So today we launched our latest BOOST Running shoe – the adidas Ultra Boost. It’s been two and half years since we had our first brainstorming for the shoe and I have been researching and testing different ideas and prototypes since then. After all that time and work it was fantastic to have the opportunity to present the behind the scenes engineering on Ultra Boost during the launch event in New York.
But how did it all begin?
Ultra Boost – The next level
In my work as an engineer I pay great attention to what athletes tell us about our products. When we launched the initial Energy Boost in 2013 we carefully listened to runners about their first BOOST experience. Combining this feedback with our state of the art engineering tools, we wanted to take running to its next level.
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Not much attention has been paid in the conventional running footwear sphere to how the foot dynamically changes shape during the running gait. We realised that there are still too many runners out there complaining about ill-fitting footwear in the forefoot area. Our goal was simple; create a shoe that unleashes the full potential of the amazing BOOST foam while at the same time ensuring an unsurpassed adaptable fit in the upper. We looked for ways to create an unrestricted yet supportive upper which can adapt to each individual foot type and movement to make a real difference in fit and feel.
From space to a race
To reach this goal, we looked beyond our walls and took inspiration from other top engineering institutions around the world. One of the key engineering tools used during the Ultra Boost creation was the ARAMIS system. It is primarily used by leading companies in the aerospace, automotive and medical industry to measure the movement and deformation of objects and surfaces. In other industries the system is used for everything from crash tests to wing flex measurements and even ballistic impact tests.
A shoe for every runner
We used ARAMIS to build knowledge on the natural movement of the foot and how well the footwear we’ve developed adapts to that movement. The ARAMIS system gives us in depth engineering data backed up by great visuals. When looking at shape change we can create a topographic map with a colour scale from blue to red, with red indicating areas where the foot is changing width the most. By filming the foot at 500 frames per second with the ARAMIS system we can get great detail on these deformations through every stage of the running stride.
When first studying the bare foot we were able to gain insight into how it dynamically changes shape through the different stages of the running stride. One interesting finding was that from just before touch down to push off, the forefoot can change width by as much as 10 mm!
Together with our colleagues from the running category and design, the findings of this research helped us to develop a totally new upper construction that adapts to this natural shape change of the foot during every step, achieving better comfort and foot guidance throughout the phases of the gait cycle. By using this elastic yet snug fitting knitted material that constantly adapts to the dynamic, changing shape of the foot we also significantly minimize the risk for chafing or blistering.
But there was more…
In our lab we have the ability to film a foot strike from beneath and we used ARAMIS to measure and identify zones of higher and lower stretch in the outsole. The bottom unit of the shoe has been completely redesigned based on the results to introduce a new outsole technology that we are calling Stretch Web. Everyone is different and the Stretch Web works in synergy with the BOOST foam to significantly improve the way the BOOST foam is experienced by any runner.
Last but not the least; our research has led to an entirely new heel construction that frees the natural movement of the Achilles tendon. External heel clips guide the foot as they hug and cradle the heel, keeping it extremely comfortable and stable during the stance phase.
Innovation is a journey, not a goal
We are on the constant search for something new, and once we have that, we want to take it to the next level. Working here, I have learnt that inspiration can really be found anywhere. We just need to seek those blank spots on the map. Using these advanced tools in the engineering team we are hoping to solve problems people didn’t even realise they had!
So, have you seen anything inspirational lately? Please share it with us. We are always on the hunt for the new!