London designer creates 3D-printed, regenerative running shoes from protocells

At the Wearable Futures conference, London designer and researcher Shamees Aden debuted a running shoe concept that will put your worn out kicks to shame. The shoes, which he’s developing with University of Southern Denmark professor Martin Hanczyc, are 3D printed from a synthetic biological material that can repair itself overnight.

The running shoes are the product of Aden’s study of protocells. The basic protocell molecules are not themselves alive, but can be combined to create living organisms. Mixing different protocells creates different properties, and allows them to be programmed to behave differently depending on heat, light, and pressure. The shoes’ unique construction allows them to be 3D printed to the exact size of the user’s foot, so they would fit like a second skin. While running, the shoes would react to pressure and movement, providing extra cushioning when needed.

“The cells have the capability to inflate and deflate and to respond to pressure,” Aden tells Dezeen. “As you’re running on different grounds and textures it’s able to inflate or deflate depending on the pressure you put onto it and could help support you as a runner.”


After the run, the shoes would be placed in a jar filled with living liquid protocell. The liquid works almost as a recharger or a reviver, keeping the living organisms in the shoes healthy and helping them rejuvenate. The liquid can also be dyed any color, so the shoes would take on the hue of its liquid protocell charger.

It’s an interesting concept that not only blurs the line between living and non-living organisms, but also pushes the boundaries of 3D printing. According to Aden, the technology is nearly here, and these shoes could become a reality by 2050.