We’ve had a blast chatting to some of the brains behind the football boots that we know and love.
But the newly released adiZero might actually be the most interesting boot we’ve covered to date!
Want to know the adiZero’s secret Swedish Past? Which player had the most involvement in the boots development? And finally – the truth behind Messi’s fixed-stud soleplate?
Then what are you waiting for? Read on!
So, starting at the beginning – How long did it take to develop the adiZero?
This time out we were targeting a completely new concept [for adidas]. For us it was about High-speed football, lightweight product and this was not something that we had proactively targeted before.
It took us some 22 months from conceptual ideas to mass-production. Definitely a long development, but an interesting development
Why choose to make it the next in the f50 line, rather than having it as a standalone boot?
The main reason for us, is that the F50 franchise for us has always stood for ‘Future’ – that’s the internal thinking behind the ‘F’ in F50. Back in 1954 that was the first year in which adidas launched the screw-in stud system, then in 2004 we had the very first F50, which was 50 years of innovation in adidas football.
The F50 name is a household name in football, and means something to the consumer – we’ve always had products designed to be very edgy, lively and very aggressive from a design language. If you look back to the very first F50; It was very bold, without a clear 3-stripes it was something that was never seen before, and this was a language that we definitely wanted to continue with.
I think looking at the F50 adiZero what we have delivered is a very fresh branding with a very strong message, right down to the colours. I think it deserves the name F50 because we believe it’s setting out the future of design in football shoes.
The Man himself – Aubrey Dolan
Many other brands who are producing lightweight boots at the moment are basing their boots around Carbon Fibre. Why did you chose to avoid composite materials in the adiZero?
The main reason for is was very simply that they weren’t the lightest and they weren’t the most innovative in the marketplace at the time. A lot of brands that have done will continue to use carbon fibre in the boots that they make, but internally we always talk about leading and ‘cutting edge’.
The materials that we are using in the F50 adiZero are something that we’ve never used and indeed that no other brand has used – and for us it was very simple. They delivered the high expectations of a footballer they ensured that we had a very stable midfoot and a very flexible forefoot and it also ensured that we could create and mass-produce a show that weighed only 165g.
So for us, it wasn’t about looking at what the current standards are, but about setting new standards. I mean if we were looking to match current standards we would have been looking at a shoe that weighs 200g or 220g. But we wanted to set a new industry standard in lightweight product and I think we’ve done that with the F50 adiZero.
To really answer the question, it wasn’t about looking at today – but asking ‘What is tomorrow?; And this was at the heart and sole of the concept and development.
When we talked about high-speed football, and how the game’s changed due to high-speed movement, it was – for us – clear when monitoring games, movement, player patterns, speaking with players from professional clubs and amateur clubs, for them it’s about being fastest to the ball and fastest with the ball. And from there, looking to create a product that will lead the football of tomorrow.
As for the design of the adiZero, it’s quite ‘No-Frills’ to say the least – why opt for this minimal approach, rather than flashy graphics?
The clear message to the designer was minimal weight when picking it up is good – but what about the visual? Can you deliver a ‘high speed’ or ‘lightweight’ visual?
Now my background is marketing so I’ll always ask that question – and I wasn’t sure what the answer was when we started!
But I’m now pretty confident that the answer is yes! The positioning of the branding is very dynamic and speedy – and the whole thing looks lightweight. Definitely too, from a silhouette – a shape and a colour usage that really speaks and says lightweight and high speed.
It’s been quite interesting to see the uptake of players towards the Chameleon Purple – the feedback has all been that it’s unique, something never seen before and also something which fitted to the concept.
We’ve been speaking to professional players who’ve worn the boot in testing and aside from the weight – what they love to talk about is the fit! Was Player comfort a focus?
I’ll bite your hand off at that one! For me, and the guys here on the team – we show the most pride in the great fit, and it definitely gives us the greatest level of satisfaction.
We’re all footballers ourselves, and my developer plays semi-professionally. Everything we did was centred around the player. So for us, we said ” We don’t care – anyone can remove materials, everybody can make a lighter product. I don’t want to sacrifice player comfort, fit or stability.”.
And with that in mind we wanted to create a high-performance product, that when they picked it up the weight is amazing, but when they step into it – the fit is too.
And I think that it was the huge level of player testing and feedback from professionals and the amateur player involvement that helped us to understand the dynamics of a game and also the forces in modern day football.
Like you said, you need a product that is stable – but also distribute the forces. And for us that started from the ground up with the last [the cut of the material that the boot is made from – Ed] really developing a new last for high speed football which could absorb forces, ensure that it could distribute weight and also be lighter in the areas that you need it.
When you look at the points of focus for lateral movement, it’s all in the forefoot and heel. As a result we have a product that is wider in the heel and in the forefoot. What this means is that we have a shoe with the studs placed wider.
So the last was critical in this shoe to ensuring the player sat very flat in the shoe and very low to the ground – so it could then distribute the weight.
For us the greatest level of satisfaction is when the player finally picks it up he says it’s unbelievably light, but then comes back and tells us it fits like a glove was definitely, for us, one of the highlights in the creation of this boot
And to achieve that fit with a single-piece upper – was that a design challenge? Did you find it more difficult?
I think it depends on how you look at it – on one hand you could say it’s limiting. But I would say you’re giving the designer more freedom, because where you have a one-piece upper, it means you have no splits – meaning you don’t have to worry about aligning and pieces of materials to fit in the correct way.
Coming back to singular synthetic it really allowed us a lot of opportunity to be creative, to not be restrictive and to engineer the product.
If you look at the TPU bottom frame – the support element – this is engineering that is only possible on modern day synthetics.
What is the importance of that TPU Frame?
it’s very much like a rib-cage – and this goes back to the very first samples that we tested back in October 2008. Beginning with Messi and running it parallel with AIK Stockholm. Why Stockholm? The main reason we went there was confidentiality. which is something that’s hard to do when you’ve got players like Messi and Adebayor who are very keen to try out the product and would want to wear it in games.
So testing at a professional level is something that we were able to do in Sweden. And it was through this that we learned from players that when we gave them boots without the TPU support bands players were telling us ‘Yeah we like the material, it’s quite soft, I feel I have a clean strike and I like the shoe BUT laterial and medial stability – I feel that I’m moving about too much inside the shoe.”
So this is where we started to forge the idea behind the question, how can we reinforce a single area of material where we need it? And this is where the ‘ribcage’ of TPU support bands came about.
Interestingly, our first tests in Sweden were carried out on artificial grass, which increases lateral and medial movement inside the boot.
That’s because there’s none of the ‘give’ that natural ground has, right?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s also the material with the highest abrasion quality. The friction creates the highest temperature between the boot and surface. So we wanted to ensure that we tested the boot ‘To the Limits’, which was actually the working title for the adiZero project in-house. We wanted to go to the limits of what balances a lightweight football boot and a highly functional product.
Interesting bit of trivia there! After the testing in Sweden, did you have any feedback from any other players?
I think for us being such a passionate team, and us being keen footballers too, we all waited for the moment of truth, where we give the boot to the player and he picks it up – and he’s nearly saying ‘You’re kidding me! Is this even possible?’ and then they come back after training and say ‘It fits like a slipper’ or ‘I feel like I’ve got nothing on my feet’. Then you just get that feeling that you know you’re onto a winner.
The proof, for us is certainly in the pudding – that is, the testing. As I’ve said before – and people round here get tired of me saying it – I think anyone can make a lightweight football boot. But can they make a boot that holds up to the needs of Modern football – which for us is: Comfort, Protection, Stability and Support.
The launch of the adiZero was kicked off with Diego Forlan – who had tested the boot a couple of months ago. He received his boots on Tuesday, with the game on a Wednesday – out of the box, put them on, scores two goals in the UEFA cup final. Bob’s your Uncle!
We got a text from Diego that night saying “Thanks for the shoes – feeling was great!” – and it’s that sort of feedback that we’ve had all the way through the process.
Moving on, we’ve had Kalou in the FA Cup final, Robben, Muller and Pandev in the Champions League Final. The biggest game, arguably, was for Messi on the final day of the season that they had to win to keep the league title. He pinged out his Chameleon Purple adiZero’s, and we know footballers, they’re superstitious!
Having these top, top footballers change their boots to the adiZero for these final, critical games was a tribute to the concept – and we were all delighted by that.
As Messi is the biggest name attached to the adiZero – can you tell us anything about his involvement?
He was definitely the player most intensely involved in the process. Back in Spain, at the start of the process in October 2008, we went down with a 3D Rendering of the boot to show to Messi, and also a mock-up piece of the outsole so that he could visualise it better.
And from that we had some very, very interesting feedback. In total we actually had 6 visits in total, which involved secret testing as we were testing at Barcelona, home of one of our closest competitors.
But nonetheless Messi wore completely black shoes and went out to play in them. I remember thinking to myself “I don’t want him to take those boots with him back into the dressing room!” But fair play to him – after he played the full 90 minutes in them, he ran over and threw the boots to us and gave us a thumbs up and a smile and it was great to see.
After we had him involved with the launch of the f50i, we kept going back to him with ideas and designs. All in all it was definitely the closest we have ever worked with a player in the design and development of a football boot.
It was critical, that we had him on board – as well as it making sense – that we had him as a player on board with the concept and giving us feedback. It probably didn’t hurt that that day when he wore them for the first time he scored two goals in them too!
We’d really love to know what feedback he gave on the sole of the adiZero – after all that deliberation over fixed stud systems on the f50i!
What we had for Messi, was to help him with a foot injury he’d picked up. We needed to make him a special outsole – and essentially what this was, was that he previously had some problems with a metatarsal injury and he needed more support.
So we had the team in ‘Made to Measure’ (Who make modifications to boots based on if players have picked up and injury or are recovering. Internally we call this particular modification the ‘Messi Stud‘. The positioning of the extra lateral stud reflects one-to-one what a physio from the Argentine FA said he needed to support his Metatarsal.
And as it happens, we found out that this ‘Messi Stud’ was something that would benefit all of our players as the product went global.
Are you a footballer yourself, and do you prefer the adiZero?
Yeah! I Play pretty much every day. One of the main reasons I wanted to come to Germany was to play professionally, I played in the Irish Premier Division for a few years with Sligo Rovers and Gallway. It was a lot of fun, but I wanted to have a crack at playing professionally. Hey, it didn’t work out but I think I got the next best thing!
Being a passionate players, I think that lets us get into the nitty-gritty of the boots. I love the adiZero, infact the first test pair we got, I think I played in them for 3 hours!