Can I get you a 3-D printed deck chair for your trip on the Titanic?

3-D-shoesIt’s the newest, greatest, thing to ever hit footwear. 3-D printing!

Under Armour is launching 3-D printed shoe components made with their “5-axis simultaneous machining center.” And New Balance returns the volley with 3-D printed midsoles made with “selective laser sintering.” Other “Big Shoe” companies are also fast tracking 3-D printed products.

If there were ever a reason to say “OY!” this is it.

Hearing these companies extoll the value of custom-made 3-D printed orthotics, insoles, and midsoles is like hearing doctors rave about “new tools for blood-letting,” or exciting new “humour-balancing” technology, or “genetically improved leaches!”

If the fundamental premise is faulty, no amount of “new and improved” will fix it.

And we know that the fundamental premise of orthotics and support have no merit and only provide pain relief in a TINY percentage of users. We know that a $500 custom-made orthotic isn’t inherently better than a $20 Dr. Scholls insert.

So why the big deal over what’s  just an evolution of custom-made products that don’t work?

Well, first, it appeals to our narcissism. We like to believe we’re special and unique and, therefore, something made for our snowflake-like specialness MUST be better.

“Sure all those OTHER insoles and orthotics didn’t work,” the shoe-buying sucker customer says, “but that’s because they weren’t made FOR ME with materials mined in the multiverse with quantum gravity nano particles!”

It’s not true. But we like to believe that.

Second, it plays into the marketing tactics “Big Shoe” has been using for almost 40 years:

Every 6-12 months they roll out their newest, greatest, most unicorn-like magical technology. And they assure us, “THIS technology — not the last 10 that we sold you — will make running more pleasurable than sex, bring you one step closer to Nirvana, and pay off your mortgage.

People don’t seem to care that they present ZERO evidence that this new technology actually reduces injury or improves performance. Just like they didn’t care before.

This kind of product development and marketing is “The Shoe Company that Cried Wolf!” And, yet, unlike in the parable, most people don’t seem to stop responding to their cries.

Instead, consumers wait, salivating like Pavlov’s pooch, for THE NEW THING! and ignore and forget that the last new thing was no better than this one.

Oh, and when Big Shoe doesn’t have a new technology to roll out, they go to plan B: CELEBRITIES! “Wear the new shoe that FILL-IN-THE-BLANK ATHLETE OR RAP STAR wears and you’ll be just as cool as them… REALLY!”

I don’t know about you, but once I started living barefoot and in Xero Shoes, it’s as if I became immune to this kind of marketing. It became transparent and lost it’s power.

Of course, once Nike starts making “DNA-inspired shoes based on sequencing your genome, made from your stem cells, and available while you wait at the nearest Foot Locker,” I’m sure I’ll change my tune.