3d print nike adidas technology

The Future Cost of 3D Printed shoes: Adidas vs Nike

There seems to be a never ending war between Nike and Adidas, and although Nike is winning the war when it comes to overall market share, causing its stock to rise, many sneakerheads profess tons of love for the brand with three stripes. One shoe model that may level the playing ground, especially in terms of cost, is a 3D or 4D (in the case of Adidas) printed shoe that both brands have released to the masses in the recent years.

Innovation is everywhere in the world today, with increases in technology affecting all realms of business.

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3D printing has been around for a much longer time than one would think--it was actually born in the 80’s , but became a modern day buzzword due to its growing recent applications in the medical and manufacturing fields.

Adidas tech crunch 3d print headline
Tech Crunch, who rarely makes any news about clothing, let alone shoes, was on top of Adidas’ innovation when it debuted.

Most interestingly, this technology has reached the shoe world, with the two giants Nike and Adidas leading the way, with Adidas being the first mover in this 3D shoe future.

The goal in mind for these companies was to give a better fit, lighter and faster performance, among other things–but let’s face it, these are also just super cool to look at as works of art.

As with everything that is first in the world of technology, the early versions come at a great expense. Retail prices of these shoes by both brands were astronomical, leaving people wondering if these costs will eventually go down or not.

The billion dollar shoe resale market is driven by shoes like these, so don’t be surprised when you see current day prices that are sometimes huge multiples on the original MSRP, which we will lay out at the end of this post.

Let’s begin this 3D shoe journey with Adidas, who have already has reached 4D versions of these shoes due to the years they’ve already been in this game with brand Carbon 3D.

Adidas future craft x Carbon 3D

3d carbon adidas shoes
The slogan from Carbon 3D regarding the Adidas printed model it produced

2015 was a significant year for innovation with adidas. Not only did they begin to mass produce its Ultra Boost technology along with extensive use of Primeknit, it brought tech newsworthy innovation with a printed sole with its Adidas Future Craft 3D.

The birth of this high tech, high price shoe is the result of a relationship between Adidas and tech brand Carbon 3D, a pioneer in the field of manufacturing using advanced methods, including a technique called Digital Light Synthesis which they use to construct all Adidas Future Craft models.

Adidas picked a perfect stage to finally unveil their revolutionary creation: In 2016 at the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, the brand with three stripes gifted exclusive models of the Adidas Future Craft 3D to medal winning athletes. Its strategic release to associate this technology with the pinnacle of sports perhaps set the tone for the marketing efforts that Nike would take for their own model when it would come out years later.

Price for Carbon 3D x Adidas shoes

The first 3D Printed Adidas shoe, the Adidas 3D Runner in Black became available to the public in select cities like New York, London and Tokyo in December of 2016.

$333, a high price tag, resulted for these shoes due to the collaboration between top level Carbon 3D technology and the shoe brand. We’ll come to see that a price around this range is actually quite low for this genre of shoe.

Nowadays, the Future craft is being dropped as 4D, with a retail price of $450 which is actually higher than the original.

Other Associated Adidas Carbon 3D Printed Models

Daniel Arsham adidas Futurecraft 4D 2018
From Sneakerenws.com, the Daniel Arsham adidas Futurecraft 4D

The Carbon 3D tech has been blending with model names like Y-3 for a$535 retail price for the 3D printed version,  $300 retail price for the 3D Alpha Edge, and $350 for the 4D ZX 4000.

It will be cool to see where 3D Carbon and Adidas are headed as technology advances and costs (hopefully) go down.

Nike 3D Printed Shoe: “Flyprint” Zoom Vaporfly Elite

nike vaporfly elite flyprint 3d release date march 2019
From Nike.com

Much later to the game, and without the partnership of Carbon 3D, Nike recently announced its 3D printed shoes in early 2018 with so much semi-scientific jargon that it will confuse most readers.

Main takeaways from Nike’s announcement linked to above include that their 3D printed shoes, which they call Flyprint, are “lighter and more breathable than Nike’s previously employed textiles” and  “In short, Flyprint allows for the highest-fidelity design with the greatest athlete benefit in the shortest time”. 

It’s clear that Nike really wanted to associate their 3D printed shoes with peak performance, as they debuted the initial models on the feet of medal winning marathon runners in Chicago.

nike zoom fly flyknit sale price
From Nike.com

The tragedy is that, to be 100% honest, these Nikes look way too similar to their far cheaper counterparts, the Nike Zoom Fly “Flyknit” which is actually at a discounted sale price on Nike’s website, as seen above–way, way cheaper than the 3d versions.

Price for Nike “Flyprint” Zoom Vaporfly Elite

Such high performance came with a similarly elevated pricetag: The Nike Flyprint Zoom Vaporfly Elite cost nearly $700, just for retail, which puts this shoe alongside Hyperadapt 1.0, which retailed at $720, and without any self lacing technology to justify it.

Surprisingly, despite the cost that could buy the average person 10+ pairs of shoes instead of just one, the shoe sold out quickly and led many to pay top dollar to get their hands on these feather light 3D printed pieces of art on the billion dollar shoe aftermarket.

Resale for Adidas Carbon 3D and Nike Flyprint 3D Printed Shoes

stockx adidas 4d shoes resale price
As seen on StockX.com

For the very first original 2016 Adidas 3D models, the resale price in the beginning was between $1000-$2000, but as this shoe aged, the range grew now to $2000 up to $5000 for a single pair of these pieces of history.

We’re not sure how resealable these will remain as the retail price is super high, at $350-$800, so they’re not quite a fast flip but once you have the bank and connections you should go for these because less people are going for these drops compared to more widespread, cheaper limited drops.

nike 3d vaporfly elite flyprint price print stockx
Prices as seen on StockX in early 2019

The Nike Flyprint 3D shoes surprisingly still held insanely large resale prices on top of its already high MSRP.

Both models are in the thousands of dollars, at the time of this writing in March 2019, on StockX.com, the London model of the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite 3D Printed shoe is priced at $5312 for over a $4500 profit per pair, and the Chicago/NYC Marathon/Tokyo is listed at $2200, which gave the lucky resellers over $1500 profit per pair.

The Future of Nike and Adidas Shoe Innovation

nike 3d printed prototypes popular science
From popsci.com, some future prototypes of Nike’s 3D printed sneakers.

Printing shoes is a cutting edge effort, so it’s fair to draw a correlation between these models and Nike’s Self Lacing shoes, even though Adidas has yet to incorporate electric lacing in any of its models.

Just like Nike self lacing shoes hit the market with a lot of hype and sky high MSRPs and have since dropped, we expect the prices of 3D printed shoes to lower as the technology becomes more widespread. There may even be a day where other brands like Sketchers and Reebok take on these techniques, and then these kind of shoes will not only be inexpensive–they’ll just be normal.

It’s safe to say then, that in many aspects, in 2019: The future is now.

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