Yesterday in Los Angeles, adidas Basketball introduced the adiZero Crazy Light 2. Set to hit stores on May 24th, the $140 9.5 ounce shoe will be the lightest basketball shoe in the world — edging out its predecessor, the Crazy Light, by 3/10ths of an ounce. We sat down with designer Robbie Fuller to get some insight into the process, and find out what it takes to make a successful sequel.
So where did you guys start with this?
Not from scratch [laughs].
Right – because I know how long the leadouts are, you must have been working on this before the first adiZero Crazy Light came out.
Yes. For sure. There are bits and pieces of the shoe we can trace back for years. But generally when everyone was celebrating over the Crazy Light1, I was at my desk putting pen to paper for the Crazy Light 2.
Were elements from the D. Rose line — did those get incorporated into this, too?
I wouldn’t say directly, but I’m the same guy going after a similar benefit, which is light. So I think of it as a spectrum. If you pick up the Rose shoe, it’s light — sometimes freaky light — but it has the lifestyle a little more into it because the recipe for success for that , but here it’s just laser focus of the lightest basketball shoe of all time, so some of those same solutions like the SPRINTFRAME go across both, but over here we gotta turn up the knob on lightweight.
Was there a specific weight you wanted to hit with the 2, knowing where you were at with the 1?
Lighter than the 1. [Laughs] I mean literally, it was just like, all right we have the Crazy Light 1, we’ve had half a million people all around the world ballin’ in this shoe, D1, NBA, so we know it’s a great shoe, but any shoe can get refined. Any product can get refined. A house, a car, whatever. A [Porsche] 911, right? It doesn’t change over the years that much, just slight tweaks. So in the same vein, I was just looking at this shoe [the 1] like, “all right, did I take enough advantage of the SPRINTFRAME,” “did I take as much advantage of the forefoot support,” of the rubber, could I thin down the rubber? So I really just made a list — I call it a gameplan — marketing gives me a brief, but I’ve got my design gameplan and I just call out the pieces that I thought still had room to improve: who was the sixth man on the Crazy Light 1, you know? It was like, all right, SPRINTFRAME, here we go, you’re gonna step up. That’s definitely how I made it up for this particular shoe, because it’s so geared towards performance — it lives and dies on the performance of it. Trends come and go, winning is always cool. As long as we keep delivering like this, we’ll always be in the mind of anyone lacing up their sneakers.
Is that where you looked to first, the SPRINTFRAME, to lose weight?
Yeah, because it’s the material on the shoe that has the most strength for how much it weighs. So the more you can use it to stabilize the shoe, you’re taking off some of the other layers, the laminates and such that you’d like to reduce. And so, that was definitely the key thing. And the bigger thing was also just about, the first one was just focused on the ultimate court, the NBA court. This one we were like, hey, can this be outdoor? Can you get these things where you thicken up the rubber, you add more abrasion-resistant rubbers, in order to make sure it can play indoor and outdoor. So if you go around the shoe, whether it’s the high-abrasion rubber, how it’s different, we’ve got high abrasion on the toe, the stripes are reflective, little cues from outdoor, one of the materials, the embosses are ripstop from outdoor jackets. So that was another little piece of the pie. The first one was so great, but can you add a little more durability to it. Which is crazy, right? I’m the designer, I’m thinking “hold on, this brief is asking how can I add all these things to it and still make it lighter?” But luckily, with the right team, we came to the right product.
Were you able to use materials that weren’t available to you on the 1?
Definitely. The 1 had the same Zeromesh, and then on top of it was .9 millimeter, kind of a hybrid textile material. This time we were able to kind of split it up and do a front and back. And the real difference about this [the upper] versus anything else is how aerodynamic, how sleek — there’s no ridges. Seriously, basketball players can get up to like 20 mph, and the way it works the faster you go it actually takes four times the energy to go faster. It sounds crazy, but as much drag you can reduce on the shoe as possible, you’re going to go faster.
One of the things I thought when you came out with the adiZero Crazy Light was that you were definitely going to do a 2, and maybe the ankle collar would come down? Because that seemed like an easy place to lose weight.
Yeah yeah yeah. Oh yeah. It’s a little bit lower in the heel so you have more mobility. But when I looked at several different ideas, put the stripes here, there — it was so iconic and so tied to it, to be honest I think of it like a Rod Laver. It’s the sign-off of the shoe. And then the challenge is you don’t have to focus so much on the branding anymore, you just get into the shoe. What makes this one different from the last one and the last one.
What was the most difficult part of the process?
Sequels are hard, right? It’s only been done really well, maybe Rocky 2, Godfather 2. So knowing that expectations are high, knowing that people are gonna start to build a connection and a love for the shoe and we’re gonna have to build on that, that was probably the hardest. And just being mature enough from a design point of view to be consistent. Not try and re-design it again and then redesign it again. Really stay the course, stick to what you own and just continue to refine.
Obviously given the timeframe you have to be working on the 3. Is there more pressure now — OK, the 3 has to be that 9.5 ounce threshold to get under now. Is there concern even looking further ahead, can you make a basketball shoe under 9 ounces?
Well, you know, we love the impossible, right? So we just take it as a challenge — we’ve got enough people on the team, polymer experts, biomechanist Alicia Davis, engineers that we get all around the table and we can go through and challenge ourselves. I think we’ve still got room to go, and I think you’ll continue to see us push the lightweight threshold, but never compromising the shoe for it. It’s always light plus something.