Parallels between the trainer world and pretty much any other industry you can care to think of aren’t hard to come by, and more than ever before the need for constant evolution and innovation exists in order to stay relevant in a vastly competitive landscape. To set trends is always preferable to following them, and to create something that no one else has figured out yet is what brands like Adidas and Nike strive to achieve. Whether it be through a products eye-catching aesthetic, a groundbreaking technological advancement, or the sheer pageantry and lore surrounding a release, there is a constant tug of war between designers as to which unveiling provoke the most massive gasp from audiences and raises the most eyebrows from the critics.

Adidas FutureCraft 4D

Adidas in January 2018 released a shoe which very much put them at the forefront of something none of their competitors could boast, a feat which the Three Stripes were naturally incredibly proud of. As just over a year ago they produced a brand new never before seen silhouette they called the Futurecraft 4D – what was special about this shoe was its revolutionary midsole, one that was made entirely through the use of Digital Light Synthesis technology achieved through the use of a 3D printer. From these products, success spawned a whole Futurecraft range all using the same technique to construct a line of footwear which hasn’t even been attempted by any of Adidas’ rivals, and that in itself is priceless.

Initially an exclusive for NYC consortium retailers KITH, Packer Shoes, and Sneakernstuff, it wasn’t long before the Futurecraft 4D became one of the most sought after designs not just for customers but for potential collaborators looking to become part of the shoes continued development. The Daniel Arsham x Futurecraft 4D ‘Aero Green’ that launched in August 2018 was a prime example of precisely that, teaming up with Adidas to continue his extensive collection of forward-thinking designs utilizing this never before seen technique in the footwear industry.

FutureCraft 4D

What is Digital Light Synthesis?

What made the Digital Light Synthesis technology so appealing in a broader context however, was how groundbreaking it was not just for its newfound application in footwear, but actually as a revolutionary idea in 3D printing more generally. What sets this technique apart from traditional methods is that usually, the process previously involved wasting substantial materials, in addition to being a noticeably slow undertaking in which an object is created by laying down successive layers of material. To overcome such restraints, Adidas ultimately looked to the aforementioned Digital Light Synthesis from Carbon – a company based in Silicon Valley – to realise their vision. Carbon’s method used a liquid resin opposed to a layering method in order to achieve Adidas’ structures, deploying the use of light to create the shape of the sole, then uses heat to set it, more akin to an injection moulded structure. In layman’s terms, Adidas had found a method which was cost-effective, fast, and effectively made the need for prototyping obsolete as each lattice makeup they wished to test could be quickly manufactured through this process allowing them to test midsole performance in the design stage as they were going along.

The implications for this technology are massive, with Carbon able to develop an elastic material for the Futurecraft 4D midsole, which is stiff but resilient, creating a high-performance midsole with optimum energy return, the framework for future products was very firmly set in place. It is speculated that in the future this technology could be utilized to develop personalized midsoles made specially moulded to match an athlete’s foot. As well as refining the model’s production in factories to significantly reduced manual post-processing steps of traditional manufacturing.

Adidas ZX 4000 4D

So naturally, the future looks remarkably bright for Adidas going forward with their Futurecraft 4D portfolio, and February 2019 sees the newest addition to the much-touted futuristic silhouette. The Adidas ZX 4000 4D is the culmination of the super modern technology I’ve gone at great lengths to explain and something a lot easier to identify, the original ZX 4000 from the 1990s. This new model utilizes the same mint green midsole tooling that was visible on the OG Futurecraft 4D for its strategic cushioning properties that specifically target high-impact zones which now creates the foundation for its well-designed upper. Inspired by the ZX 4000 design from the 90s but with upgraded componentry, featuring a combination of white and grey paneling on the mesh and suede makeup, with vibrant hits on the stitching, laces and outsole. This shoe is a synergy of old and new and expresses everything that is brilliant about footwear design in this modern era – taking a seed from an iconic design from the footwear hall of fame and adapting it brilliantly for this ever-evolving world.  Right now it feels like the sky is indeed the limit for Adidas with the assistance of this exciting new technology at their disposal, but all that can be said right now is that they have created arguably one of the shoes of the year, and we are only in February. There is nothing that can’t be achieved through a constant desire to go one better, and this is a prime example of continued innovation being great for the industry we love here at Laced.