This Detroit-centric shoe was on display this past weekend at Work • Detroit, a space for sharing the creative work of University of Michigan student, faculty, alumni, as well as prominent creative minds of our time. The idea began in 2011 in an Integrated Product Development (IPD) class at the University of Michigan, and through many iterations and use of advanced visualization technology, is now a designed and refined product for Detroit Treads.
Neil Zemba, a recent graduate from the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, is a member of the Detroit Treads startup and designs the shoes. Having worked for Nike, and made to read Born to Run more than once, Zemba and his team worked with experts in kinesiology as well as design to ensure the stability of the sandal and health of the wearer’s foot. To optimize comfort and stability, Zemba based his design around a 3D model of a foot—first using the Kinect as a 3D scanner, and ultimately finding success with the HandyScan laser scanner, a professional and more accurate device. He also studied pressure graphs from Nike and Jordan to analyze how the foot would fall, and where support was needed.
With the model of the foot, Zemba began designing molds for the shoes. The insole and outsole molds create the two halves of the sandal–one that underlies the foot and one that treads on the ground. Using Rapid Prototyping technology at the 3D Lab, Zemba printed two molds for each shoe. A freelance footwear designer mentored by Nike’s Wilson Smith, Zemba said this was an unusual way to make shoes. But then, this is an unusual shoe.
The shoes recall basic, traditional sandal design, while paying homage to Detroit’s automotive past and creative future. Detroit Treads employs people through Cass Community Social Services to pick up illegally abandoned tires from the side of the road, then ships the tires to Entench Inc., a tire recycling and shredding facility. The tire aggregate and polyurethane mixture is then poured into the shoe molds and cools, before the seatbelt sandal strap is sandwiched between the mold-formed insole and outsole. Having taken advantage of UM3D Lab services offered to students, Zemba is now moving on to Detroit to develop Detroit Treads. To learn more about the product and process, visit http://www.detroittreads.com/