Volleyball is a sport that requires a great deal of athleticism. Not only is precision and power needed from the arms in order to hit the ball over the net, but a lot is required from the legs and feet, too, as volleyball players need to jump quite frequently for upward momentum. Jumping is hard on the legs, knees, feet and ankles – in fact, it’s hard on the entire body, so good shoes with plenty of support and cushioning are required.

Last year, Chinese company Peak Sport Products developed a partially 3D printed basketball shoe that was worn by NBA star Dwight Howard. Howard spoke highly of the comfort and performance of the shoes, which were named for him.

“It’s a lot better than the traditional basketball shoes,” he said. “I can clearly feel the 3D printing sole and the vamp side wall to give the feet more comfortable wearing experience.”

Ding Xia [Image: Xinhua/Yue Yuewei]

Peak was also responsible for a 3D printed running shoe last year, and now the sports brand has introduced a pair of volleyball shoes with 3D printed soles. The shoes made their first public appearance at this year’s China Volleyball League All-Star Game, where they were introduced by Peak Sport CEO Xu Zhihua with a member of the Olympic volleyball team, Ding Xia.

“Innovation is the first productive force, and it is also the basis for Peak to go international,” said Zhihua.

The Peak team spoke with both men’s and women’s volleyball players and gathered several pertinent data collections, combining what they gathered with their own knowledge of volleyball, such as the skills required and the needs of the athletes. They used this information to build the shoe, whose bottom is made from lightweight, flexible TPU 3D printed on an SLS printer. The 3D printed material creates excellent cushioning for the wearer, which is vital for the repeated jumping required by the sport.

3D printed shoes have also been seen in baseball and in several iterations of running shoes, and just a few days ago Nike introduced the first running shoe with a 3D printed upper, taking us a step closer to an athletic shoe that is fully 3D printed – soles, uppers and all. It isn’t surprising to see that athletic shoes have been the type of footwear to be impacted most by 3D printing; after all, nowhere does performance and comfort matter more than in the world of sports.

3D printing’s benefits go beyond general comfort and performance improvements, too – a 3D printed volleyball shoe can improve cushioning for any wearer, but customization is where the unique capabilities of 3D printing really come in. The technology allows for shoes to be custom made for each athlete, creating a fit and comfort that is unlike that provided by any generic shoe.

PEAK 3D print volleyball shoes. [Image: PRNewsfoto/Peak Sport Products Co., Limited]

There’s no word on when Peak’s 3D printed volleyball shoes might be commercially available; for the most part, 3D printed shoes have started out being made for the most elite athletes before becoming available to the public. As the technology advances, however, footwear like this will become more and more accessible, allowing anyone to benefit from the fit, comfort and performance that 3D printing offers.

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