Hopefully you had the chance to check out my recap of my trip to Los Angeles this week. Adidas brought me out and showcased their newest game-changing product, the adiZero Crazy Light 2. We had a behind-the-scenes look at what went into the shoe and how they were able to create something so popular and yet, so light. Then we hooped in the sneakers, and I can say they’ll definitely be in my rotation.
In L.A., I had the chance to sit down with lead designer Robbie Fuller and one of the sneaker’s sports researchers, Alicia Davis, to discuss the process of creating the lightest sneaker in the game.
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Dime: How long would you say this process has been in the works?
Robbie Fuller: “It’s just the continuation of the adiZero family and this focus on light. Lawrence (Norman), when he came in and took over basketball five years ago, he said we want to be one step faster. But this particular shoe, I would say has been two years in the making. There are some pieces on it where the technology, we had been working on continuously. But in general, I’d say about two years on the shoe.
Dime: You mentioned you want it done “bright but right.” Can you explain that?
RF: It’s such an amazing performance shoe. It’s the ultimate. It’s the best. We wanted to celebrate that. So I think it’d be easy to blanket the whole thing but we balanced it a little bit. We got some of that black and white to it, which helps to balance the color. So it’s still definitely loud and proud on court but when you hold it in your hand, it’s got more texture to it because of the mix of colors.
Dime: With the first one, you could see through it in some parts. How did that change with this shoe?
RF: Going through the process, looking at this new execution and knowing we’d want to bring a lot of strength to it, and still balance some of that breathability aspect, we highlighted the most important aspect of the foot which is the inside medial area for breathability. We made sure that definitely gets that nice exhaust. But finding through rigorous testing in order to make this new leap in technology, we needed to secure the shoe and the foot as much as possible. I think the first shoe does an amazing job of light and we wanted light and we wanted to add in stability to the shoe.
Dime: This shoe can be used outdoors as well where the first one wasn’t. Can you talk about that?
RF: A lot of the shoe is inspired color-wise but also functionally. With this new herringbone traction pattern, if you look at the first and second one, we’ve kept that same idea of the weighted perimeter where it’s thicker along the outside edge and thinner through the middle. But we changed the cross section so it’s not quite so fine. We also used a high-abrasion rubber. You get this shoe, you’re gonna have high-abrasion. That’s the reason you see this color change from the toe because we were able to use a more abrasion-resistant material in the front, because when you drag we all weigh too much wear going on. We needed to fix that. Everything else about it, from the bottom standpoint, is ready for that outdoor ball. And then you start getting into the materials and execution. The stripes are all reflection. I took little cues from the outdoor industry. You’ll see some of the material: ripstop on the SPRINTWEB. These are little, subtle cues to explain that story and show it’s ready for the indoor, outdoor and NBA court.
Dime: Where did the inspiration come for yourself as a designer?
RF: The easy answer is the athlete. When you watch a game, it’s ridiculous how fast people are going. There’s the proud moment when you watch somebody run down a ball and stop on a dime underneath the basket. Me and Alicia Davis, we high five when stuff like that happens. This season, we were really inspired by aerodynamics. If you look at this new SPRINTWEB, the last one was a little bit more raised and you saw seams. This one is completely smooth… only .1 millimeter of a raise from the base. That’s the reason I mentioned the Teflon finish because it’s less drag, it’s streamlined, even to the point in the back with the aerodynamic fin. You’re just elongating the form. The stripes look they’ve been put into a wind tunnel. The last ones were a little longer and a little more static. These ones have been chopped. They’ve got some speed to them. All of that inspiration from aerodynamics really helped to lead a lot of decisions on the shoe.
Alicia Davis (sports researcher): The new construction in the forefoot really drops the foot down. When you put your foot into it for the first time, you don’t need to lace it. It stays really true to the form. It makes a really solid, supportive base of the forefoot which I think is a huge improvement.
RF: Another reason we went with more of a solid base because the first one you saw it, you need it was light. You could see through it, you knew it was light. This one, once we were doing the samples, I knew we were going to be able to get lighter. But I wanted to be even more impressive. If you walk up to something that’s light, when you pick it up, you expect it to be light. But when you see something and can’t see through it… it looks strong. It looks stable. But then it’s even lighter than the one that was see through? Then it’s going to make an even bigger impact.
I think with any great product, at some point, you hit the finish line. You gotta stop. You gotta make it. And then you gotta go back and reevaluate, and everything can be refined. If that was industry breaking, then what would be even more amazing? If you could take away but add? That’s crazy talk. That’s why it’s the Crazy Light 2 (laughs).
AD: We are our own harshest critics too. After the end of the Crazy Light, we didn’t just go home after the party and say that was awesome, we tore that shoe apart. We were really hard on ourselves with every decision and every choice. We started with something great and then it was just adding. It was “How can we make it better?” We took three percent of the weight down, but we added a lot of strength and now it’s now going to be tight on the full range of athletes like we’ve seen in the McDonald’s All-American Game with point guard to centers with confidence. This is just something we do when we innovate. How do we make it better?
Dime: How is it that you’ve been able to make a sneaker where everyone is comfortable in it? From big guys to small players?
RF: The first one was mostly used by the fastest players on the court. 1, 2, 3. We had some 4s and 5s wear it but it was mostly 1s, 2s and 3s. Knowing that and knowing what we’ve done to the shoe, we’re super confident this can go to the whole team. Even Dwight when he was in China last year, he was wearing the Crazy Light 1s. There’s no doubt in my mind when you get this shoe in your hand and you put it on your foot, you’re looking at it… “Man this is the truth. It’s for real.” Whether you’re five feet or seven feet tall, I think people are going to have the same reaction to it.
AD: Bigs jump the most in the game. They jump the furthest distance out of anyone, so if you’re giving them a shoe that improves their jump height and makes them quicker in the fourth quarter, a big is actually a perfect candidate for a great savings in the shoe. It makes sense.