Skip to main content
National Winner

Voronoi Runners

100% biodegradable sneakers implementing material development & 3D printing, constructed without the use of any adhesives.

What it does

Made using only 100% biodegradable materials, Voronoi Runners offer a solution to the large amounts of waste impacting the environment from the footwear industry. Eliminating adhesives allowing the materials to be separated and composted individually.

Your inspiration

Largely inspired by the Allbirds sneakers, proving how comfortable, environmentally friendly footwear is possible. Footwear production is increasing tenfold, raising the number of shoes entering landfills while suppliers are being pushed to offer more environmentally friendly materials. Two major factors complicating the end-of-life management of footwear is material choice and joining agents. Currently materials focus on performance while adhesives prevent the separation and treatment of materials. This suggested a design for a sneaker using only biodegradable materials with no adhesives, to lead the future of sustainable footwear.

How it works

Gelatine and glycerine based recipes are used to create a biodegradable foam to replace foam blown polyurethane. Natural ingredients are added to improve the strength, compression, and water resistance. A Voronoi structure is then 3D printed from a strong and flexible biodegradable filament used to create a skeleton for the sole and midsole of the shoe. The structure also allows for tailoring to each individual foot using 3D scanning, ensuring the shoes are comfortable and prompt healthier exercise. This skeleton provides strength and structure to the sole and allows for a stitching attachment to connect the upper. Filling this structure with the biodegradable foam combines additive manufacturing with injection molding for a specialized outcome. The upper is cut from a Merino wool fabric with 3D printed details, printed heel and toe caps are inserted with a plant fiber reinforcement and sewn shut before stitching onto the edge of the sole.

Design process

Constructing the sneaker without adhesives involved concepts utilizing wrapping, tying and stitching. Upon evaluation against a design criteria the most probable solution involved a skeletal structure made from a resilient, flexible material that the upper can be stitched onto. The skeletal design lead to the exploration of parametric structures, this is a repetitive structure renowned for its strength to weight ratio, found throughout architecture. This took me into the Voronoi structure which is used to divide a surface into a network of regions. The exploration of the biodegradable foam came from the obvious demand for a polyurethane foam alternative. The foam needed to be strong, lightweight, compressive, water resistant, and flexible. The final recipe foam is poured into a mould of the 3D printed structures. An insole is then used to stop any rubbing or sticking, this is made from a denser bio foam with a thin layer of fabric. Regarding the upper I explored 3 areas; pattern cutting, woven fabrics and 4D knitting. Using traditional pattern cutting allowed me to use existing developed fabrics and focus more on reducing off cuts and minimizing pieces so less time is spent joining. This process resulted in multiple test shoes building up towards the final working design.

How it is different

Almost all footwear claiming to be ‘sustainable’ in reality contains small traces of recycled or biodegradable materials. All still involve the use of strong adhesives joining plastics and polyurethane foam making reusing extremely problematic. This prevents the separation of materials stopping any end-of-life material management. The Voronoi Runners are made only from 100% biodegradable materials, where each different material can be disassembled and composted appropriately. This results in a shoe that can be fully returned to earth in a manageable process, achievable by your average user. This process excludes the need for any commercial involvement. By using scanning and 3D printing to create the midsole allows the shoe to be unique to the individuals foot, combining modern manufacturing processes with environmentally friendly alternatives for a competitive design in today’s footwear market.

Future plans

The Voronoi Runners are currently in the process of printing full scale soles and testing the strength and performance with different biodegradable filaments. The foam can be developed further to improve the weight and tensile strength for a longer lasting shoe. Material development is continuous looking for more breathable lightweight materials especially in the footwear industry, along with the continuous development of biodegradable materials ensures the constant improvement of these products. In the future I hope to have the production and construction fully resolved and produce a marketable product.


Entered into the Best awards, Good Design awards, Red Dot awards and Core 77 design awards.

End of main content. Return to top of main content.

Select your location