Imagine being able to grow your own footwear. Yep, we are talking sprouting a pair of bio sneakers in a matter of hours! Footwear designer @23_heels over on Instagram has a concept that takes a page out of nature, specifically the rapid growth of mushroom mycelium. In like manner, the shoe aesthetic bears a striking resemblance to its source of inspiration. The 3D formal elements and application of texture, all mimic that of the mushroom. Check out the kicks!

The Grow Kit

His concept is basically a kit that contains a clamshell pre-form foot mold and combination inner last/packaging which holds the organic growth ingredients. We’re not exactly privy to @23_heels’ manufacturing intention or material selections, but he looks to be making use of thermo-forming processes. Also growing the shoe using bioprocesses, replaces the current trend of additive manufacturing to produce highly organic shapes.

Steps To Growing A Shoe

Let’s have a look at his process boards for a high-level step-by-step of growing the MyCell Shoe. Compared to traditional shoemaking processes growing a MyCell, in theory, is pretty straight forward. The notion is that, well, its like growing a plant. Keep in mind under the right conditions mushrooms grow at a rapid rate and so would these shoes.

Ok, so the mushroom substrate media gets activated when mixed with flour and water. Obviously some serious lab time would be required to come up with the perfect growth media, but it’s safe to say its doable. Next up fill the clamshell mold, followed by the growing time. So how long might we have to wait? Well, in one of the quickest scenarios, the fruit body of certain mushrooms grow at a rate of .20″ linear inches per minute. Now I wear a size 13 shoe. A quick calculation using a bounding box around my foot would yield something in the order of 36 hours per shoe if my sizing and math is right. Not bad considering growth is happening even while I’d be catching a few ZZZZ’s!

All in all, the MyCell Shoe Concept is a pretty neat exploration and has merit, nicely holding its own among the pack of sustainability shoe proposals recently published. I’d enjoy learning a little more of @23_Heels phase one WIP stuff. I’m particularly curious to learn a little about how 3D digital modeling fits into his workflow. Could be neat to see what he would do to take take the project to the next level. I’m intrigued enough that I may follow-up this post up with a SkillCoach Virtual Design Critique and offer up a few choice nuggets of product development inspiration. Stay tuned!


Vince has worked as Studio Engineer for consumer and medical product brands such as Whirlpool, Newell and ResMed Ltd. Australia. He's garnered 39+ patents and has designed everything from totes to toasters, and fiddles to furniture. He enjoys all things 3D and has carved out a niche as a Class-A Surfacing Guru. Active in both industry and academia, Vince serves as a Creative and Technical Skill Development Coach providing hands-on training and workshops pertaining to CAID/CAD. Vince relishes opportunities to keep learning and sharing what he's learned!