Earlier this month, adidas offered an exclusive preview of the new groundbreaking technology, Futurecraft Strung, to exclusive members of the media. The technology, as the name implies, involves the upper construction of sneakers — in layman’s words, think it the upper counterpart of the adidas 4D tooling.
Futurecraft Strung ‘s advantages include its weight, precise fit and a more economical means of making premium running shoes for adidas. Strung, in its core, is a modern way of making textile uppers, separate from woven and knitted fabrics, in the sense that adidas — with the aid of robotic equipment and a lot of data — can put fabric precisely where it needs to be, without using any excess fiber.
“Usually you have components and parts and pieces, and we think of those as 8-bit resolution, like Mario Kart,” Fionn Corcoran-Tadd, adidas designer explained. “We’re trying to create in 4k resolution, to get closer to the natural resolution of biology.”
The Futurecraft Strung running shoe weights around 223 grams. The Strung upper weights just around 27 grams, but since adidas can perfectly position its threads, the fit and durability or protection of the upper one actually improves.
Data plays a significant role in deciding where to position the thread to the full impact — both objective computer-sourced data and qualitative test data from all around the globe. “What’s nice is that it allows us to have a conventional understanding of the athlete on one side,” Andrea Nieto says, another designer working on adidas’ Future team. “And, on the other side, we look at high-res scans in 3D or motion capture data of someone running on a force plate.”
The balance of data is converted into actual production, where human decisions are not made by machines or algorithms, but rather support each other. “Once we build a shoe, the whole process is very human. We use that data to inform our process, but at each step, there’s a human processing the data,” says Nieto.
In addition to Strung, which allows adidas to produce better-performing sneakers with less resources, the real production process lends itself to more sustainable practices. “Processes like knitting and weaving are actually quite aggressive processes in terms of how the yarn is treated, while Strung is actually quite a delicate process,” says Corcoran-Tadd. This delicacy means that adidas will use different forms of recycled yarns early in the production process, avoiding even more first-use fabrics. Generally, recycled yarns or fabrics are softer than new fabrics and are mostly combined in such a manner that yarns can survive pre-and post-production wear and tear.
Similar to 4D, one of the main obstacles facing Strung, or any modern technology, is scalability. As 4D was first unveiled, it was costly and very small, and it took several years to hit a more consumer-friendly price point. That’s why Nieto says, “We’re aiming to come out with a very competitive, comparable price to our current footwear offerings.”
Futurecraft Strung is not scheduled to hit store shelves until the earliest possible date until the end of 2021. Still, adidas believes that the technology is so game-changing that they wanted to share the news before anyone could even get their hands on a pair. In his excitement for the potential of the technology, Corcoran-Tadd says: “We’ve seen a lot of new technology in midsoles across brands. That’s a big focus and obviously super important in the context of running, but it’s pretty rare that we see a big jump in upper technologies.”