Under Armour Inc UA has been making significant strides in its footwear business, but its next move could be the biggest one yet. With the recent news that Michael Phelps will be wearing 3D shoes in the Olympics, this little-known industry's exposure is about to explode.
Phelps will be wearing Under Armour's 3D printed "Architect" model in red, white and blue outside of the pool. Under Armour's $300 Architect model released in March and sold out in under 20 minutes. The company plans to release another color for their 3D shoe line in late August.
3D Shoes Breaking Through
The next revolution of the shoe industry is undoubtedly in 3D shoes. All the big players, Nike Inc NKE, adidas AG (ADR) ADDYY, New Balance and Under Armour are positioning themselves for this revolution.
The U.S. men's soccer team is also set to wear the 3D printed Nike "Magista 2" in the upcoming Rio Games. Adidas has announced a fully automated "Speedfactory," which will open early 2017 in Germany.
The benefits of 3D printed shoes for athletes and everyday people alike are well documented. Mass produced shoes currently are made to fit people of varying sizes, meaning millions of a single shoe model treat the foot the same way. 3D printing is a fully customizable process that is tailored to the individual, allowing for greater performance.
Nike endorser and 2012 Gold Medal Runner Allyson Felix will debut the 3D printed Zoom Superfly Flyknit, by Nike, in the Rio Olympics as well. The new model will help Felix navigate better and use the track's curves to her advantage. The shoes have been reported to shave a tenth of a second off a runner's time, enough to turn a fourth-place runner into a gold medalist.
What's So Special?
"3D shoes are designed for your weight; so you have the maximum lift, strength, wear capabilities, " said the founder of 3Dshoes.com, an e-commerce platform positioning themselves to be a leader of this burgeoning industry. 3dshoes.com has shifted from an informative resource on the industry to an e-commerce platform that will sell top 3D shoe brands. The company is waiting for the market to mature, which they expect to happen in 2017.
While 3D printing has been around for years, it has yet to make a major shift to the mainstream. The shoe industry could be the catalyst that takes this niche industry to the mass market.
The 3D shoe printing process is direct-to-consumer and takes the gamble out of the picture for the company.
"The thing with 3d printing is, you don't have to take a gamble on a product that may or may not sell, "said 3DShoes.com. The shoes are literally made to order.
With excess inventory always playing a key role in any apparel company's business, 3D printing could potentially disrupt the entire shoe industry.
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