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Made-to-order running shoes and a whole lot more at The Running Event

Pam LeBlanc

I think I got a glimpse of the future at The Running Event this week, and it involves foot scanning machines, kinetic profiling and made-to-order shoes.

It sounds a little futuristic, but Superfeet, which has been making insoles for 40 years, unveiled its new FitStation at the event, a trade show for businesses that sell running gear and stores that sell it. The show is taking place this week at the Austin Convention Center, and I dropped by Thursday, checking out new products, meeting elite runners like 2014 Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist in the marathon Deena Kastor, and talking about industry trends.

A crowd formed at the Superfeet booth, where attendees tested out a 3D scanner and gait analysis pad that collects data used to make custom-fit insoles, shoes and recovery sandals. Superfeet has placed 10 of these “FitStations” in stores around the country as part of a pilot program.

Superfeet calls the process “kinetic profiling,” and company representative Dave Kennedy told me it can also help runners predict what type of injuries they might be prone to – and hopefully prevent them through proper footwear choice.

Here’s how it works: A customers stands on the scanner, which measures his or her foot. Then he walks across the gait analysis mat two or three times. It takes just a few minutes. Based on the information collected, and data that Superfeet has gathered from numerous running shoe makers, it can then recommend several brands of shoes that might work for the person.

That’s not all.

Information gathered in the scanning can be sent to the company’s 3D printer in Washington, where a machine creates a custom insole, with different densities in different areas, to fit the customer’s individual foot. Superfeet is also partnering with Brooks, so starting in June 2018 customers will be able to order customized versions of the Levitate footwear. They can order custom-molded “recovery slides” made by Superfeet to wear after a run.

“It’s personalized for you. It’s shaped to match your foot,” Kennedy says.

No word yet on exactly how much the service will cost, but Superfeet is banking on the idea. It plans to install 150 of the FitStation machines in 2018, Kennedy says.

“We needed to future proof ourselves, and this super proofs us,” he says. “We don’t just sell insoles anymore, we sell shape.

There’s no more 9.5 – it’s your size, and there’s a huge market for individualization and customization.”