Sneaker brands introduce rapid customization services

Young consumers increasingly expect brands to provide instant gratification and customization, a combination that can be challenging to deliver. Lately, sneaker companies are catering to these two priorities by ramping up the speed of production for personalized kicks.


Last month, Nike launched the Nike Makers’ Experience, an invite-only, limited-time event at its Nike By You studio in NYC where shoppers could design sneakers to be produced in less than an hour. Visitors could select a standard or slip-on pair of Nike Presto X shoes and choose their own colors, patterns, and graphics. Using AR, object tracking, and project systems, shoppers’ designs were displayed in real-time. While the Makers’ Experience was an experiment, Nike plans to eventually bring the technology to retail stores, offering a faster alternative than its standard iD process.


Vans prides itself on customization, having offered this capability since opening its first store in 1966. Building on this focus, the company has created a machine that can make a custom pair of shoes in a mere 15 minutes and plans to roll out the technology in 2018. Shoppers can choose any pattern, photo, or design within an app, and a technician alters their graphic to adjust for distortion and warping. Once the design is ready, it’s sent to a printer that produces a large sheet of film, and blank sneakers are placed in a high-tech ink transfer machine with the graphic laying over each shoe.


Asics has announced a forthcoming system that uses microwave technology to produce custom midsoles of sneakers in as little as 15 seconds. While still in the testing phase, the brand has created a microsite and videos revealing its intent to implement the tech in stores so customers can choose their designs in-person, “bake” color pellets into a mold, and then walk out with a unique pair of shoes. Asics asserts that microwave molding is more environmentally friendly than traditional injection molding, therefore catering to consumers’ desires for eco-consciousness. Additionally, as customers are creating exactly the shoes they want, it will reduce wasted inventory.