Kirigami, a Japanese art that creates 3D shapes out of cutting paper, has inspired engineers to develop a shoe sole through a “kirigami-based system” that helps reduce the chances of slipping.
The no-slip shoe sole’s texture is similar to that of snakeskin, and the authors of the research published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering say the effects are particularly helpful among older people as they help prevent falls that lead to injuries.
“Falls are the leading cause of death for older adults and the second leading cause of occupational-related deaths,” says engineer Giovanni Traverso, co-author of the research, in a Harvard University statement. “If we could control and increase the friction between us and the ground, we could reduce the risk of these types of falls, which not only cost lives but billions of dollars in medical bills every year.”
The new sole is made out of very thin steel with precise kirigami-style cuts that bristle like the snake scales when bent. This allows it the sole of the shoe to transform back and forth between a smooth surface and a spiked sole ready to grip. As Sahab Babaee, an MIT engineer and first author of the research, explains to the Guardian, “By adding [dimpling to the sole] and combining with kirigami needles, we expect to observe further friction enhancement, [above] 35 percent.”