Adidas truly wouldn't be what it is today without Sam Handy. Creative Director for the German giant's Running division, he has overseen and lead some of the brand's biggest and best creations, including but not limited to the adizero Adios Pro and of course, the brand new Ultra Boost 21 which was officially unveiled just today.
As part of our latest "Under The Influence" segment, we sat down with the man himself to discuss what got him into sneakers in the first place, what's next for 4D technology, the future of adidas, and so much more!
At adidas you've created some of the most innovative silhouettes such as the 4D Run 1.0, what got you into sneakers in the first place?
The shoes you mention were created by a super talented team of designers, but I did have the pleasure to lead the creation. I would say that I was first exposed to sneaker culture through seeing adidas, and especially the Superstar as a kid on '80s rap, graffiti, and breakdance people.
From that, I was then drawn to the early streetwear and skate scenes in the '90s where "sneaker culture" really grew alongside streetwear more generally.
When you start designing a shoe, what's your thought process like?
I'm personally really driven to make function as clear as possible in a performance shoe, so showing what it does (and it has to do something) in a bold, immediate way is a priority for me when I design.
Let's talk a bit about Futurecraft. Can you tell us where you see 4D in a few years time?
3D printing is the future of manufacture for so many reasons, including sustainability (no mould making), personalization, speed and local manufacture, and impossible geometries.
I genuinely believe that we have only scratched the surface with Futurecraft 4D to date, but you will see some amazing evolutions of that process later this year.
With the Ultra Boost DNA Loop, do you see 100% recyclable materials being used in all adidas shoes soon?
Building a performance running shoe for recyclability out of one material is an immense challenge. It is for sure the right way to build all products in the future but it will take a while to get there.
You see though that we scale the things that we learn with a shoe like the Ultra Boost DNA Loop across massive shoes like Ultra Boost 21, for example, where every pair contains recycled ocean plastic as we move towards our goal of zero virgin polyester by 2024.
Speaking of which, what makes the brand new Ultra Boost 21 different from the rest?
When it first launched, Ultra Boost was a huge disruption to the industry and it still stands as one of the greatest shoes ever.
With every generation, the functional performance gets better and better. The Ultra Boost 21 marries the visual cues that we all loved from 2015's OG and turbocharges them with the big performance gains to deliver a shoe that is the pinnacle harmonisation of weight, cushioning and responsiveness.
Compared to the Ultra Boost 20, the Ultra Boost 21 features 6% more Boost to provide incredible energy return and optimum comfort in every stride. The Ultra Boost 21 is also our most sustainable Ultra Boost ever with an upper made from Primeblue – a high-performance recycled yarn containing at least 50% Parley Ocean Plastic.
Why did you decide to replace the much-loved Torsion bar with the ADIDAS LEP?
The ADIDAS LEP system was born from the original insights behind our classic Torsion bar. It delivers 15% more forefoot bending stiffness to generate more dynamic and dramatic responsiveness with every stride.
If you had to choose, what are the top three sneakers that you've created and why?
The top three shoes I have had the great pleasure to work on to date would be the NMD, the ACE Purecontrol Football Boots, and the adizero Adios Pro. All three of these changed the trajectory of the marketplace they were launched onto and I hope will stand the test of time.
If you could only wear one sneaker for the rest of your life, what would it be?
It has to be the Stan Smith. Works with everything. Totally timeless.
Can you tell us a little bit about what’s in-store for adidas Running this year?
We're (hopefully) headed into an Olympic year and we wouldn't be adidas without having innovative products for the biggest sporting events in the world. What you saw at the end of 2020 was just teaser of where we will go in 2021.
How have you been keeping busy over the pandemic?
I actually managed to run a lot (for me), 4 or 5 times a week. I also managed to give a lot more time to my three kids which has been a real silver lining to living in lockdown.
Do you have any advice for aspiring sneaker designers out here?
Don't follow trends. You are so much more valuable to a brand if you bring a unique visual perspective, disconnected to what's happening right now. Also remember that brands are operating around two years ahead of the marketplace so if it looks "cool" today, it's probably too late.
Be yourself and project ahead of what you can see today!