Did Adidas Rip Off Nike’s Flyknit Shoes?

With the World Cup fast approaching, the two sporting giants have new soccer cleats to add to their catalogs. And they look awfully similar.

Nike and Adidas unveiled new soccer cleats for this summer’s World Cup within a week of each other, and colors aside, they look incredibly–incredibly–similar. On Wednesday, Adidas announced the Primeknit FS, a boot-and-sock combo. The following day, Nike announced Magista, a shoe that uses the company’s Flyknit technology to also create a boot-and-sock combo. Who’s copying whom?

Adidas’ Primeknit FS (left) and Nike’s Magista (right)

Nike first debuted Flyknit in 2012, on a running shoe. The shoe upper is one knit piece, rather than disparate pieces stitched together. The manufacturing process reduces material waste, and makes the shoe feel less like equipment, and more like a second skin.

Nike’s design team worked with dozens of professional soccer players who will be competing this summer, and found that what they want most is for the boot to disappear: “Their ultimate boot would be barefoot with studs,” says Nike president Trevor Edwards. To adapt Flyknit for the soccer field, Nike had to weather-proof the Magista. Melted into the knit yarn is paper-thin layer of polyurethane material that keeps the upper dry, and creates a kind of friction so that it doesn’t become slippery when it comes into contact with the ball.

Adidas’ Samba Primeknit

Adidas’s Primeknit FS cleats are a lot like the Magista: a boot-and-sock combo that snakes up the ankle (Adidas also released a knitted cleat without the sock, called Samba Primeknit, last week, see above). Like the Magista, Primeknit FS features a single piece of fabric for the upper that is attached to the sole. Unlike the Magista, the Primeknit FS shoes are still being considered a design concept, with a worldwide limited edition run of 150 pairs being made available for eager fans to buy, Carnes says.

Adidas claims it has been working on a lightweight cleat concept for more than 12 years. “The idea of a soccer glove for your foot was the goal,” James Carnes, global creative director for sport performance design, tells Co.Design. According to Carnes, “we’ve been working on the concepts of lightweight and barefoot soccer since before 2002. The Samba Primeknit and the Primeknit FS started to become what they are today when we realized the potential of knitting in 2008.” When asked directly how Primeknit differs from Nike’s Flyknit technology, Carnes declined to answer. Spokesman Michael Ehrlich followed up: “Please understand that we cannot address others’ technology, only our own.”

Nike’s shoe will be worn by Spain’s Andrés Iniesta and Germany’s Mario Gotze, with more player announcements to come later. When asked about the similarities between the new Nike and Adidas cleats, Edwards paused before saying: “We’ve been testing this product for a long time. It really comes from a very clear insight that players were asking us about. And we’re launching all around the world, not just a couple pairs.”

About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.