March 1, 2013 at 6:47 PM ET
The latest sneaker from Nike may have a preposterous name, but it's a notable achievement. The Vapor Laser Talon, as it's called, was designed specifically for the 40-yard dash, and was tested and built using a 3-D printer.
At just 5.6 ounces, the shoe is among the lightest out there (shoes like the New Balance Minimus line are as light as 4.4 ounces), but that's not its claim to fame. The "plate," or rigid bottom part in which the cleats and other sole features are embedded, is the first in the sport to be printed.
Nike used a process called Selective Laser Sintering, in which a powerful laser is shone on a plastic or metal powder, fusing it and allowing the surrounding material to be removed. It allowed them to iterate the design over hours instead of days or weeks, making optimization for a single sport or event practical.
In this case, the plate was created with maximum grip on football turf in mind, improving a player's "zero step," the first movements from standing position to running — in which traction is extremely important.
It's not the first 3-D printed shoe, or even the first to be made for sport (these have a similar goal and use the same process), but it's definitely the first to be made and advertised by a major company like Nike.
No details were shared as to the pricing or availability of the shoe, although it's a safe bet that such a specialized product is unlikely to be found at your local mall just yet.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.