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Inventor Hits The Ground Running With Recyclable Shoe

Inventor Hits The Ground Running With Recyclable Shoe And Wins National Product Design Award

A recyclable shoe designed for barefoot running has picked up the coveted James Dyson Award for emerging product design, at an award ceremony held in Auckland tonight.

Nicholas Couch, a 23 year old graduate from Massey University says his shoe is designed to help runners taking up the fast-growing trend of running without footwear, to encourage the foot to move more naturally and reducing injury. He believes his shoe is the only sustainable barefoot-style design that features replaceable and recyclable parts.

“People looking to take up barefoot running must use a changeover shoe to build up muscle strength in the legs and feet. This ensures the training period is smooth and injury free,” says Nicholas.

“While transitional shoes are available on the market, globally 350,000 million sports shoes are purchased and discarded each year. Often, these shoes are discarded when only one part – usually the sole - has worn out while the rest of the shoe remains in good condition but goes to landfill.”

The Auckland designers says the shoe is made up of only five parts, each part is designed to be discarded only when required, eliminating the need to discard the entire shoe and extending its usable life. Made without glue adhesives, the discarded part can be broken down into their original material and can be recycled.

While Nicholas has researched the marketplace and produced a prototype, the product is at concept stage only, and he would welcome an opportunity to commercialise his design. Open to design and engineering students and recent graduates, the James Dyson Award recognises emerging designers whose work demonstrates the ability to think differently and solve everyday problems in a creative way. The judges, headed by designer David Lovegrove, and professional member of the Designer’s Institute of New Zealand, said that Nicholas’ design reflected the Award criteria and the Dyson philosophy, which, just as Dyson done with vacuum cleaners, is about making products work better. “All of the finalists have designed and built quality models of a professional standard. This year the calibre of entry has been higher across the overall competition. Combine this with a record number of entries, it’s been a very tight call,” said David. He believes the winning idea should make the incumbents in the sports shoe industry sit up and pay attention. “The design can be applied to more than barefoot running style shoe. It challenges the status quo which resonates with the Dyson philosophy of making products work better. “Nicholas’ invention is exceptionally well researched and presented. The sum total of all these design details makes it a very workable solution and with a clear commercial opportunity,” he said. Nicholas will travel to the UK with $3,000 traveling expenses and accommodation courtesy of British Council New Zealand, have the opportunity to tour Dyson’s London office and meet with other key members of the UK design community. Plus, he can select an official fee prize package from the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) tailored to his design’s intellectual property needs, $3,000 worth of legal advice provided by Farry.Co Law, a Dyson handheld cleaner and a year’s membership to the Designer’s Institute of New Zealand. Two other finalist designs are the work of Massey University industrial design graduate, Stuart Smith for a solar-powered lawn mower, and Victoria University graduate, Cameron Lightfoot for his prosthetic leg invention, powered by magnets to allow amputees to walk easier.

Stuart Smith’s domestic lawnmower is powered by solar panels and a rechargeable battery is designed to be charged in four hours with a 45 minute run time. It includes an internal mulching system to turn clippings into lawn fertilizer.

Cameron Lightfoot’s prosthetic leg that uses powerful magnets to provide amputees with greater flexibility and a more comfortable walking experience. Neodymium magnets are placed behind the knee to create force and movement, allowing the leg to extend, followed by magnets in front of the knee connecting, locking the knee and completing the walking motion. A similar reaction is repeated in the ankle area.

Ten New Zealand entries, including Nicholas and the two runner up finalists, will progress to online judging in the international James Dyson Award competition. The global James Dyson Award winner will be announced in October 2010 and together with their university, they will win a total prize fund of £20,000 or local currency equivalent.

The Dyson Award was set up in 2001 by Avery Robinson, the distributors of Dyson in New Zealand. It is hosted in association with the British Council New Zealand, DINZ, Farry.Co Law and IPONZ to recognise and reward up and coming Kiwi designers with product design ideas that best demonstrate innovative and inspiring solutions to everyday problems. Says James Dyson, engineer and inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner:

“Design surrounds us. It inspires us. It makes more things possible. As our need for good design and technology increases so does the need for innovative and adventurous designers, engineers and scientists.

“If you think you have a way of making something better, don’t be afraid to be different, and don’t give up if people reject your ideas, trust your instincts. We want to encourage future generations of design engineers.”

All entries can be viewed on


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