A New Crop of High-Tech Running Shoes

As marathon season approaches, Boston is embracing its footwear heritage with innovative new kicks.

high tech shoes

All photographs courtesy of the manufacturers

A pile of powder may be the key to your fastest marathon yet.

No, it’s not a trendy energy supplement: It’s the basis for the footwear industry’s first-ever performance running shoe with a 3-D-printed midsole, courtesy of Boston-based New Balance.

The shoe’s sole takes shape through a technology called selective laser sintering, which transforms plastic powder into a solid, layer by layer. Katherine Petrecca, New Balance’s general manager for studio innovation, says the whole process takes place in an apparatus similar to a microwave, using high-powered lasers to heat and shape the powder.

“A laser comes down and sinters a cross section of the design,” she says. “Then the parts are excavated out.”

The result is a midsole that’s engineered to cushion runners’ feet in the areas that need it most. But Petrecca says the technology’s biggest implication could be in customization. “I could print five options for you in one day, and you could try them out and pick what you like, versus the slow, iterative process that we normally use,” she explains.

As you might expect, this futuristic footwear, which hits Boston stores this month, comes at a hefty cost: $400. But for certain determined runners, that extra boost just may be priceless.


3-D printing isn’t the only footwear innovation in Boston. Check out these other high-tech sneaks with local ties.

high tech shoe 1

Forsake “Lockout”

These durable, waterproof sneaker-boot hybrids are appropriate for snow banks or the streets. $140, forsake.com.

high tech shoe 2

Reebok “CrossFit Nano 5.0”

Reebok’s latest CrossFit sneakers are made with Kevlar for extreme durability. $130, reebok.com.

high tech shoe 3

Saucony “Hurricane ISO 2”

Extra-thick cushioning at the top of the sole and the heel softens impact and protects the foot as you move. $160, saucony.com.