If you’ve ever been a fan of shoes, you’ve heard of Adidas. However, aside from stylish and sporty apparel, it seems Adidas has a lot more plans for fans and consumers in the near future. Adidas is looking to create more options for faster production and more personalization option for fans – but how is this going to work?
Adidas wants to create a future where shoppers no longer need to become part of the world’s elite athletes to have designer-level shoes. The shoe giant wants to use the hallmarks of modern technology today to be able to create just the right kind of kicks for your needs, without all of the hassle. This is Adidas’ next push towards personalization and fast shoe creation for the future of sportswear.
When you buy any type of clothing or fashion wear, especially athletic shoes, this is your typical cycle: You go to the nearest sports store, in this case Adidas, and typically be on a hit or miss list. If you find something you like in the store, you’re going to try it in your size and see if it’s a good fit for you and your sporting needs. If it’s not the kind of shoe you expected, you do the proverbial dating app classic of “swiping left.” You pick another shoe, until you either get what you want or trying another day.
Adidas wants to change this in its recent Speedfactory Lab Experience. It appears Adidas wants to use a combination of 3D printing, data analysis software, and motion capture software to be able to create just the perfect pair of kicks designed for the very needs of users. Yes, even those with quite the specific tastes. Do you overpronate, or have a foot bigger than the other? No worries, Adidas has got your back.
If this is Adidas’ glimpse for the future of athletic shoes, then its Speedfactory Lab Experience in Brooklyn, New York, might be the vision of the future. The pop-up booth showed users just what it feels like to create shoes designed especially for you.
This Speedfactory Experience replicates some of the work done in Adidas’ automated laboratories of the same name located in Ansbach, Germany, and locally in Atlanta. These research and development centers provide proof of the various technological wonders Adidas has got up its sleeve to efficiently and quickly produce customized shoes that fit the feet of its users perfectly.
A trip to this pop-up Speedfactory begins with designers scanning a visitor’s feet to get data on its exact positioning, width, and length. Cameras all over a treadmill assess a person’s gait, speed, and stride. All of this data appear transparently for the visitors in two screens, revealing specific aspects of their feet. These include whether a foot is wider than the other, or if someone’s a neutral runner – that is, their feet roll inward just a little bit after making ground contact, which helps absorb impact and distribute weight.
Adidas designers explained that these data are essential even for athletes to be able to select the right running shoe for them. This is much more so when you’re an ordinary person who wants to be fit. However, it appears Adidas wants to up the ante by making sure your perfect shoes are created in the fastest possible time.
Unfortunately, it’s not there yet – but they’re getting to that point. Senior designer Zachary Coonrod of the appropriately tagged future team said the company’s Speedfactories are getting faster. He indicated the actual Speedfactories are in fact thrice as fast in terms of bringing their designs to life in the market.
However, Forrester Research retail analyst Sucharita Kodali said this might not be good enough. While the vision of on-demand and quickly-created shoes are ideal, it might not be possible at the moment. The most Adidas could do, at least for now, is to create a selection of items very quickly. The mere idea of a custom item created in a fast manner can change the game of sportswear, but this isn’t the case – yet.
It’s known that Adidas’ Speedfactories use a combination of automated manufacturing and 3D printing, alongside other technologies, in order to create limited edition shoes. This means Speedfactory products of this caliber are meant to be used by runners of particular regions. This started in 2016 with a special Germany-exclusive shoes, and this is followed up by kicks for various joggers and runners with Paris and London. New York, too, got its special AM4 line of shoes, which stand for Adidas Made For. It’s said that Shanghai and Tokyo running shoes are also being designed.
Interestingly, the different region-specific shoes are a result of particular observations from the Adidas team. It’s been found out that some runners exhibit different behavior if they’re in different regions. For instance, New Yorkers tend to make sharper turns during high speeds, compared to Londoners. This means slight tweaks to the top portion of the AM4NYC shoes can greatly help agility and stability under such circumstances.
In order to help achieve the vision of faster and more efficient production in customized shoes, it appears Adidas has recently teamed up with Carbon, a Silicon Valley startup, in order to create better midsoles, which are the most important part of running shoes. The startup uses Digital Light Synthesis, a special 3D manufacturing procedure, in order to create stiff elastomer midsoles that can potentially outperform the best gels and foams in the market. Adidas wants to incorporate this tech in this future and expand the production of the Speedfactory in order to create better products.
This partnership was first shown last 2017 with the production of an Adidas-Carbon insole, called the Futurecraft 4D. This resulted in a limited run of running shoes made available to the public at around $300 a pair, and its popularity had it become sold out instantly. Adidas and Carbon plan on releasing more of these shoes by the end of the year – albeit only 100,000 pairs. This is a lot, but not as much as the 400-million pairs of Adidas shoes they produced last 2017.
With this kind of production scale, it’s reasonable to believe just why Adidas wants to push for its fast and efficient custom shoe production. After all, it’s not alone in trying to achieve this. Brooks Running has just collaborated with HP to create its own FitStation, which also plans on using 3D printing to create midsole molds with polyurethane and special insoles for customized shoes. Shoe giant Nike is also starting to test Flyprint, its own 3D-printed material, which is also capable of fitting shoes to the needs of runners, as well as their gait and foot shape.
Of course, none of these shoes exactly come up as cheap. For instance the special Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite Flyprint has been sold in small numbers, with each pair sold as much as $600. There’s no news if the Flyprint shoes will be made more available in the future – which is an important inquiry, as availability and cost really do remain as the biggest deal breakers when it comes to getting yourself your dream shoes.
Matt Powell, an NPD senior industry analyst, said that while the brands can indeed make customized products, they’re still very expensive to be considered a commercial option. It doesn’t matter who gets to create the customized products first, because going commercially is the game.
So far, only the most elite athletes in the world are enjoying this level of customization. However, there’s hope that us ordinary runners and fitness enthusiasts may be getting these shoes in the future as well.
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