Next generation sprint spikes, tailored to meet the exact needs of elite athletes and boost their performance, have been developed by Loughborough University.
By customising the sole units of sprint spikes to match the characteristics of individual athletes, researchers at Loughborough have been able to maximise the performance of elite runners. The bend and stiffness of a sole plate can double the amount of mechanical energy they generated at the ankle in a sprint related task.
The research found that the dynamics of the ankle and foot are influenced by the mechanical properties of footwear. Furthermore, performance was individually maximised within the stiffness range, highlighting the importance of personalised footwear.
The research team first took 3D digital scans of athletes’ foot and the scans were imported into Solid Works CAD software to create designs with varying bendign stiffness. Using Selective Laser Sintering machine by 3D Systems and DuraForm Plastic, a tough Nylon 12 based thermoplastic, they could create the personalised outsoles, altering the stiffness to suit the specific requirements of elite sprinters. Standard sprint shoes uppers supplied by New Balance Athletic Shoes were attached to the Duraform sole units.
“If you compare elite male runners with elite females they are very, very different. But at the moment the footwear is ostensibly identical,” says Mike Caine, professor of sports technology and innovation at the UK’s Loughborough University. The soles are invented and patented at the university and Caine is confident it can deliver new gains on the track.
(Images credit: CNN)
Researchers expect that this technology could eventually allow every consumer to have their own personalised footwear.
Selective Laser Sintering
Selective Laser Sintering is an Additive Manufacturing process that takes a 3D CAD model of a product, slices into 0.1mm slices and manufactures each slice one by one using high-temperature laser to melt or fuse powdered plastic into solid cross-sections, until 3D parts are built.
The SLS process enabled the Loughborough researchers to quickly build “one-offs,” encouraging freedom beyond what is afforded by other manufacturing processes. Sintered parts are known to be tough and durable and used for prototyping and end-use applications.
“We could have gone to molding, but it would have taken us a lot more time and a lot more money,” says Dr. Neil Hopkinson, the principle investigator for the Loughborough project. “Time, cost and design freedom were improved with selective laser sintering.”