With long and thin toes, sensitive soles and extra sweat, could these be the feet of future generations?
Sports Direct has partnered with applied futurist, Tom Cheesewright to predict what human feet will look like in 100 years’ time, and how they will adapt to our future lifestyles and environment. AI has been used to visualise these forecasts, with some shocking results.
To make his predictions, Tom imagined how changes to the way we live will influence future adaptations to our feet.
So, what will the feet of the future look like?
Adaptation 1: The soft sole
Tom explained: “We don’t spend much time in bare feet now, and when we do it tends to be indoors in very safe environments. Nowadays, we tend to wear very soft socks and increasingly comfortable and well-fitting shoes, so the thick protective skin of our soles might start to thin, making our feet become even more sensitive.”
Adaptation 2: Longer toes
Tom noted: “One of the last parts of the human foot to evolve was the larger, stiffer, big toe. It gives humans a performance advantage over our primate ancestors, allowing us to run faster, but it comes at a cost: we can’t grasp things with our feet so easily. It doesn’t seem likely that we will return to tree-dwelling any time soon, so it’s unlikely this adaptation will reverse.
“It’s easy to imagine a future where running becomes even more culturally significant, with social drivers around maintaining good health, looking good, and keeping fit into later life as more of us live longer, resulting in adaptations that give us longer toes for better performance.”
Adaptation 3: Super sweaty
Tom said: “Sweat glands release moisture as part of the process that controls your body temperature, and they are most numerous on your feet. As temperatures rise, humans will need a variety of adaptations to help them regulate their temperature. Increasing the number and efficiency of our sweat glands would be one solution, leading to some very sweaty feet!”
With our feet adapting to our new surroundings, our footwear will also have to adapt, to the introduction of exciting new technologies. Here’s what we’ll see with the trainers of tomorrow:
Future footwear 1: The shoes that go with everything
Tom said: “Never have the right pair of trainers in your wardrobe for your outfit? Want to make sure your running gear is perfectly coordinated? How about a pair of colour-changing shoes?”
How would it work? “Electrochromic materials can change their colour with the application of a small voltage. In the future, thin layers of these materials will offer an endless variety of shades for the accent pieces on your shoes, such as the logo on your Nike shoes or Reebok Classics. Controlled from your smartphone or smart glasses, the shoes would be infinitely adjustable. You could even point your camera at your outfit and the shoe app will automatically sample the colour of your t-shirt and adjust the shoes accordingly.”
Future footwear 2: Dynamic stabilisers
Tom commented: “We all know that horrible moment when you’ve clipped a curb or scuffed a toe, and you’re going down. Imagine if your favourite PUMA trainers for example instead aped your toes’ ability to flex to enhance your balance, dynamically reprofiling the sole to steady you and stop a fall.”
How would it work? “Pressure sensors in the soles of the trainers would detect shifts in weight distribution and feed this information to onboard microcontrollers. These would then offer compensating forces by using a series of stiff sole inserts to push the wearer back into a stable position. They couldn’t overcome a high-speed fall but slow losses of balance would be avoided.”
Future footwear 3: The dirt purge
Tom said: “No one likes getting their brand new Adidas trainers dirty, but keeping them clean is time-consuming. Imagine if the superhydrophobic materials that already exist are perfected to the level of individual threads. Dirt might still cling to the material, but by using water to make your shoes ‘sweat’ in a cleaning cycle, all this dirt could just be washed away.”
How would it work? “Shoes would have three layers: an inner lining that wicked moisture away from the feet, a middle layer that carried water through tiny tubes, and an outer layer made from a fabric woven from superhydrophobic threads. To clean the shoes you would just press part of the sole to a tap, forcing water through the middle layer and out through the outer fabric, carrying away any dirt.”
A spokesperson from Sports Direct said: “While shoppers today are choosing between the latest Nike high tops, future generations may have a lot more to consider when picking their footwear.
“The days of simply choosing between colours or styles could be numbered, with future shoppers needing to consider how their trainers will adapt to their surroundings, their activity, and even their outfit choices.”