In 2015, Adidas made the bold and brave decision to axe their top for boot silos and replace them with brand new, never seen before silos. In an era where manufacturers are constantly trying to reinvent the humble boot, where was there left to go?
The answer? The laceless Ace16+ PureControl.
Sam Handy, Vice President of Design, and Dean Lokes, Vice President of Football Footwear and Hardware are two of the key players behind the new Ace16+ PureControl boot.
Handy has moved across from adidas Originals to provide a new set of eyes to football boot design. “I’ve been at adidas for six years and up until recently was the head of design for Originals footwear,” said Handy. “I’ve worked on a lot of shoes in the lifestyle arena, but to now move across into a high performance category like football, which is really the heart of the business, has been very eye opening and really exciting. I’m bringing the cultural, lifestyle side of the brand into a high performance category and looking at how we can mix the two sides of the business.”
Lokes has been with adidas for over 20 years and is currently Vice President of Football Footwear and Hardware. “I’ve been working in different categories of the brand from running, Originals and, more recently was the VP of Product in NEO. For me, I have the best job in the world and we’re excited about taking football on a new journey. We really want to blend innovation with lifestyle in a cultural resonance kind of way. This is the first product that Sam and I have worked on together and we have lots and lots of new things coming behind it that are going to be equally as revolutionary.”
The first thing you notice about the new Ace silo is its striking Solar Green and Shock Pink colour combination. The combination is remarkably beautiful. The iconic three stripes is only featured on the outside of the boot.
The next, and key feature, you notice about the boot is the fact that it has no laces. None.
In recent years, we’ve seen adidas break its own mould. It has become less afraid to break its traditions. For instance, there was outrage when adidas decided to end the Predator silo.
“We want to create a new level of desire for this product,” said Lokes. “Our ambition is to blend the cultural and lifestyle elements of our backgrounds with the performance side of adidas football.”
The laceless design is the latest in an area where many manufacturers are trying to be the ‘it’ boot. “Innovation is at the heart of everything we do,” said Handy. “We want to bring new product to the market, to bring new experiences to players. We want to deliver remarkable, disruptive newness on a consistent basis. What we’re doing now with the laceless boot is the start of a new journey. We’re taking things to new levels but we also want to do this with authenticity and stay true to adidas, as a brand.”
The Ace16+ PureControl has been designed to offer pure control with a new, laceless design. What the laceless design also does is allow the striking area of the boot to be increased to generate more power and accuracy.
“We’ve taken away something that has been present in every pair of football boots adidas has released – the laces,” said Handy. “The result is a really pure silhouette and a beautiful shape. That shape not only makes it visually stunning, but most importantly gives our players an unparalleled feeling of control”.
“We worked with some of the best designers in the business to produce a boot that is innovative and game-changing,” continued Handy. “Laceless is the future of football and a hallmark of adidas as a brand – leaders in innovation and design. Most importantly, it will allow our players to control the game better than ever before”.
With its laceless concept the key feature, the boot was built to adapt to the natural shape of the foot.
“Obviously you’ve got different players with various different foot shapes, so when creating the slip-on product that was one of the main challenges we had,” said Lokes. “Because lacing allows for that customised tightening, the design team spent many labour intensive hours over the last 24 months adjusting parts of the shoe to provide that locked down feel and fit, while also allowing it to be easy to put on and take off.”
The laces have been removed and replaced with three key points of stability to keep the foot locked in the boot. A TPU cage locks over and secures the mid-foot region of the boot. The foot is further anchored by a knitted upper and an internal knitted TechFit locking system. The upper is an evolved version of Adidas’ PrimeKnit technology, combining tight and loose premium knits across the boot for an optimum fit.
One of adidas’ key technologies, PrimeKnit, has a big role to play in the finished product.
“Knit contributes a lot to being able to pull this design off,” said Handy. “You need to have different amounts of stretch and support in specific areas around the boot. The technology in the the shoe allows us to build something that delivers this completely new fit experience.”
The soleplate is a Ground/CTRL 2.0 set-up and a lightweight Sprintframe, reducing the overall weight of the boot. Loops on the heel and front assist the process of putting the boot on.
The Ace16+ PureControl has been tested rigorously. Grassroots players in Sweden put the boot through its paces, as has Adidas’ cutting-edge robotics in their laboratory.
“All the way through the last 24 months we’ve done extensive testing with all levels and player types, from young kids all the way through to our top athletes,” said Lokes. “In the early stages of the testing process you get feedback that some players didn’t like it and other players said that it was amazing as soon as they put it on. We’re realists and we know that this type of boot is not going to be for everyone, however, it is for those players who dare to try something that is unique and revolutionary.”
Lokes continues. “Typically, for other products, inside those 24 months we have about four product cycles. However, because of the need to engineer and customize the way this boot performed, there were lots of cycles in between that as well. This allowed us to make minute adjustments to cater to a wider group of foot shapes.”
With such a revolutionary idea and now a physical product to show-off, getting feedback from testers was vital.
“We design the products from the player’s insights,” said Lokes. “Everything that we’re doing is based on enhancing player experience and if the product doesn’t perform then we’ve failed. It’s crucial to us that the players feel the confidence to wear this product and that it improves on what they already wear.”
“It’s a disruption and different,” Handy said of the boot. ““It looks like no other football boot that’s ever existed and I find it really beautiful to look at. It’s also a declaration of intent of how we want to do things moving forward at adidas. We don’t necessarily want to build a boot that is for everybody.”
Arsenal and Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil will be one of adidas’ stars to wear the boot when it’s debuted on January 23 in games.
“My whole career I have tried to minimise the impact of laces on my strike and ball control,” Ozil said on the boot. “I revealed to Adidas in 2014 that in the changing room I knot the laces over and over again and then tuck in the ends, that way they do not interfere with my touch. When they came to me last year with the laceless boots, it was like they have created my dream product. “I cannot wait to wear them on the pitch.”
Handy already believes that the Ace16+ PureControl will become one of adidas’ most iconic releases ever.
“adidas is the authentic brand in football,” said Handy. “Our aim is to make sure that this authenticity comes to life within the most innovative football product in the world. Also, to me, football is much more than a sport. It’s a part of global youth culture and we want to express that a lot more with what we’re building.”
As Soccer Bible said of adidas and its new release, what we’re looking at here is next level scheisse.