We were always fascinated by the beauty of different textiles. When you see such a detailed picture of a structure of some amazing fabric, you can definitely understand the whole world of exploration and development behind its creation. And you are just mesmerized by the beauty of it.
So we started our THM MACROSHOTS editorial series, where we explore the complexity, depth, and beauty of different fabrics, textiles, materials, and hardware through the macro lens.
In our review today, an extremely rare and exclusive model. On our last European team trip, we visited ECCO's Innovation laboratory in Amsterdam, getting acquainted with the company's experimental division and their latest technologies and developments. In our interview, designers and engineers of the brand told and showed us what the Quant-U project is today, what we can expect from them in the future, showed the technology in action, and gave us an opportunity to test it ourselves. Today we will tell you about the Dyneema® Leather special edition Exostrikes with an inner insole created on a 3D printer by Quant-U.
Let's start with the top of the shoe.
The Exostrike silhouette first appeared in public in the spring of 2018. Designed by Niki Taestensen, the model is the result of a combination of futuristic modern design with functionality and technologies suitable for a pro-level hiking shoe.
Later, the silhouette became the subject of a collaboration with Stone Island, painted using Garment Dyed technology.
This particular colorway is super exclusive: about 200 pairs were made in total specially for the Berlin concept store Andreas Murkudis.
The upper of the shoe is made of Dyneema bonded leather, thanks to which the model won the Red Dot Design Award 2018 [an award in the field of design awarded by the "Design Center of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia" from Essen. Awarded to designers and manufacturing companies for special achievements in the design of consumer goods] and the 2018 Scandinavian Outdoor Award in the "Footwear" category. It is a thin material with a thickness of only 0.5 millimeters, with an attractive and luxurious appearance. ECCO describes it as "the thinnest but most durable leather on the market", and according to their technical data, it is 5 times stronger than any other leather. The material provides excellent tear resistance and an incredibly high strength-to-weight ratio. Although the top of this particular model is not waterproof [unlike its GORE-TEX counterparts], it is sufficient for medium water resistance and everyday use.
The bottom of the shoe is very interesting to research as well. The sneakers have a PHORENE™ midsole, a lightweight polyurethane patented by ECCO, which makes the sole lighter, softer, and more resistant to severe frosts, and is also designed for effective recovery/return of energy. The FLUIDFORM™ technology allows you to integrate elastic, shock-absorbing material directly into the shoe mold. They connect the sole to the top instantly and smoothly, without using any glue, which definitely adds it more "sustainability points".
A notable element of the silhouette is the external protection by the PROSOMA heel – a rigid polyurethane heel cup. Thanks to the texture resembling hard rubber, this cup provides dense support and additional protection from impacts. Due to these technologies, the model received the prestigious ISPO 2018 Gold Award. And the thick rubber outsole developed by ECCO has successfully proved itself on various types of surfaces, including in frosty weather. Our team tested different variations of the silhouette over the years, and all of them, without any damage, lasted for multiple seasons in a heavy use scenario.
Let's move on to the most exciting part of the model, more precisely, a custom-made one. Those silicone insoles made on a 3D printer using Quant-U technology were developed specifically for us during our visit.
Quant-U is a platform where future tech combines to create a shoe revolution. A new paradigm of comfort, fit, and performance, customized around you using data, while never forgetting your personal habits and preferences. Usually, shoes are created for averages, but no one is truly average. An intuitive sensor system developed by ECCO Innovation Lab in partnership with Cambridge Design Partnership was created for the production of such unique insoles.
The first step in this system is to measure your anatomical and biometric foot data by 3D scanning [foot size, girth, instep, arch height]. Then, you put on special shoes with an electronic sensor inserted into the sole, and data of your gait is collected on the treadmill in real time [stability, foot strike patterns, energy return, step symmetry, loads, cushioning]. The final stage is your personal shoe preferences regarding the fit.
In conclusion, after these three steps, a virtual representation of the customer is generated, as well as 3D geometry for the customized component that will be 3D printed with silicone.
These components, once 3D printed, are inserted in specially developed Quant-U tech footwear (boots and sneakers). ECCO Augmented Silicone Cores are not to be confused with customized inlay soles. They actually substitute 75% of the midsole while including full orthotic functionality.
The results are fully bespoke performing components that can be removed from the 3D printer and inserted in a shoe within a few seconds without any post-production.
Comparatively speaking, custom inlays enhance the walking experience of an already stellar platform.
Quant-U, until now, has been an experimental project for ECCO shoes, with the largest deployment, in terms of in-store events, in Japan. But we definitely expect the ILE team to develop this story and make these technologies available to more people.
In the meantime, read our extensive interview with the engineers of ECCO Innovation Lab at the link below.