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Puma and MIT Experiment with Biodesign to Advance Adaptable Footwear

A new innovation from Puma and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) takes breathable footwear to a new level.

The performance footwear brand partnered with the MIT Design Lab to develop “breathing shoes” and “deep learning” insoles, a collection of biodesign products that adapt to the wearer’s body. The technologies could one day improve cleats and running shoes.

The breathing shoe is an example of how biofabrication can be used to make unique user experiences. The shoe creates a personalized ventilation system by growing its own air passageways that keep the foot cool.

The upper sole of the shoe is molded with a cavity pattern, which is filled with bacteria and gelatinous media. The microorganisms respond to the heat generated by the wearer’s feet and begin to consume the media. As the media is consumed, the surface of the shoe begins to create ventilation points that allow air to flow through. Over time, the shoe takes on a custom look based on the user’s activity.

Through the development of deep learning insoles, Puma aims to improve the athlete’s performance through real-time biofeedback. The disposable sole uses organisms to measure long and short-term chemical phenomena that indicate fatigue and well-being.

The silicone based insoles contain microbial cultures that monitor biochemical vitals that change during workouts. Based on what they sense, the bacterial outputs specific chemicals that cause Ph and conductivity change in the soles. The biochemical change is then registered by a network of electrical circuits, which are connected to microcontrollers that digitize the signals and translate the information to a smart device. The data from the insoles can be used to track patterns and inform the user about their fatigue before it happens.

Puma and MIT Design Lab have been conducting research in the field of biodesign since June 2017. Puma’s biodesign initiative explores biological design and fabrication in order to bring science and biotechnologies closer to everyday use through sport products.