Once upon a time, about 3.2 million years ago, there was Lucy, a female Australopithecus afarensis who lived in the Afar region, Ethiopia. After discovering her fossils in 1974, scientists studied her bones and concluded that, much like the actual humans, the extinct hominid spent most of her time walking on two legs, wandering around the lands of present-day Ethiopia.
Lucy was one of the first species to get up on her feet and walk. Being a bipedal creature, she used to explore her surroundings and although her walking evolved – a very important evolutionary detail for present-day humans – Ethiopia’s landscapes remained unchanged, greeting the further hominid generations with the same views and terrain conditions.
To conquer these unwelcoming lands, the modern humans improvised and developed a series of items that allowed them to overcome such obstacles more easily. One of these special artifacts are shoes, which, according to sports equipment manufacturing company Salomon, should act as “a natural extension of the body,” a link that reunites man with nature.
Back in 2008, the company was challenged by extreme runner Kílian Jornet Burgada to create a customized running shoe, that not only had to fit him perfectly but also offer the best protection for his feet while roaming free in the big mountains. After the six-time champion received his shoe, he addressed another challenge: can Salomon craft footwear that offers the same kind of comfort for everyone? Is their design team able to create a customized shoe that would fit perfectly every human being?
The answer is yes. After designing and devising a prototype for over a decade, Salomon created the S/LAB ME:sh, a running shoe that completely molds to the foot shape of any person. They are even a perfect fit for Lucy, the primitive Cinderella who makes the headlines of our weekly #ThrowBrandThursday column.
Unlike the popular Disney story, in which the royal guards are looking for the future princess, the more current story titled “From Lucy to Kilian” features a team of engineers, designers, and athletes searching the perfect shoe that has to be “unique to every human.”
To make sure that every single detail is visually captured and added to the final story, Kinship agency supervised the whole scientific process. The creatives recorded the whole procedure step-by-step and created a five-minute-long video, in which we can catch a glimpse of the remarkable scenes that unfold in Salomon’s lab.
The universal shoe was conceived to fit any athlete, be they a primitive hominin or a modern-time Homo sapiens. Its design lines follow Lucy’s foot curves and, at the same time, adapt to Jornet’s preferences and needs. The shoe that pays a wonderful tribute to evolution was crafted with the help of a group of paleoanthropologists specialized in motricity. The experts joined the team and improved Salomon’s shoe recipe with a couple of key ingredients: anatomical fit, a feature that complements the foot shape, and biomechanical fit, a characteristic that draws attention to one’s running style.
Then, the team focused on where and how an individual would use the shoes; so, they included a usage fit. Lastly, the crew had a guess about the Australopithecus’ cosmetic preferences. Assuming that Lucy wasn’t that picky in terms of fashion, Salomon painted the footwear in black, underlining the taste for minimalism that probably ran through her blood.
“The goal was to create footwear that is an extension of the body and to place production closer to the end consumer. What is unique about ME:sh is that it is a combination of every piece of know-how we have in our footwear organization—from what we have inside our own walls to external know-how from our factory. You are never alone in creating something like this,” says Jean-Marc Pambet, President of Salomon.
“The service to athletes from Salomon is wonderful,” admitted the sportsman who climbed the Everest twice in a week. “But while Salomon is making products for everyone, I always feel a bit guilty that I get to have certain things and not everyone else can get them. Now, with ME:sh, you don’t have to be a top athlete to have a customized shoe.”
Salomon invites every sports enthusiast to customize their own footwear just the way they like it on http://www.salomon.com/slabmesh. And while Jornet equipped himself with ME:sh shoes to overcome some harsh terrain surfaces, French professional skier Candide Thovex remained faithful to his hobby and defeated some of the world’s most difficult-to-conquer slopes wearing skis instead of shoes.
So, which extreme sportsman performed better? Don’t pick sides just yet. Check out the docu-style video and follow the birth of Lucy’s ME:sh. Then, you can let us know who impressed you most: the man with the all-person shoes, or the one with all-terrain skis?