Most basketball shoes are created to accommodate the structure of the male foot only, while neglecting the unique features of the female foot. The nuances of the female foot result in a different pressure loading, slimmer toe box shape, higher arches, and narrower heels.
Without focusing on these details in the design phase, female athletes often compromise their needs and settle for basketball shoes that are too stiff or lack support. So, adidas took this issue as a challenge to create one of the best women’s basketball shoes on the market: The adidas Exhibit Select.
Research and testing
This project tipped off at the W Summit in Los Angeles – an annual event adidas holds with all female partners including creators, designers, college athletes and WNBA athletes, to gain their insight into what product fits them best, how they prefer to work with adidas and more.
The adidas design and development teams scanned thousands of female athletes’ feet and precisely examined the data to determine the best shape and fit. The research findings enabled the team to create an all-new women-specific last, which is the form the shoe is built upon.
Then, they worked with the athletes to test and refine their design. They gathered critical insights to ensure the tech, look and feel were dialed to the specific needs of athletes to perform at the highest level.
Through this extended research, data collection and athlete-testing, the team created the adidas Exhibit Select, which features optimizations in three areas: the last, upper and traction.
Three key elements
Last: The last is considered the most important piece of the design because it helps the designer form the shoe for different feet. Currently, men’s lasts are predominantly used for all basketball footwear, including models marketed toward women. Therefore, most existing models do not serve the female athlete properly.
The design team narrowed the last to provide a more tailored fit. Then, they worked through a new heel design to provide better heel lock to reduce slip. They refined the design further by reducing the forefoot volume, raising the medial midfoot arch and mid step to better fit the features of the female foot.
Upper: A soft Neoprene bootie was added to provide comfort and flexibility while keeping the foot in more direct contact with the new last. Next, midfoot stretch bands were added to provide additional compression and increase the foot-to-last connection. Then, they created a more flexible midsole for a better heel-to-toe transition, which leads to a more comfortable feel on the court.
Traction: A key element for all basketball players is traction. The design was finalized after creating a new traction pattern on the sole of the shoe, which uses anatomically informed ground contact points optimized for the female foot.
When you compare the adidas Exhibit Select to a typical basketball shoe, the fit is narrower with less forefoot volume and its raised medial midfoot arch fits into a higher instep, or arch of the foot. The midfoot stretch bands enable more compression/lockdown, which adds stability for dynamic on-court movement.
The soft neoprene bootie upper hugs the foot, which allows the shoe to flex upon movement and reduce pressure.
A full-length bounce midsole provides lightweight elasticity, which promotes smooth heel-to-toe transitions. Finally, the rubber grooves and contact points on the shoe have been optimized to help the athlete start and stop instantly.
ACE-ing the game
Going forward, the Exhibit Select will be celebrated through exclusive adidas athlete colorway drops – starting with Candace Parker, currently on the Las Vegas Aces.
“I am thrilled to unveil my latest player exclusive with adidas Basketball, as this new style epitomizes the fusion of innovation, comfort and style, empowering me to elevate my game to new heights. Outside of technical innovation, with this one I hoped to pay tribute to the importance of a strong support system. None of this would be possible without my family.” — Candace Parker
This year, part III of the Candace Parker collection kicked off with a special-edition debut of the adidas Exhibit Select.
- Game Royalty – Released on July 15, 2023: Candace’s debut Exhibit Select is inspired by the African warrior Queen Kandake of Ethiopia, which is also the origin of the name Candace. Purple and gold symbolize royalty, growth, and Candace’s “queen of the court” status.
- Queen of the Cards – Released on Sept. 1, 2023: Candace’s nickname ‘Ace’ inspired her second drop. This colorway features an Ace graphic with the letter C printed on the upper and sock liner. The 3-Stripes in red signify the number 3 as a red thread in her career.
- Champagne – Released on Oct. 1, 2023: Candace is very familiar with the grand celebration after winning the Finals – In fact, she’s now won three championships in her career. After the Aces claimed victory on October 18, she became the first player in WNBA history to win a championship with three different teams. Her third drop is inspired by the feeling of toasting to victory with a glass of champagne.