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Can The World’s Best Pole Vault Spike Be 3D Printed?

Pole vault spikes are a type of special shoes used in pole vaulting.

Also known as pole jumping, vaulting is a track and field exercise where athletes use long and flexible poles as an aid to jump over a bar.

Paul vaulting is also a form of competition and an Olympic Games event.

The sport was granted medals since 1896 for men, and 2000 for women.

To compete, athletes rely on technologically advanced poles and shoes.

These are made from high-performance materials; as the heights increased, so the composite materials.

Over the years, pole materials changed from bamboo to aluminium, fibreglass and more recently to carbon-fibre.

However, one thing that hasn’t changed at all is the women’s pole vault shoe.

Student Designs 3D Printed Pole Vault Spikes For Women

Fellow Madison George, a student at Elon University, has noticed that women in pole vaulting are still using unisex shoes.

Undoubtedly, the competition had gained freedom from being gender-biased by allowing women to compete.

Yet, 20 years later, this sport still lacks freedom, regarding the shoes that women are allowed to compete in.

Madison did thorough research and discovered that the pole vault spikes available on the market are not designed for women’s feet.

These shoes fail to offer adequate support and put female athletes at risk of injuries.

Madison decided to help by making a custom made pole vaulting shoes.

She chose 3D printing as manufacturing technology, as she felt it would allow customising the shoes according to each athlete’s feet.

Madison’s innovative idea was selected at the Elon University Maker Hub and awarded $300 in funding.

In her design, she kept the ball of the feet narrower, the arch higher, and she also adopted seven spikes for extra support and lift.

Although the design was innovative, Madison hit a second major hurdle when it came to the best materials for her pole vault shoes.

With the help of Maker hub, the designer was able to print a rough prototype of her vaulting shoe.

However, she quickly realised that there are severe material limitations as the Hub uses mainly rigid polymer filaments.

That was not ideal for products that require a high degree of flexibility, as it is the case of women’s pole vault spikes.

However, Pick 3D Printer and Dan Reis, senior instructional technologist at Maker Hub, decided to help.

Together, they approached Carbon, a 3D printing company based in Silicon Valley, which has also worked with Adidas to mass-produce sneakers.

“I went in, thinking I was going to use nylon for the upper, and NinjaFlex for the sole. But, they showed me lots of materials and samples. We talked about different types of nylon and thermoplastics, melting points, hardness, elasticity, yield strength”, said the designer.

Madison was ecstatic.

“Finally, we went upstairs to one of the rooms, and he just cut me lots of pieces of suitable materials to work with.”

To date, Madison has 3D printed two prototypes of the sole for the pole vaulting shoe, to showcase at the university’s ‘Maker Takeover’.

Next step is to improve the spikes, and finally to create a pole vault shoe with interchangeable soles that can be used for other events, not just pole vaulting.