Future Footwear 2.0 explores the relation between materials, skills and design methods in various communities in different geographical areas, a.o. in Namibia, India, Finland, UK and Belgium, and questions conventional thinking on design, production and creativity. Inspired by the convergence of traditional wisdom and modern technology Willems aims to bring sustainable production and individual needs closer together through 3D printing. 

This project integrates methods and approaches from anthropology, design, and biomechanics to demonstrate how the design and crafting of indigenous footwear, along with the skills of those who create it, may hold the key to developing environmentally and physically sustainable footwear. The same protocol as was used in Willems' PhD research is followed, commencing with the co-creation of locally made footwear. Subsequently, in-depth interviews are conducted with the artisans regarding their gait and health. The project then progresses to biomechanical measurements. Within this project the collaboration extends to the Ju’hoan San community in Namibia, in addition to the already existing collaborations with shoemaking communities in India, Finland, UK, and Belgium.

TJU – cover of the book to be published early 2024. TJU, Se ǁxam ku ua gǀa’a-n!ang kota ǂ’ang jansin sa o tci du kota nǂhaoh TJU, exploring sustainable and thoughtful ways of making and walking, in collaboration with the San community of Nhoma. Bilingual book in JuIhoan and English. Eds. Catherine Willems and Els Roelandt Tju is a captivating journey that explores the roles of space and community using making and walking practices as alternative ways of knowing. Credit: design – Marcel Lennarz Cedit: image – David Willems
Low carbon sandbag atelier made from local and natural resources. A collaboration between different stakeholders. Credit image: David Willems
variability barefoot and shod walking in a South Indian population wearing Kolhapuri footwear. Credit: Catherine Willems, PhD
Do you want your feet back? Barefoot cobblers. (2018). Ghent: APE. Willems, C. and Roelandt, E. (Eds.), The book gives an overview of Willems’ long- lasting work with cobblers, with chapters written by experts in the field of biomechanics and anthropology.
Cobblers checking the quality of newly arrived eland antilope skins, JaqIna, Namibia, 2018. Photo: Thomas Nolf

Future Footwear 2.0

project team
Catherine Willems
01.10.2016 – 30.09.2020