Having recently been voted as Fast Company’s Most Innovative Company of 2013, Nike is keeping the bar raised high with the announcement of their (SLS) 3D printed football cleat today. 3D printers have been used for years in the development of various components of performance athletic shoes, but in terms of 3D printing as a final manufacturing process—-this is an innovative and highly-welcome first.

The Nike Vapor Laser Talon

Each sport has their own measure of athletic ability used in scouting and professional athletic skill development. For American football, that measure comes down to the famous 40-yard dash. Pro scouts clock 40-yard dash times in order to assess and translate measurements to a football athlete’s game-time playability. Built for an athlete to help master the 40-yard dash, the Nike Vapor Laser Talon weighs in at 5.6 oz. and is specifically designed for maximum traction on football turf and to help athletes maintain a longer ‘drive stance’.



Nike worked with gold medal sprinter Michael Johnson at his Michael Johnson Performance training facility, where he and his team specialize in helping athletes train for the 40-yard dash. According to MJP Performance Director, Lance Walker, an athlete’s ‘Zero Step’ is a pivotal point that can make or break a 40-yard dash time. Propulsion and acceleration speed are determined before the first step hits the turf, where it then becomes all about geometry:

“Nike’s new 3D printed plate is contoured to allow football athletes to maintain their drive position longer and more efficiently, helping them accelerate faster through the critical first 10 yards of the 40” said Johnson. “Translated to the game of football, mastering the Zero Step can mean the difference between a defensive lineman sacking the quarterback or getting blocked.”

-Lance Walker, MJP Performance Director


Now that the lid has been blown off, it will be interesting to see where this takes the near future of footwear manufacturing. While conceptual footwear design and ‘high fashion’ 3D printing has been in the limelight for awhile, neither of those executions would meet the durability and strength needed for athletic performance:

“SLS technology has revolutionized the way we design cleat plates – even beyond football – and gives Nike the ability to create solutions that were not possible within the constraints of traditional manufacturing processes”

-Shane Kohatsu, Director of Nike Footwear Innovation


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.