Self-repairing trainers 3D-printed from
biological cells by Shamees Aden


Wearable Futures: London designer and researcher Shamees Aden is developing a concept for running shoes that would be 3D-printed from synthetic biological material and could repair themselves overnight.

Protocell Trainers by Shamees Aden
Photograph by Sam J Bond

Shamees Aden's Protocells trainer would be 3D-printed to the exact size of the user's foot from a material that would fit like a second skin. It would react to pressure and movement created when running, puffing up to provide extra cushioning where required.

Aden developed the project in collaboration with Dr Martin Hanczyc, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark who specialises in protocell technology. Protocells are very basic molecules that are not themselves alive, but can be combined to create living organisms.

Protocell Trainers by Shamees Aden

By mixing different types of these non-living molecules, scientists are attempting to produce artificial living systems that can be programmed with different behaviours, such as responsiveness to pressure, light and heat.

"The cells have the capability to inflate and deflate and to respond to pressure," Aden told Dezeen at the Wearable Futures conference in London. "As you're running on different grounds and textures it's able to inflate or deflate depending on the pressure you put onto it and could help support you as a runner."

Protocell Trainers by Shamees Aden

After a run, the protocells in the material would lose their energy and the shoes would be placed in a jar filled with protocell liquid, which would keep the living organisms healthy. The liquid could also be dyed any colour, causing the shoes to take on that colour as the cells rejuvenate.

"You would take the trainers home and you would have to care for it as if it was a plant, making sure it has the natural resources needed to rejuvenate the cells," said the designer.

Protocell Trainers by Shamees Aden

Aden added that her footwear project was intended to help a broader range of people comprehend the potential of protocell technology, and claimed the speculative results could become reality by 2050.

Protocell Trainers by Shamees Aden

The project is being presented at Wearable Futures, an event focusing on innovations in wearable technologies taking place in London from 10-11 December.

Photography is by the designer unless otherwise stated.

  • Pete

    It could, it would – stop talking (particularly about 3D printing) and start doing.

    • llort

      She would if she could.

      • A_potato

        There is a prototype here which is now going through industry funding. Read first, bro.

    • bonsaiman

      Talking is oh so much easier.

    • Leiurus

      I couldn’t agree more. All these “will – could – would” things (I don’t even want to call them “projects” or “ideas”) are less than zero. I have a hard time remembering anything with such a hype / uselessness ratio. Put anything together with “3D printing” and “bio-something” to wrap it and you’re good to go on Dezeen.

      A scientist would turn the “would” into “can”. A designer would turn the “will” into “are”. A writer would make a good story around it.

      But this is nothing, really. The only “work” I see here are a few visuals and they are awful (a melted plastic shape in a glass tank with green light, come on) and childish.

      Architecture and design are not 100% about it, but are still quite a lot about actually doing things. The confrontation of concept and real-life application is the essence of our industry. If I wanted to see some fancy bio-something, I would look at the work of the props designers on a Cronenberg’s movie, at least these guys make it believable.

      And for all those who will argue that this is just the draft of a product that will become reality: believe me, if they were just remotely close to an industrial application they would be registering thousands of patents instead of making recycled plastic soles in green-lit fish tanks.

      • A_potato

        Citing 80’s sci-fi only shows how conservative the peanut gallery is from the present state of biomaterials. Cronenberg, seriously? A child-like imagination applied to design can be very powerful. A child-like knowledge of the present can lead to critics that fall on their face.

    • A_potato

      They ARE doing, YOU are talking.

      • Tom

        Really? Where’s the prototype then?

        • Dan Toose

          That would be the thing in the photos.

          Man, what a pack of desperate naysayers. The language seems to be fairly standard for something that’s not in full commercial production yet, but has been validated at the prototyping stage.

          The article clearly states that the product is being demonstrated at a public / industry event.

          • A_potato

            Haters on Dezeen are never the sharpest bunch, just the most conservative.

        • A_potato

          Read up on biomaterials, then pay me to tell you more.

          • Leiurus

            I’ll pay you in 2050, when the project “might” have become reality ;)

          • A_potato

            It will take you until 2050 to read about biomaterials? Advances like these are already present.

  • Fed Fef

    Basically, they’re alive.

  • Adam Adil

    Wow, so much hate! Just let her get on with it, rather than shoot her down before she has a chance!

  • Adam Adil

    I think everyone’s being a bit harsh – she seems to be trying to make this and someone at Dezeen has asked if they could write an article about it. I don’t think she’s gone out of her way to talk in the hypotheticals.

    As for the concept, which no-one seems to be discussing, it seems like quite a good idea to have shoes which repair themselves, and adapt to the pressures of running on different surfaces.

  • $45646933

    Cloudy with a chance of meatballs – Spray on shoes.

  • Kelvin K

    I’ll be too old for a run in 2050 by then :(

    • PPXXX

      Regenerative medical technologies will fix that. :)


    I’ll be the first person to pull that shoe over my head and blow air into it with my nostrils like a rubber glove.

  • Maisie

    Isn’t this what the scientist does in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs? :D