When 3D printing made its first big splash nearly a decade ago, the future of everything seemed like it was here, ready to sit in our living room and give us everything we could ever want or need in an instant. Instead, a bunch of futuristic suckers spent thousands of dollars on printers that spit out small, single-piece kids’ toys. And here we are in 2022, still using dust-covered printers that demand we find a non-existent driver, a word that should only apply to golf and getaways.
Nevertheless, behind the scenes, the 3D printing industry has continued to progress and is finally figuring itself out. The manufacturing sector is maximizing its 3D capabilities and its successes are trickling down to now, footwear and apparel.
Adidas was the first footwear manufacturer to really put out a viable 3D product with its Futurecraft line, followed up by its 4D FWD shoe. That shoe utilized a 3D-printed midsole with a lattice design that visually landed somewhere between the collar on my sister’s Easter dress and a bag of uncooked Ramen. We also didn’t love the ride, but that’s another story.
Other brands followed similar paths, but with mixed results. Shockingly, in the era of the max-comfort slides and recovery shoes, nobody had the foresight to do it with a sandal– until now, as Asics just announced its first foray into 3D-printed footwear with the Actibreeze 3D sandal.
Last week, in front of a room of Asics employees and guests at the World Athletics Championship, the company unveiled the Actibreeze 3D, heralding it as the future of sustainability and manufacturing for Asics.
We were there for the event (which was a bit Zoolander-ish, but whatever) and were able to procure samples of the Actibreeze 3D for testing. This is our full overview and review of the sandals after wearing them for the duration of our time at Worlds and in the days since.
When we first saw the sandal, we were certainly intrigued. And skeptical. Intrigued because you know how much we love recovery footwear here at Believe in the Run. We’ve been high on Deckers X Lab for the last year and a half and pool days call for Oofos. Let’s be honest– we’d rather relax than run, so give us all the comfort you got.
But we were skeptical because, well… 3D printing? Come on, there’s a reason nobody’s doing this, right? It’s either not cost-effective, a piece of shit product, or just plain uncomfortable. Either way, we were willing to give the Actibreeze 3D a shot. After all, we’ll try anything once (even if it’s synthetic).
Before we get into the actual review, let’s talk about what makes this sandal different. Obviously, it’s 3D printed, which is the starting and end point, but the story inside is what makes this shoe special. Asics approached its development with a couple key goals in mind– comfort and sustainability.
On the construction side, they partnered with LuxCreo, a California-based company focused on 3D printing for industries ranging from medical to dental to eyewear. However, it wasn’t an easy task. Asics’ Japanese designers took the data and science from their shoe design and applied it to the Actibreeze design, imagining a one-piece sandal with a contoured bed that retains maximum comfort. However, LuxCreo found it incredibly difficult to reach the requirements requested by Asics. In the end, they figured it out and settled on a final design that is truly unique.
The comfort lies in the thick lattice structure (think multiple layers of honeycomb-style webbing), space out and held together by the sidewalls. It compresses and releases much like a trampoline and is truly a unique feeling. Because of the open lattice, breathability is superb and best-in-class in lab testing against its standard competitors. The footbed is constructed in a shallow canoe-like structure, cradling the length of the foot.
On the sustainability front, Asics has made it clear that its intention is to minimize the need for long-distance shipping and storage spaces. How is this accomplished? The vision, according to Asics CEO Yasuhito Hirota, is to “create product on the spot in kiosk-like stations called ‘smart factories’ installed in stores around the world.” Imagine walking into a running store, getting your foot scanned, and having a custom-printed shoe that’s truly made in-house. The bonus is that after its use, the shoe can be deconstructed and the materials recycled and re-used in the 3D-printing process.
This all seems magical on the surface, but there are limitations. For starters, the 3D printing process isn’t exactly instantaneous. It can take up to two weeks to cure the final product, meaning customers will have to wait a considerable time before their custom product is ready to pick up. In a “give it to me now, I want next-day shipping” culture, its hard to say if this will be a dealbreaker or not. Additionally, with a singular 3D design, certain limitations present themselves, like the lack of outsole or structural support elements.
That’s quite the background story, so let’s get to the actual review of the sandal. We received our samples in Eugene at the World Athletics Championships and promptly put them to use. We were craving comfort after running and walking 10+ miles a day for a week straight.
The step-in comfort of the Actibreeze 3D sandal is instantly noticeable, almost in the “wow” type way we got when we first felt Nike ZoomX under our feet. The foot is nestled into the footbed and the multi-layer lattice construction returns a considerable amount of energy. It’s truly a unique design that somehow works as it’s supposed to (and maybe even better).
I personally walked several miles out of the box in the sandal through the streets of Eugene to Hayward Field and everywhere else we went that evening. The breathability really is second to none. On a 90F-degree day, my feet weren’t a bit sweaty and didn’t slide around as I had expected them to do. The efficacy of the open mesh is quite impressive in that department.
However, there are always downsides to experimental footwear, and this has a couple. The first few miles wearing this shoe are not enjoyable. The lattice pressing into your foot feels a bit like stepping on a Lego. Not quite as harsh, but it’s irritating. However, once the sandal breaks in, the feeling goes away and I haven’t felt it since. This was the case for everyone else on our team as well.
I caught the toe of the shoe– a lot – especially after a few drinks (just being honest) or on tired legs when I wasn’t picking my feet up as much. This was probably the most annoying aspect of the sandal.
You’re gonna get hop-ons, a la the Bluth family stair truck. You thought Ons pick up a lot of rocks? You could build a castle for ants after a couple miles in this sandal. Tiny pebbles become wedged in the open hex shapes of the “outsole.” I also picked up a weird stray wire that looked like a piece of hanger and a small stick as well.
If I’m going to be completely honest– I kind of enjoyed seeing what souvenirs I picked up in this shoe. It was immensely satisfying to pluck out the tiny pebbles in the bottom with said wire, hitting those pimple-popping receptors in the brain. You know what I’m talking about. (Narrator: they don’t).
The one thing that literally everyone asks when they see this sandal is: “What happens when you step in dog shit?” First off– I live in Baltimore where it’s a time-honored tradition, up there with yelling ‘O’ in the National Anthem at an Orioles game, to not pick up dog shit. And I don’t know if I’ve stepped in a pile of dog shit once in the last several years (though I have done it with human shit, RIP Saucony Endorphin Speed). So I’m not sure how to respond to that. Just stay off your phone while walking? For real though, I guess it could happen, but it doesn’t seem pretty complicated– hose them off.
One thing I was very skeptical about but found didn’t really matter was the sandal’s performance on a wet surface. At some point, I was walking on sidewalks as sprinklers were running but didn’t find that it performed poorly. So this *should* work fine at the pool as well.
In any case, none of these things have stopped me from wearing them, and I’ve been enjoying them a lot over the last week. The other added bonus I forgot to mention is that these have quickly fallen into the “hype” category of shoes. Wearing them around, I’ve had plenty of people ask “What are those??”, which has only really happened in my Brandblack Kaiju and Deckers X Lab SPSK in the last year. Fair enough, it is a unique design and the only 3D-printed sandal on the market (to my knowledge).
To answer the title question – is the Asics Actibreeze 3D sandal worth the hype? – yes, kind of. It does offer a unique sensation and is indeed comfortable. It will also turn heads, which, sometimes that’s all we really want. However, it does come with its own set of slight annoyances on account of the open mesh design. But you also get enhanced breathability that you can’t find in other footwear. You’ll have to decide if the tradeoffs are worth it to you.
At $80 the price point is a bit high, but not totally ridiculous, especially for having a unique piece of footwear that really nobody else has.
That said, there’s one last bit of sad news for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere– while there was a super-limited release on July 21 (it sold out in minutes), the sandal won’t be back in stock until October. Perfect timing for an Aussie or South Floridian, disappointing for us in the upper half of the United States. Guess you found your new house slipper for the winter months.
You can pick up the Asics Actibreeze 3D sandal in October for $80 by using the shop link below.Shop Asics Actibreeze 3D
Watch the full Asics press conference for the Actibreeze 3D:
Want to learn more about how our review process works? Check out this guide.