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3D-printed bio-shoes could repair themselves

It doesn't take long for avid runners to wear down a new pair of shoes. But some day runners and walkers alike may be able to pop protocell shoes into a vat of liquid to regenerate overnight.

Protocell shoe
Protocell shoes could patch themselves up. Shamees Aden

"Shoe Goo" could take on a whole new meaning if designer and material researcher Shamees Aden's synthetic-biology running shoes become reality.

Her concept uses protocells that would be 3D-printed to the exact size of a person's foot and fit like a second skin. The material would react to the environment underfoot, providing more or less cushioning when needed. Protocells aren't technically alive, but can behave like living cells.

"Protocells is a form of synthetic biology that blurs the gap between the non-living and living," Aden wrote on her Web site. "Encouraging the emergence of life from lifeless liquid chemicals manufactured artificially in the laboratory could provide us the building blocks to create a new man-made nature."

Taking care of the shoes would require a little more than just throwing them into the closet when you get home. They would need to be immersed in a container full of protocell liquid to replenish the material.

"You would take the trainers home and you would have to care for it as if it was a plant, making sure it has the natural resources needed to rejuvenate the cells," Aden told Dezeen.

Aden is collaborating with protocell specialist Martin Hanczyc from the University of Southern Denmark on the development of the shoes. Don't expect to see these in a box at with a Nike swoosh at Foot Locker anytime soon. Aden expects it could be 2050 before the product is practical.

Amoeba shoe product concept
It would feel like wearing a second skin. Shamees Aden