMONG the boutiques in the canal district of Amsterdam is a shoe shop, called W-21, that has a selection of stylish footwear in the window. A select group of customers were recently invited there to have their feet scanned by a laser, and then to spend 30 seconds walking on a modified treadmill in a special pair of shoes stuffed with accelerometers, pressure gauges, thermometers and hygrometers. All this generated a wealth of data, which was displayed on a large screen along with a model of how the walker’s feet were moving.

From these data an algorithm determined the ideal soles for the customer’s shoes. Upstairs, a couple of 3D printers began humming away to make those soles. In about two hours they were ready to be fitted to a new pair of shoes, uniquely tailored to each person’s feet.

Some level of customisation is nothing new for buyers of apparel. But there is a big difference between clothes, which are relatively straightforward to tailor and alter, and shoes,...

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