Derrick Rose is already one of the fastest players in the NBA. But when he met with designers from Adidas two years ago to discuss creating a new shoe, Rose, the white-hot point guard for the Chicago Bulls, had one request: Make me faster. Since then, Adidas has already given Rose the lightest jerseys ever constructed; on Thursday, the company unveiled the adiZero Crazy Light, which Adidas touts as the lightest shoe in basketball.
At 9.8 ounces, it's 15% lighter than its nearest competitor. A joint R&D project developed by Adidas' innovation and design teams, the Crazy Light features "sprintweb" technology, an ulta-thin exoskeleton less than 1mm thick that's seamlessly bonded to a nylon textile, which reduces weight while increasing support.
Still, unless you're Montgomery Burns, an ounce or two less weight isn't going to affect your jump shot much, nor is it likely to change how fast you can race down the court. So clearly, Adidias is using design to create a marketing buzzword — the lightest basketball shoe ever — but that's just as important as anything else in the sportswear realm.
"Scissors, glue, sewing then test, fail, start over."
"All shoes typically have loads and loads of layers. They'll have the outer-upper layer; then glue; then a heel-counter; then glue; then they'll have foam; and then glue; and then they'll have a liner and sock liner," says Robbie Fuller, lead product designer of the adiZero. "The goal for us was zero ounces: bare-footed. So [the layers] definitely had to get minimized."
Fuller and his team worked backward. Rather than starting with the look of the shoe, Adidas started with the foundation, testing various materials and bonding properties to make sure the shoe was as light as possible, while still being durable and flexible enough for all the pivots and crossovers you'd expect in an NBA game. As Fuller explains, the team worked it down to just two layers in certain areas, significantly reducing the amount of glue needed, and thus the weight.
"The design process did not start with a pencil," says Fuller, who studied industrial design before joining Adidas a decade ago. "Scissors, glue, sewing machines, then test, fail, start over. We learned a lot of ways how not to make a light-weight basketball shoe before we found the right way." From there, the prototype went to the drawing board, where designers spent the next year-and-a-half bringing the concept shoe to life.
The adiZero Crazy Light will hit stores June 3 for $130, available in a range of colors. But look out for the kicks on the court of this season's NBA playoffs, when a slew of players will show the league whether light-weight sneakers actually make them run faster and jump higher.