Designing the right shoe for rides without a destination

Every rider wants a shoe that can walk and pedal sweet

Marcs Wilkinson
· 3 min read

The bikepackers paradox — a good bike shoe has a rigid sole, but a rigid sole is not a good hiking shoe. On any long bike trip, whether it’s bikepacking, a tour, or even a day of commuting, you need both. It’s quite the quandary and the focus of my research. There are all sorts of ways to do it — smart ways.

“I worried about how I would cope with wearable tech God status.”

Electroactive polymers! Magnetorheological fluid! Metamaterials! The innovation potential here was through the roof and I worried about how I would cope with wearable tech God status.

The hard part of dreaming for the future is that it’s never quite ready to meet you in the present. Car batteries throwing voltage for smart electro-rubber soles aren’t exactly the pack-light alternative to those Chacos. It holds no mustard and the critics don’t buy it.

The ideal shoe would be pretty foolproof — hard enough to break and easy enough to fix. Some mechanical means is out there for any willing to explore.

“… blast out a few to get a feel for what might or might not work.”

Sketches are free, so it’s table stakes to blast out a few to get a feel for what might or might not work. When dealing with 3D objects, it’s advisable to model up a few form-based ideas playing with pleats and folds. Origami-inspo could give the right mix of rigid and flexible. Insert-based ideas — where a rider might pop an insert into the sole to lock it down weren’t the ideal ‘it just works!’ solution, but one could work some function into the insert [bottle opener, duh!] and that would do. More time was spend exploring fasteners, forms and how this shoe might come together in a non-traditional way led to a rolled up concept blending a pleated rigid core with an insert.

With sufficient mood gathered, the concept was immortalized in Illustrator and rendered. Follow along & see how this gets built into a real shoe.


N-Plus Bike Shoe is documenting the first open-source bike shoe platform. It’s a you-do-you shoe project in progress exploring new models of ownership, means of production, and the product life cycle. See the original project on hackaday or follow this publication to learn more.

N-Plus Bike Shoe

Free your cleats from tyranny! N-Plus (N+) is the first open-source bike shoe project. Documenting the creation of an infinitely customisable, serviceable and adaptable platform for cycling footwear.

Marcs Wilkinson

Written by

Product manager & design hobbyist from the near future. VFC fellow & stay at home shoemaker.

N-Plus Bike Shoe

Free your cleats from tyranny! N-Plus (N+) is the first open-source bike shoe project. Documenting the creation of an infinitely customisable, serviceable and adaptable platform for cycling footwear.

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