Getting the lowdown on the new adidas ACE16+ Purecontrol, we spoke to the newest members of the adidas Football design team, Sam Handy (left) & Dean Lokes (right), about setting new benchmarks in performance innovation and design.
Where did the inspiration for a laceless boot come from?
Sam: For us, the inspiration for a laceless football boot all started with our players. We're always driven by player insights – what's the best way we can improve how a player interacts with a football boot, what's the most interesting and exciting new experience that we can build for them. We wanted to deliver the purest progression of a football boot that we could - it's everything that you need and nothing that you don't. The inspiration is about simplifying things, making things easier to understand and making the experience more pure.
How long has this project been in development?
Sam: This guy has been in the work for 24 months, it's been a massive team effort to evolve it. So we start with a sketch and then it goes through this evolution based on everyone who experiences the boot through the process. End to end, the shoe has been adjusted step by step. Some of the early prototypes were much more supportive but we tried to move away from that because we wanted it to look simple. The design process runs through a big team of designers, marketing guys, developers and players. It's a big, big, big team effort.
Dean: There's a lot of expertise and experience here in creating a product that performs. We know how to do that but I think this has been a new challenge because with the veering different foot shapes and different tastes of consumer, we've really spent a lot of time working very closely with all levels of players to get them to feel this new fit experience, because it is so unique. The few people who have had the chance to try it on know that it's an amazing feeling. You put it on and then it just locks down and feels amazing. When you get a chance to try a pair on, it is a completely unique experience to get it on your feet. You feel like there's nothing that's going to get in the way of your contact with the ball at all. It's super unique and completely different to any other football boot in the world.
How did your elite players contribute to the development phase?
Sam: Our players are a central part of the developement - getting the boots tested, seeing how they feel with it and then making adjustments based on the feedback we get. We've been doing some familiarisation with our top players, and even some of them said it feels like you're wearing a sneaker. You're not lacing it and you're not locking everything down, so it just fits like a glove immediately as soon as you put it on and it feels amazingly comfortable. It will still take some people time to adjust to it – it's revolutionary, it's new, it's not been done before and we're the first to do it. When you step into it you will be amazed by how different it feels.
Can you talk us through the construction of the boot?
Dean: It's a knitted boot and the purest expression of a football boot that you can have. It's reduced to only the simplest, most needed parts possible. You've got an upper and a tooling that holds your foot in place. It gives you amazing ball feel and it gives you amazing control. We've tried to be as simple as possible but with all of the performance benefits that you'd ever need.
What were come of the biggest challenges you faced in creating a laceless boot?
Sam: The biggest challenge is how you make something stretchable enough to get on, but then be tight and snug when it's on your foot when you're in the game - that's the hardest part of the process. It's easy to make a slip-on shoe, but will it perform? That's not an easy task and has been the biggest part of the past 24 months.
Dean: The simplest ideas are technically the hardest things to bring to life. You want to have it so when you look at it, it's really minimal and easy to understand, but to make that work it involves a lot of people and a lot of technological solutions from engineering a new material to engineering a new stretch and working with the last construction. It's hard to make something simple.
How important is it that such a radical design maintains adidas DNA that anchors you to your heritage?
Sam: It needs to be a boot that's completely rooted in adidas DNA. Everything we build is going to be about taking that authenticity and being the best brand in football. We're stretching that as far as we can with progressive new directions, but it's still got the three stripes and it's still got that a classic adidas last. It definitely feels like an adidas boot to hand. We want to take the brand to new places, we want to push the envelope of what an adidas football boot means. We want to be a progressive brand but also an authentic brand.
Sam, being new to the adidas Football team, what's it like working on such progressive projects such as this?
Sam: My background is coming from Originals, so up until recently I was the head of footwear for adidas Originals, where we're always looking at ways to challenge silhouettes and building things differently. I do literally have a smile on my face driving into work every day - it sounds cheesy but it's true. We're going on a really interesting journey right now. We've been through lots of very good product launches this year, it's a really exciting time to be here. We are redefining what performance shoes look like, we're redefining what lifestyle shoes look like – the brand is doing some really interesting stuff. This is a shoe and an expression that comes from adidas as a sportswear brand and a cultural brand.
Sam: For me I want to be able to bring as much youth culture into it and thinking about who the guy is we want to talk to; what motivates him, what cultural world does he live in. We've stretched the boundaries from authenticity to progression, moving from the past to the future. This lifestyle way of looking at it is something I want to bring to the team. Of course there's a team here who are technically incredibly talented and there's a unique wealth of experience in building the perfect football boot and working with athletes. For me, coming from a lifestyle environment and joining a very high performance environment, it's a really interesting position of experiencing those two worlds. It's something I'm really exciting by – stretching that boundary of football and youth culture.
Dean: I think what we did this year with the reset and taking football in a new direction by being a lot braver in the decisions that we make, you're going to see adidas Football continue to break the rules and continue to progress both in a technical way and in how we come to market.
Do you think this will be looked back on as a big moment for adidas Football?
Dean: We don't want to sound to smug and I don't want to throw out words like 'game-changer', but it is a completely different experience of football. It's something that no-one has done before so I think looking back this will feel like a pivotal moment for adidas Football. This is a signifier of intent. It's a boot that is breaking new ground with a revolutionary strategy.
Watch this space for more on the new adidas 'Laceless' football boots.