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How Footwear Brands Capitalized on the Customization Craze in 2017

Footwear brands experimented with customization in 2017, offering customers personalized shopping and design experiences.

When Reebok opened its new flagship store located at the company’s South Boston headquarters, it also rolled out an opportunity for shoppers to customize it’s signature Classic sneaker. The YourReebok Customization shop allows customers to personalize their shoes on-site as well as opportunities to design graphic apparel and accessories in minutes.

“We are incorporating best-in-class retail technology and customer service at this flagship store,” said Paul Froio, Reebok VP of U.S. retail. “We want it to be much more than a store. It’s a full brand experience. We want to encourage discovery, and we’re honoring our heritage of in-house shoemaking with unprecedented on-site customization.”

Under Armour announced its foray into customization with the launch of UA Icon, a platform offering custom options on some of the brand’s most popular footwear silhouettes. The company takes a social media-friendly approach to customized footwear, allowing consumers to upload their own images to the shoes.

Nike tested 90-minute customization at its New York City flagship in an experience that merged digital design with traditional shoe-making. During the invite-only experience, Nike friends and family could manipulate patterns and colors to create personalized Nike Presto X styles. Mark Smith, Nike VP of innovation special projects, said the project was intended to bring to life the collaborative design experience the company offers its athletes.

Crunched for time? Resa Wearables bested Nike’s time by offering custom insoles in under an hour. In December, the 3-D printing custom insole company launched temporary foot scanning kiosks in Costco stores across the country, printing insoles on site for $150.

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Custom insole brand Upstep brought customization home by launching an online program for custom orthotics. The process is simple: The customer makes a foot imprint with a kit provided by the company and sends it back to Upstep. The company uses 3-D technology to scan the imprint and create orthotics based on each customer’s specific requirements.

FitStation powered by HP was key to new custom footwear programs by Brooks Running and insole manufacturer Superfeet. The platform captures 3-D scans of the foot, foot pressure measurements and gait analysis and interprets the data to create individualized products.

In December, Brooks unveiled the company’s “most personalized” running shoe made using FitStation data. The shoe—which will be manufactured in the U.S. at Superfeet’s headquarters in Washington state—will offer runners the opportunity to personalize midsoles to complement their foot pressure points and movement. Shortly thereafter, Superfeet rolled out its own custom recovery slides that combines its proprietary SYNCRO Recovery Foam with FitStation data to calibrate customized comfort zones that respond to the way individuals move.

Superfeet president and CEO John Rauvola said projects like these are just the beginning of the individual fit revolution. He added, “Not only will it change what people expect from their running experience, it is also an important step in making a positive difference in people’s lives by delivering the best underfoot support possible.”

Asics cooked up a unique concept for customized footwear. The brand partnered with Taiwan-based Tayin Research & Development Co., Ltd., to develop a microwave technique to speed up the time it takes to make a pair of athletic soles. The method would allow customers to custom build their footwear’s soles in a matter of seconds. Asics says the process could reduce energy consumption by 90 percent.

Custom women’s footwear brand Shoes of Prey introduced its first range of customizable sneakers in 2017. Customers can choose the colors and materials and add personal monogramming or inscriptions.

Shoes of Prey founder Jodie Fox believes the opportunities for customization are wide open. In an interview with Vamp, Fox said her vision for the future includes 3-D printing, design hubs and capabilities that allow designs to be more improvised. “Honestly, it’s been a long journey and it will never be a finished project,” Fox said. “There are lot of new and exciting technologies to speed things up further.”