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WHEN SPORT MEETS TECH

Rebellious spirit

It’s come around fast. adidas 4D Week marks the celebration of three years of adidas 4D innovation. What began as a desire to shape the future of running grew fast into an industry first – performance footwear crafted with light and oxygen. 

True to our rebellious spirit, adidas’ innovation incubator FUTURECRAFT partnered with Silicon Valley based company Carbon in 2017 – to explore what happens when sport meets tech. We landed on Carbon’s pioneering technology, Digital Light Synthesis™ – the process used to create the iconic 3D-printed midsole that 4D features. Our first concept was revealed in the same year.

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Innovative process

The 3D-printing process itself is quite something. Grown from liquid, fused with oxygen, chiseled by light – crafting a unique 3D-printed lattice. If you're an adidas 4D fan, you’ll know the signature midsole’s look and feel – it stands out, and packs a punch when it comes to performance. 

But the goal was always to craft a more finessed product – to provide the best for the athlete. And so, from the beginning, we used years of athlete data. Over 4000 individual insights allowed us to precisely tune the midsole to running behaviours, for comfort and support where you need it most.

Forging forward

By now it made sense to combine data and digital design. We could feel the future of running, and wanted to take it further. Continuing our collaboration with Carbon into 2018 and 2019, we kept learning, using the insights to rebuild the next generation of the shoe. 

Creative Director Adidas Running Sam Handy says of the innovation, “we’re in a constant feedback loop with athletes and consumers to understand how they experience and perform in 4D.” 

“From generation one and two, to generation three, we completely rebuilt the adidas 4D midsole to make it lighter, to improve the cushioning, and deliver a much better experience.” 

We’ve since explored colourways, limited editions, and sustainable materials, while keeping the iconic midsole. From the likes of Death Star detailing in the AlphaEdge 4D Star Wars, to Parley Ocean Plastic™ in the upper of 4D Run 1.0 LTD, to the latest 4D Run 1.0 Crystal RDY, dropping Friday 8 May 2020.

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A pivot in partnership

The capabilities of 3D-printing are immense. And right now, we’ve shifted our attention to the COVID-19 pandemic, pivoting our partnership with Carbon to create protective face shields to help provide relief to healthcare workers and first responders. To make the shields, we’re using the same 3D-printed lattice structures used to create our midsoles, to shape molds that aid protection and comfort. The method currently allows us to produce more than 18,000 face shields a week. 

Feel the future

But our desire to innovate for the future of running won’t stop. We’ll continue driving adidas 4D forward – collecting data from around the world to improve each new iteration of the shoe. 

The ultimate goal? Precisely tuned footwear to elevate sport for everyone. Unlocking the full potential of function combined with data, to create products that are coded by athletes, for athletes.

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