Geo Week News

August 13, 2015

Scan to FIT (Your Shoes)


I have no idea if these will fit me.

Recently, I spent a rainy day indoors looking for a pair of hiking boots online–and ran into a common problem. I found a pair of boots that fit all my needs, but I had no idea what size would fit me. You’ve probably been there before, and maybe you solve it by ordering two pairs and sending one back. Judging by all the Zappos boxes moving through the mailroom in my office building, it seems that this is a popular solution. But it’s also a waste–it’s expensive (for Zappos), and time-consuming (for you). Couldn’t 3D tech solve this problem?

Seems like Shoefitr had the right idea. Just like my predecessor did, I looked into the company and found their idea to be brilliant. They’ve been 3D-scanning shoes for a few years now (at least since SPAR last wrote about the company), and have built up an impressive database of metrology-grade models with each shoe’s measurements.

It works like this: You go to a footwear website that uses Shoefitr (like, where I found it) and find a shoe you want. Click on “See How it Fits.” Shoefitr asks what kind of shoes you already own, what sizes you own them in, and then gives you a size recommendation for the shoes you’re about to buy.

Here’s what your results looks like:


The picture includes hotspots that show how the shoes differ from an average shoe in the same size. Maybe it’s a little bit wider, maybe the toe box is smaller. It gives you a good idea for how the shoe will fit. At least, a better idea than Amazon reviews from some random dude named HIKELORD21 whose review reads “GOT THEM IN THE NORMAL SIZE AND LOVE THEM!!!!111!.”

Shoefitr seems pretty great, right? Amazon thought so too, so they bought the company. The service will probably save them gajillions of dollars in shipping. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t have to be perfect to make it more likely that you get a good fit.

As impressive as it is, I can’t help but think we’re only seeing half of a solution here. Sure, it’s good to get an idea of how the shoe might fit before putting in your order, but we shouldn’t settle for knowing how a shoe compares to the average shoe. Why aren’t we scanning our own feet to place them (virtually) inside these scans of the shoe? Why can’t an online service show me a picture of how the show will fit MY foot, complete with colored graphics for loose or tight spots?

There are professional scanning services offered in some footwear stores, but these are geared toward people finding the right kind of running shoes, or orthotics, or ordering custom shoes. To my knowledge, we still have no way to scan our feet in the comfort of own homes to find just the right fit.

It might have seemed futuristic even a few years ago when Shoefitr debuted, but it’s not so far-fetched now. We have 123D Catch on our phones, we have Kinects on our TVs and our little robots, we’re creating 3D models from point-and-shoot photos, and Google is making 3D-scanning cell phones.

So why aren’t we scanning our feet for shoes yet?

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