For the last few years, adidas Running has been exceeding everyone’s expectations, and a lot of it has to do with the innovative efforts by one of the hottest designers in footwear right now. James Carnes, the Global Creative Director for Sport Performance Design at adidas, has blurred the line of tech and aesthetics flawlessly for decades while heading projects like the Feet You Wear and ClimaCool lines. Over the past few years, models he designed like the adiZero Primeknit and Energy Boost have changed the future of running without losing any lifestyle appeal. We sat down with the man himself to discuss the upcoming adidas Energy Boost 2 (dropping Feb. 26), the sequel that is bound to make The Three Stripes even hotter in 2014, as well as a few other reasons adidas is continuing to take over.
Interview by Brandon Edler (@MrBrando3)
What’s the difference between the original version of the adidas Energy Boost and the second make?
The Energy Boost 2 is a complete technical upgrade. We have had two additional years worth of testing insights into what people like about the shoe and where we could improve. The two main upgrades are a better fit and a smarter design, when you look at how this version is made.
Where did the original idea for the technology start?
Boost foam combines a soft and responsive feel into one shoe—which makes for a really new experience where you actually feel energy.
The whole thing was a pretty simple idea that could have only come from the fact that our brand works with so many great people—we work with competitive athletes, everyday runners, and people who love the comfort of sport shoes. We found that there is no product out there that could cover the complete experience all at once. There were comfortable shoes, but they were usually too soft and squirrely; and there were shoes that felt fast and responsive, like racing shoes, but they were often a bit firm.
How is the shoe manufactured?
We had to create new machines to make Boost. The foam itself is a brand new molding process that is brand new to the sports industry. It is a steam-assisted injection process. As for the 2014 upper, it’s a simplified one piece injected fit component that wraps around the heel. That’s the new part that makes it fit better and makes the design a smarter and more efficient product.
How does the energy return rate compare to other running footwear in the market?
According to testing done by Runner’s World, Energy Boost outperformed 800 shoes tested in terms of energy return, and named it the industry leader.
How long was the process of development?
The foam has been in development for several years through a partnership with BASF in Germany.
What was BASFs involvement?
They’ve been a great partner throughout the entire development of the technology. The material we created together was a derivative of an existing polymer and a process that is used in automotive components—it was really cool to adapt that technology to a sports-related application.
How do you see it positioned compared to your other standout model, the Springblade?
We say it gives you endless energy. From the first time you try it, you notice how it feels—ultra comfortable with and immediate lift in your step. The amazing thing is it retains that feeling for an unprecedented period of use. I’ve been running in one pair for two years and they feel exactly the same as the day I got them—the testing managers aren’t happy that I didn’t give them back. As if that weren’t enough, they are the only running shoes that feel exactly the same in heat as they do in the cold. The Boost foam stays soft in the coldest days in winter, but stays totally responsive in summer heat.
What was the No. 1 goal of creating the Boost?
It’s a completely new experience when you run in or play any sport. It makes running more fun.
How do you see the Boost evolving?
We are working on making it lighter and amplifying the energetic feel. We also want to incorporate more innovative design thinking in the product holistically—where functionality is integrated into singular seamless layers or components. All this to make the product not only fit better, but to make it more sustainable to produce. High-tech and sustainability will become one in the next generation uppers.
Is it just taking more weight out?
That’s one aspect of it, but there’s so much more to it than that alone. Our philosophy is to reduce to improve.
What other models can we expect Boost technology on in the near future? Any models outside of running?
We’ll be using Boost next in our icon basketball shoes, and in snowboarding for the ultimate ride on the mountain. From there we have a plan for every major sport to get a boost—volleyball, baseball, skate, and eventually even pure lifestyle products.
Will the Energy Boost 2 have more style colors like the Springblade for lifestyle appeal
Absolutely. We will launch with an amazing Solar Blue color that is our anthem color for the World Cup in Brazil—you may have seen it debut already in the Australian Open. We also will introduce a more urban set of colors using an Earth Green and some technical naturals later in March…and of course we will continue with the original black-and-white colorway.
With the adidas retro runners on fire right now, is lifestyle even a concern with this model?
We are modernizing our approach to lifestyle altogether—even in Originals. The way we talk about lifestyle is that it’s simply a matter of whether the design of a product looks good with what you are wearing. That doesn’t come from the past—that’s about achieving the highest standard of design aesthetics, whether a shoe is innovative, low tech, or made for the runway.
How much of an impact do you anticipate this sneaker will have in 20 years like an EQT Support in 2014?
Well, just like with EQT as a concept in the ’90s, Boost will permanently go down in history as a landmark in time when athletic shoes changed. The introduction of energy as a primary benefit that is actually achievable in a shoe is ground breaking—both in Boost with endless energy, but also in Springblade with more explosive energy.
Watch adidas this year to see some amazing new products.
I think everyone is definitely watching.