3D printing is truly a boon to the discerning consumer in an industry like that of footwear, where there are only so many styles and manufacturers of shoes—but every foot is different. Coupled with sports, where each one requires different elements in shoes, the customization allowed with 3D printing sends runners and cyclists hurtling over the finish line even faster—and more comfortably. It can be incredibly hard to participate in either recreational sports or super competitive challenges when the feet are super sore and sweaty.
Innovation is often spurred on by motivation—and fun is often a precursor to all of the above. Cycling enthusiast Alan Jacobsen has enjoyed many years of cycling—but along with that came many years of sore feet. All that rugged, outdoor activity often requires the body to fuel it—and it can exhaust it as well.
Jacobsen was frustrated that he couldn’t find insoles that would cushion his feet enough to allow him to ride without sore feet afterward. Luckily, with a background in advanced materials and manufacturing, Jacobsen was able not only to solve his problem for himself and his wife as well, but also able to develop a product–Light Soles, now on Kickstarter–for everyone in need of a custom insole.
Jacobsen and his wife share a passion for being active and are both avid cyclists—which is actually how they met, originally. Both have also shared the challenges of sore feet from their beloved sport, as well as difficulty in using other orthotics and insoles.
“I’ve had custom orthotics in the past and didn’t like the bulky feel, so when my husband said he had a better way for making custom insoles, I was skeptical. But after running over 700 miles in them so far, I don’t want to run without them,” said Caitlin Jacobsen, creator of the blog LA Running Mama.
With the goal being an ultra-light insole that offers the ultimate fit but with superior support, Jacobsen managed to avoid the need for using molds due to a light curing resin technology using UV-LEDs that not only makes a light, custom product that’s ecologically friendly—but it’s lightning fast—with each insole made within two minutes.
“If your goal is to make thin custom-shaped parts, such as shoe insoles or orthotics, building up your part layer-by-layer makes sense, just not the way a 3D printer does it”, says Jacobsen. “Composites manufacturing, which builds up layers of long reinforcement fibers is a better approach. The only problem is that traditional composites manufacturing usually requires expensive tooling and long heat cycles to make a part.”
Jacobsen developed a technique called Mold-to-Sole which uses his energy-efficient, light-curing technology. His Kickstarter campaign for Light Insoles was launched in hopes of raising $50K in capital by May 26th.
“Our Light Insoles are ultrathin, so they can easily fit into your cycling shoes, but they are also very supportive to help transfer all the load from your foot to the pedal,” said Jacobsen. “And, because they are custom shaped to your foot, they are extremely comfortable.”
The Light Cycling Insoles allow for a thin layer of performance foam under the ball of your feet, which reduces pressure during pedaling. The wicking fabric also works to alleviate buildup of sweat.
For running, the Light Running Insoles offer excellent support while remaining ultralight. The Jacobsens noted that the high-impact foam insoles are so comfortable and effective that Caitlin won her first race this year while wearing the first prototype.
For Kickstarter supporters, those who pledge $65 receive a set of the running insoles. At the $120 level, supporters receive one set each of both running and cycling insoles. As pledges ascend upward to the $300-$600 range, supporters receive one or more kits depending on pledge—with kits containing not only the insoles, but also sportswear. As supporters pledge upwards with $1,000, $3,000, or more, they receive not only all the goodies but also tours of manufacturing facilities, a run and ride with the founder, meals, and more.
The insoles are truly made for a custom fit, as when you decide to order them, the process works like this:
You make a mold of your feet with a ‘foot impression box’ sent to you by Light Insoles. You imprint your feet and return it. Light insoles uses their revolutionary 3D printing and light-curing process to print the insoles, and then mails them to you with instructions for the best ways to fit the insoles into your shoes.
The business is completely family run by Alan, his wife Caitlin, and also his father, Chris Jacobsen, who works as their accountant. With Kickstarter funds, they plan to move production from the Jacobsen garage into a real manufacturing facility. They plan to hire a full team and start putting the insoles into production, working first to fulfill orders from supporters.
Are you planning to support this Kickstarter campaign? Have you been looking for a customized insole due to challenges from running and/or cycling? Share with us in the 3D Printed Light Insoles forum over at 3DPB.com. Check out the company’s Kickstarter Pitch Video below: