Daniel Toon

Dan designs the fastest footwear.Daniel  Toon

SubjectSubject: Elite performance footwear
JobJob: PhD Student / Design Engineer
Works forWorks for: PhD – Sports Technology Research Group at Loughborough University
InterestsInterests: Football, rugby, mountain biking, snowboarding, Aikido, technology, gadgets, photography, art and design

Daniel ‘s biography

Dan improves the design and manufacture of elite performance footwear so the worlds fastest athletes can run even faster. An artist and sports fanatic in one!

My job is.
A PhD research student within the Rapid Manufacturing and Sports Technology Research Groups at Loughborough University. The aim of my work is to make the worlds fastest athletes run even faster by applying advanced manufacturing techniques to the design and manufacture of elite performance footwear.  I also work as a design engineer for Progressive Sports Technologies Ltd, which is a spin-out research and development consultancy based at the university.

Home is..
A short drive from Loughborough University, the sort of distance I should be cycling really! (But you know what its like when its cold and raining outside.)

The story so far.
I spent my younger years in the north east of England, in a little town called Guisborough. My life revolved around sport, particularly football and I was privileged to represent my school, county and several professional clubs including Middlesbrough and Newcastle. My other passions were art and design; I spent hours drawing, painting and generally being creative.

I went on to study A-levels in Mathematics, Physics and Art & Design. My subject selection was based on gut-feeling at the time. I was good at maths and physics, but was certainly not a whiz.  Art & Design was simply a subject that I really loved and wanted to explore further.

The pieces of the puzzle seemed to fall into place when it came to selecting a university course. I knew that I wanted to be a designer, but success in this discipline requires a detailed understanding of science and engineering. An engineering design course at LoughboroughUniversity seemed ideal, especially since the university has such a successful sporting heritage.

I completed a 4 year sandwich course in Product Design and Manufacture at Loughborough University. In my 3rd year I completed an industrial placement at Gillettes Advanced Technology Centre in Reading, which was a brilliant experience. I was a design engineer working primarily on dry shaving concepts for Braun. My final year project was perhaps the most exciting assignment as I assisted in the development of a piece of sporting equipment which measures the flight characteristics of footballs.

After university I took some time out to travel around Asia, Australasia and South America. During these months, I was able to further endorse my love of the outdoors, by taking advantage of the challenging geography and completing several treks in some beautiful and extreme environments.

A much weathered and wiser (or so I like to believe) person returned to England and was fortunate to stumble upon a job opportunity in the Sports Technology Research Group at Loughborough University.So here I am applying engineering and design to the development of sports products cool!

Day in the life
I still havent quite worked out if Im a morning person or a night person, can you be both? Anyway, I usually like to be in work for 8am, this doesnt necessarily mean that I do much within the first hour, it just gives me time to check emails, catch up with the news and most importantly have a brew!

If Im testing my time is split between the high performance centre, the office and the sports technology lab. The high performance centre is an indoor athletic training facility for some of the UKs leading elite performance athletes. When Im there Im usually conducting some human performance analysis the most recent of which was high-speed video to analyse foot motion.

Some days I take a break from the research and do some design work for Progressive Sports Technology. Amongst other things, I have been involved in designing novel exercise and fitness training products, medical garments and testing sports apparel.

I enjoy the flexibility of my job and each day brings new challenges. My work has so far taken me to Germany and Holland, with plans to go to Singapore, France and Boston in the next year.

Pet project
I am developing sprint spikes for elite performance athletes. Most recently I have been trying to understand the effects that footwear has on the movement of the joints in the foot. I have been using high-speed video equipment to capture foot contacts of different sprinters at different phases of a 100m race. The data from the video footage is then used to analyse things such as angular range and velocity of the foot segments. Alongside this work I have been developing and testing footwear with different mechanical properties. I am now ready to conduct human performance tests in order to determine which shoes suit each particular athlete.

When Im not working Im usually playing sport, I try to get involved with as many sports as possible. I play football a couple of times of week and I enjoy a game of badminton on a Tuesday, although the guys I play with are at lest twice my age and they wipe the floor with me. A couple of years ago I took up snowboarding and I love it, not only do you get to spend hours zooming down the side of mountains  surrounded by beautiful scenery but you can spend some serious cash on the gear all the gear and no idea in my case! Mountain biking is another passion of mine, I regularly ride locally, but the geography in the Leicestershire isnt particularly challenging, to say the least. For more adventurous riding we head to Wales and Scotland as it is rated as some of the best riding in the world and its right on our doorstep.

Both my girlfriend and I grew up in fairly close-knit families, so we tend to spend quite a lot of time with the family, Mums Sunday roast is legendary! Chilling is another of my favourite pastimes and I love to put my feet up and watch a good film or read a gadget/design magazine. Im also a bit of a shopoholic; I like to spend my hard earned cash on gadgets, clothes and general cool stuff. However, the impending mortgage has meant that Ive had to cut my outgoings a little (or a Lotto).

What are your burning ambitions?
Successfully complete an endurance mountain bike race.

Do more drawing and painting so I can start selling some of my work.

The best thing is..
Flexibility. Time is very much my own and the flexibility that my job offers not only allows me to push my work forward in what ever direction I choose, but it also allows me to spend more time doing the things I enjoy.

Any regret(s)?
Not continuing (at a respectable level) the sports I enjoyed most.

What do you love most about science and engineering?
Working at the forefront of sports technology and designing sports equipment for elite performance athletes.

Name ONE quirky/crazy fact about your or your job.
The same material and technology I use to make sprint spikes is also used to make fighter jets.