Words by Simon Freeman – Visuals by adidas
Simplicity. One of running’s many positive attributes. A run often requires minimal kit – good shoes and the right clothes for the climate. Pick a direction and go.
But simplicity is deceptive. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” is a quote usually attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. As runners, there can sometimes be a temptation to add to the activity we love – more kit, more technology, fashionable yet unproven shoe innovations. But often “more” is the enemy of self-expression and creativity. The problem is that when it comes to designing running footwear, stripping away everything unnecessary to make a better product is a big challenge.
But simplicity is worth reaching for. Because as American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.”
Through simplicity comes greatness
The adidas designers rose to the challenge of creating simplicity when they came to reimagine the UltraBOOST. The aim was to create a shoe that provided everything a runner needs… and nothing they don’t.
According to Sam Handy, Vice President Design, adidas Running: “In creating the adidas Ultraboost 19, we tore up the rule book and challenged what a running shoe should be and how it should be created.”
To create simplicity, the adidas designers had to embark on a complicated process involving thousands of runners. Only by listening to runners of every stripe and from every place on the planet could adidas extract the essence of what runners want and need from a shoe. And with that understanding, adidas could reinvent what a running shoe can and should be.
Co-Creation at the Heart of the Ultraboost 19
Henry Ford, when he was developing the first widely available car, is credited with saying that if he had asked people what they wanted, they would have said “faster horses”. It’s much better to observe and engage with individuals to see first-hand what they need and build something greater. That is why the adidas team behind the Ultraboost 19 went running.
“We ran with thousands of runners to hear their feedback about how they are running differently, how running is changing and what the perfect shoe looks and feels like for them. We learnt that running is different, that people want a simpler product with fewer pieces and components but equally high performance. This led us to totally deconstruct the adidas Ultraboost and rebuild
So to achieve the simplicity of the adidas Ultraboost 19, the designers had to embrace a process that was full of complexity. Handy again: “The process of co-creation means we have multiple voices in the room. We don’t rely on one designer or a single design team – we build a collective of experts across multiple disciplines so that we can take a more holistic approach. As we’ve seen with the adidas Ultraboost 19, this leads us to create the best version of something, rather than the easiest or fastest version.”it in the simplest way possible, with only four components of performance-driven greatness.” Handy adds: “Co-creation has always been is at the heart of adidas – it’s something we have done from day one, from the days of Adi Dassler. We work with athletes, runners and sportspeople to develop the best possible products for them, so it’s natural that we wanted to involve them in the process of creation too. For the adidas Ultraboost 19, we undertook our most ambitious collaborative design project ever, resulting in the most technically advanced adidas Ultraboost we could build – for runners, by runners.”
Simplicity and creativity
So why aim for simplicity? What is the value? Well one reason is that through a lack of complexity, creativity can shine. The designers at adidas wanted to create a shoe that would resonate with people who are part of a new era of running. A type of running that is more creative, sociable and open than ever before. This new expression of running has been captured in adidas’ Recode Running campaign.
Talking about the Ultraboost 19, Alberto Uncini-Manganelli, General Manager, adidas Running said: “We created a revolutionary new expression of this iconic silhouette while also celebrating the culture of what we’re calling ‘new running’ – a more creative and democratic version of the sport we all know and love. Through the new adidas Ultraboost 19 campaign, we wanted to be the first global sports brand to celebrate and represent the culture of new running.”
Recode Running is about how disparate groups use running to express themselves and their approach to life. In the first films released as part of the Recode Running campaign To Hell & Back and The Waste Race – runners from dramatically different parts of the world (Poland and Shanghai) tell the stories of how they are using running to transform their games, lives, and the world around them.
According to Phillip Schapitz, Director Communications, adidas Running: “The Recode Running campaign is an invitation from adidas to all runners to continue to harness their creativity to change the culture of running. It recognises that the sport isn’t static, it constantly evolves because of the inspired people who do it and we wanted to champion that in the campaign. We wanted to truly reflect and celebrate new running cultures in all their many aspects.”
Everything the runner needs. Nothing they don’t.
In designing the Ultraboost 19, the adidas team has stripped away everything superfluous, freeing the runner to express themselves. The shoe has four elements: the Optimized BOOST under the foot which injects more energy into each step; the brand-new Torsion Spring that propels the runner forward effortlessly;
a 3D Heel Frame which cradles the foot on impact, providing enhanced support and stability, and the pioneering one-piece Primeknit 360 upper which snugly wraps the foot for enhanced support and lightweight comfort. It all looks so simple. Of course as we know, simplicity is not easy. But the result is definitely worth the effort.
Watch the Recode Running films on www.bit.ly/ltw-TV
This article was a paid collaboration between adidas and Like the Wind.