By now, you’re already familiar with the ‘barefoot’ kicking approach to generating power from Puma’s latest football boots, the evoPOWER.
But whilst the concept of mimicking the natural movement of the foot was right under the designers noses (literally) the whole time, the materials and technology needed to execute the concept was anything but, as we found out when we spoke to Puma Product Manager Pascal Van Essen.
“In order to allow the foot and the boot to achieve that wider angle, we needed a material that would stretch vertically, but not horizontally. But that material didn’t exist. Not only that, but we’d need a liner that would also stretch in the same way that would allow maximum comfort. But that also didn’t exist.” explained Van Essen at the evoPOWER launch in Barcelona.
“Which is what lead us to Adap-Lite”. A curious synthetic, the upper on the evoPOWER is nowhere near as smooth as it looks, with a foamy, malleable quality to it and a level of stretch that would put some leathers to shame.
Clearly a point of pride to everyone that worked on the boot, Van Essen constantly flexes and rolls the boot around in his hands, demonstrating the Adap-Lite’s unique movement, along with that of the other marquee feature – the Gradual Stability Frame, or GSF.
We’ve seen no shortage of ‘spines’ on football boots before, mostly under the toe area, but this one is arguably the first we’ve seen that bends in both directions – something Van Essen likens to the human vertebrae; capable completely free movement in some places, but ‘locks up’ where stabilisation is needed.
And that is very much the case with the evoPOWER; almost completely free to move in the toes, you can actually bend the boot’s toe downwards at a forty-five degree angle with no issue, and roll it up like a snail’s shell in the toes with little resistance.
But as soon as you hit the midfoot, the boot starts to gain form and rigidity, until it’s unmovable in the heel.
Van Essen explains that this freedom allows the boot to make contact with the ball at the most natural angle for the foot; a wider angle than most boots would allow.
“For anyone that plays tennis, you know that your most powerful shots come from a forehand or backhand, where you can open up the face of the racket, rather than reaching for the ball at an angle”, by allowing the foot to angle further down, we can make better contact with the ball. Sounds simple.
But it’s in that that you appreciate the little touches that Puma have put in to the boot; the heel tab is sponge soft and completely collapsable, this means when the foot does open up, the heel doesn’t impede or dig in to the achilles – whilst still being supportive during the rest of the game.
But not all aspects of the human body are perfect for striking. Van Essen asks to look at the back of your hands.
“Bones, blood vessels and muscles are all noticeable and under the skin, and it’s the same in your foot. Even if you strike the ball perfectly, these features of the body create an inconsistent surface for contact with the ball, resulting in a loss of power and a loss of accuracy”.
That’s where Accu-Foam comes in – a layer of memory foam that thins-out when the foot meets the ball, this fills in the gaps to create a more consistent surface.
Despite being an unorthodox idea, the Puma Product Manager’s explanations of the key features of the evoPOWER make a lot of sense.
But there’s courage in his conviction, too as Pascal ends our interview with the assertion “You can actually shoot harder with every shot”.