For people with diabetes, comfortable shoes can go a long way to alleviate some of the pain that goes along with the disease, and custom made footwear using 3d printing is about to make life even better for the nearly 30 million people with diabetes in the United States.
Nerve damage associated with diabetes can leave feeling in the feet diminished, which in turn creates wounds and pressure points that become long term, painful problems.
A team of doctors, scientists and researchers in Germany is working on a solution to this hardship by creating custom shoe insoles that are designed to be softer in the areas of the feet that are experiencing nerve atrophy.
"In the past, insoles for patients with diabetes were hand-made by orthopedic shoemakers," writes Niamh Louise Marriott over at Drug Target Review. "In the future, these specialist shoemakers will be able to produce insoles more cost-effectively thanks to new software and the use of 3D printers. This approach means the mechanical properties of each insole can be assessed scientifically and more effectively."
There are plenty of examples of 3d printed shoes for the mass consumer, including a partnership between DSW and Feetz to provide custom footwear to in-store customers, however the research being done in Germany to address diabetes is an excellent example of health care and 3d printing coming together to bring a new solution to market for millions of people.
“Digital foot mapping is already common practice. As part of this project, we have now also completely digitalised the insole production process,” says Dr Tobias Ziegler, a scientist working on the project.