Imagine the perfect shoe. It conforms to every ridge and contour of your foot. No blisters, no soreness, no pressure points; light, flexible footwear that breathes.
These perfect shoes mend themselves, adapt to the terrain and offer dynamic, real time support for every part of your foot.
Science fiction? The new science of ‘protocells’, and cutting edge design, mean the footwear of the future are just a step away.
Take some scientists, some of the most cutting edge designers in the world, and what emerges is a shoe unlike any seen before. Enter the Amoeba Surface Adapting Trainer.
3D printed biotechnology creates a shoe fashioned from ‘protocells’. A second skin for your foot made of semi-living material; cells that divide and multiply to repair themselves, adding support where needed.
And when you get home, instead of kicking your shoes off inside the front door – you feed them by placing them in a tank of nutrient rich chemicals.
Image source: Z I B I
Protocells blur the distinction between alive and not-alive
The distinction between animate and inanimate used to be clear. A cat is alive, a table is not.
But now scientists searching for the origins of life have discovered that the journey from the primordial ooze to the complex organisms and ecosystems of our world, is less clear than previously thought. The result: living shoes.
From a salty soup
Martin Hanczyc created protocells in a laboratory
It takes three things to make a cell: a body, a metabolism and some inheritable information. Simply mix, add energy and you have the stuff of life.
A single living cell can contain around 1,000,000 molecules – but to create a structure that looks and behaves like a basic cell takes as few as ten.
Scientist, Martin Hanczyc has succeeded in creating synthetic structures called protocells, groups of molecules that self assemble, move, replicate and consume energy to maintain themselves.
The origins of life on earth? Perhaps. Not living entities, but life-like structures that can be programmed to behave in specific ways.
The brain behind the incredible Amoeba shoe is Shamees Aden. She studied Textile Futures at the prestigious Central St Martins College, London.
The course encourages students to engage with cutting edge research to create concepts for the products of the future. Interacting with Martin Hanczyc’s findings, Shamees created a range of footwear that makes leather shoes look positively prehistoric.
And that’s not all. The ability to control DNA means that in future, engineers will be able to control semi-living material in the same way that software engineers write apps today.
Think strawberry plants that grow lace from their roots – even edible solar cells – we’ll be limited only by our imaginations.
If this sounds like pseudoscience, think again. Textiles Futures at St Martins has already worked in collaboration with the Medical Research Council, Nissan and the VF Corporation, owner of brands like North Face, Vans and Wrangler. The future is alive with possibility.