Designing with purpose

Our Futures section has been created to showcase university students and graduates and give them a helping hand to enter into this dynamic industry.

Diane Richardson

By Diane Richardson, supporting The Futures initiative

Rhiannon Caldwell has just completed her Masters in Sports Design Engineering at Strathclyde University, Glasgow. Here, she takes this space to tell you about her Masters project with Adidas.


My course allowed me to follow the design process of sports equipment, from finding a sports-related problem, researching the area and exploring an array of potential solutions to prototyping the final product. In my fourth and fifth years, the main projects were self-selected which allowed me to explore areas which would be more relevant to where I hoped to work in the industry.

Final Masters Project

Since beginning my first year of university, I always felt a desire to create sports footwear. I then decided in my final year that I would create a running shoe in order to gain experience in this field. It became clear that knee osteoarthritis (OA) sufferers are forced to refrain from any running once they are diagnosed. OA is the wear and tear form of arthritis, the most common kind.

*Knee osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease, is typically the result of wear and tear and progressive loss of articular cartilage.

Many avid runners continue to run with inappropriate footwear as running is too important to them – not only for fitness but for mental health, social aspects and creative abilities. I soon got in contact with adidas and had them agree to collaborate, with the main expectation from them being the creation of the physical final prototype.

Many avid runners continue to run with inappropriate footwear as running is too important to them – not only for fitness but for mental health, social aspects and creative abilities.

Through research and information from physiotherapists, it was clear that there was no need to stop running as it can not only slow the progression of OA, but in some cases can even improve the condition. Currently there is no cure and so by allowing for safe running, this would fill a gap in the market and improve the health of many, allowing for continuous running as we age.

Due to the effects of Covid-19 and the resultant limitations on much physical work and testing that could be done, I carried out a large quantity of research through the project. By using previous studies and tests carried out, I was able to have valid reasoning behind the many aspects of the shoe. Once all features were detailed and refined, I decided to create a 3D model on a software called Rhino. I had never used this software before and felt it was a risk due to the short timescale of the project, however, I knew that this is a software adidas recommended to use for shoe design and so I felt it was important to maximise the quality of the final solution. Unfortunately, adidas advised that due to Covid-19 they would be unable to provide the physical prototype and so this emphasised the need for a high quality virtual model.

One physical model I was able to create was a 3D printed model, due to my friend owning their own 3D printer. Although this was not quite what I had hoped, I was able to see what the physical shape would be and use this as testing to make some amendments to the virtual model. I was extremely pleased with the final solution.

3d design

The process was very challenging and I felt I had pushed myself and expectations of the project, particularly under the current circumstances. I then put together the report and am now awaiting the result of my Masters degree. Unfortunately, key details of the product cannot be divulged due to the potential of adidas, or myself, taking the design forward, as discussed with them at the start of the project.

What am I doing now?

I am fortunate enough to be living at home with my parents just now and so currently am able to save money and utilise my time effectively. I am using this valuable time to avidly search for any jobs relevant to me on the market and research into gaining a patent for one of my previous designs. In addition, I am finding various means in which I can develop my skills in valuable software (illustrator, Solidworks). When I get some free time, I try to complete delivery shifts in order to help out during these difficult times. My passion for sustainability is continually at the forefront of my mind too and I am planning for starting my own litter picking sessions in my local area for when Covid-19 passes. This idea was sparked after I participated in a beach clean and was disappointed in the lack of initiatives local to me.

SSACHS have also offered a placement-type experience for me, with many exciting projects to come. This will allow me to both gain some valuable insights into industry and athletes, as well as give back to SSACHS and help them to grow as a company. There are limited opportunities and organisations like SSACHS and I believe they are extremely supportive and beneficial to students like myself, in such a niche market. 

Any brands planning graduate programmes, please request an introduction to Rhiannon. Together we can support our rising stars of the future!

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