Our Story

For our senior engineering capstone project at Northwestern University, we set out to find a pressing, unmet need in our community. Our research revealed a common problem: children are outgrowing winter boots before wearing them out, causing undue financial and environmental burdens.

Hearing the support from hundreds of parents, guardians, and low-income students who grew up wearing hand-me-down boots, we set out to make seasonal footwear built to last for growing feet.

We were motivated by the impact this could have in our surrounding Chicago area and beyond. The Sno Gro Boots arose as a solution to this need that is simple, affordable, and effective.

Read more about our journey below:

Benchmarking Competitor Products

We began by developing our understanding of the footwear industry, which included literature reviews to understand footwear sizing and winter boot manufacturing, decomposing existing products to identify winter boot components and materials, surveying parents to identify pain points behind kids outgrowing winter boots, and compiling user needs to guide our solution development.

Ideation Mockups

Our ideation process followed, which involved reading patent literature on expandable footwear and taking inspiration from existing object expansion mechanisms to come up with different concepts for our expandable boots. We tested out these concepts, initially using low-fidelity mockups solely focused on achieving expansion, and began eliminating ideas while iterating on others.

Our first semi-functional mockup

Our prototypes’ also improved in fidelity by leveraging manufacturing methods like 3D printing, polyurethane casting, rotocasting, and dip molding. This was one of our first successful casting of our sole mechanism, which demonstrates what the Sno Gro Boots could look like.

Our first wearable mockup

Each iteration bettered the design’s ability to meet user requirements so that our final prototype would be expandable, weatherproof, durable, and comfortable. This was our first wearable prototype that successfully expanded from 7.5" to 8.5" (a 1 inch increase in foot length is roughly equivalent to 3 U.S. shoe sizes).

Our final capstone prototype

This functional works-like, looks-like prototype was the culmination of our work on the Sno Gro Boots throughout our capstone course. We tested the prototype on both a size 5 and size 8 tester and the boot successfully expanded to 3 U.S. sizes to accomodate for the difference in dimensions.