These 3D-Printed Ballet Shoes Could Make a ‘Pointe’ of Ending Dancer Pain

There may be 28,360 shoe stores all across the United States, but a young dancer can’t simply go into a Payless or a Foot Locker to buy the high-quality shoes they need for class. Typically, they’ll need to go to a local dance store, particularly if they need a specialty shoe for dancing en pointe. This advanced technique of ballet comes with a lot of prestige — but it also comes with a lot of pain. However, that could all become a thing of the past if a new high-tech means of creating pointe shoes catches on.

That shoe, called the P-rouette, was developed by Hadar Neeman, a graduate from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design’s product design degree program. Neeman was inspired by a friend who danced en pointe to create a new type of shoe with 3D-printed fabrics. When Neeman saw the state of her friend’s feet, complete with crooked toes and bruises, she thought there must be a better way to go.

And so, Neeman created a shoe that adapts to precisely fit a dancer’s foot and withstand the physical demands asked of both dancer and footwear. The fit is determined by a scanning process that can be performed via mobile app. This scan is then used to develop a detailed map and a 3D model. Then, the actual shoes can be made. The sole, toe, and insole of the pointe shoes are made of a lightweight lattice polymer, which conforms to the foot’s contours. The satin-like, elastic upper portion of the shoe is cut on a special shoemaker’s last that Neeman designed; this fabric material is placed between the lattice components during the process so that no glue or stitches are even required.

The result is not only much more comfortable, but it’s also much more durable. Traditional pointe shoes last only for about 10 hours of dancing. However, the P-rouette lasts for three times longer and offers extra support to prevent pain, as well as some of the most common injuries dancers experience.

The P-rouette looks like a hybrid of the traditional and the high-tech, which is actually exactly what it is. The satin-like material retains its familiar blush pink hue, but the toe looks far more cutting-edge and cushioned. While it’s not yet clear whether these pointe shoes will help dancers all around the world protect their bodies, the idea is certainly a promising one.

We’re using 3D printers much more these days, as they’ve become more affordable and accessible. They can create everything from printed concrete materials to artificial body parts. And now, they can even be used to make a dance shoe that provides a better fit and protects individuals from injury.

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