words & images // Zac Dubasik & Nick DePaula
When adidas launched the adiZero 5-Star in 2011, it changed the game for what was possible in a lightweight football cleat. Weighing just 6.9 ounces, the 5-Star offered speed players the lightest ride possible. While it was great for certain positions, there are still of course other players that need just a little bit more shoe.
That’s where the 5-Star Mid comes in. We sat down once again with adidas Category Manager of Football, Jeff McGillis, to talk about how the team added the support and stability to open up the 5-Star technology to appeal to even more players.
Zac Dubasik: Could you first talk about the success of the original 5-Star?
Jeff McGillis: We launched it in 2011, and it was the lightest cleat in the game. It was 6.9 ounces, which was, by far, the lightest cleat in football. It was a huge success for us, and changed the perception of the athlete – primarily the high school kids – and got our product on field to a greater extent than we’ve ever had in the past. And then, it set us up for this year, which is really an extension of what we did last year. The adiZero 5-Star Mid is 7.9 ounces, and it will be the lightest mid-cut cleat in football when they launch this April.
ZD: Have you seen any change in the importance players are putting on weight since the original 5-Star launched?
It still continues. Every time we meet with high school kids, and do focus groups at 7-on-7 tournaments, “lightweight” is the first thing that all these guys say – in particular the speed and skill guys. But what we are seeing now, with the way the game is changing, and with speed being even more important than it has been with all the spread option offenses, that it’s moving to all players on the field. Everyone is looking for lightweight. When we were presenting the original 5-Star last year, all of the guys that were linemen, defensive ends, or linebackers were like, “Where’s my shoe?” [laughs] They loved the shoe, but weren’t sure they should wear it, because they prefer a mid-cut.
Nick DePaula: What were some of the insights from the low that you wanted to build in to make sure those guys were protected?
We used the same platform in terms of technology. We used the SprintFrame plate, which is a lightweight material. That allows us to reduce the overall weight, but then provide a perfect balance between a lightweight construction and increased support. We based it off that and used the same TPU studs, which are triangular shaped. The benefit to that is it has the hard edge on one side, and the rounded edges on the corner, so it allows for maximum acceleration, but then also multi-directional traction. And you can use it on a natural field or artificial grass.
And then what we did was we started to build that up. What we really did differently with the mid is that we still have the SprintSkin upper, but then reinforced it with an internal TPU frame. Then we brought it up even further. It comes up about 3/4ths of the way up, so it allows for a lot more stability. When we were showing these shoes to wide receivers and running backs, they say lightweight is all they want. When you start showing it to other players, they are just as concerned about stability as the weight. We really reinforced this TPU frame, and then added the mid-cut. And it’s really kind of an articulated mid-cut. It’s a little bit lower – a little bit more than a 5/8ths. And then we added a foam layer around that as well. You have internal foam that holds the ankle in tight, then it laces up and cinches down to hold your foot over the plate.
NDP: Did the shape of the reinforcing frame change over the course of the development?
It did. And what I kind of alluded to was that we decided to bring it up further. It started at about 2/3rds the size, and then we brought it up even further. And then we brought the reinforcement all the way up into the eyestay, so it basically holds all the way down. When you lace up, it has the whole upper attached. We were able to do it from the inside, go all the way under the plate, and then all the way under the eyestay.
NDP: I noticed the articulated tongue that has the sipes all the way through. Is that something you’ve been doing more and more?
You probably recognize that from the Crazy Light. They did a similar construction on the tongue. And what we're doing here was, again, going up to a mid and expanding on which players would be wearing the shoe. We found a lot of the players were saying that they’d like to have some support over the top of the foot. In the past, we’d had a synthetic material come up. On this one, we’ve reinforced it with an EVA layer. It almost looks like a piece of equipment. The laces go over the top, and it also protects you from the laces pressing down on the top of the foot, and also protects you from getting stepped on. Then, we’ve cored out certain sections so that you can still get the benefit of breathability.
NDP: You used a real cool progressive colorblock to it. Could you talk about that strategy?
The design overall, we wanted to make sure that the shoe was recognizable from the television – not just the sidelines. So, what we wanted to do was have a graphic that kind of went from the front, and kept the speed of it, but then allowed for us to create multiple colorblockings, which can look different in a white-based versus a black base, and then solid colors. It was really done so that it’s recognizable no matter what. A lot of times you find that if you put big, bold Stripes, you see it right away. If you put a fast Stripe, and you are watching it on TV, it can get blurry depending on the speed of the players. This way, it’s obvious which shoe it is when they are running. That was the main design for the aesthetic.
NDP: How did you decide on the carbon fiber finish to the material?
We talked about a lot of different finishes, and played with quite a few. We ended up on the carbon fiber just because it speaks to lightweight and strength. The other piece we did is we added more protection to the toe. And in that area, we put the carbon fiber material, so as soon as the player looks at it they understand that it’s a protective layer as well.
NDP: Were there any particular players that were involved in the testing?
Yeah. This time what we did was start really early, so we had prototypes go out in spring ball practice with our universities. We work closely with Michigan, Notre Dame and Wisconsin. Those guys were great, and worked with us all the way through August and September, and then we had guys wearing it the entire season. Some of their skill guys kept the test pairs.
NDP: Sometimes when you have such a drastically different shoe, guys won’t want to take it off if they like it.
And honestly, that’s what we’ve had. We’ve actually had guys wearing all black versions, because we typically do all black for our weartest samples.
NDP: Wilson Chandler was wearing all black Crazy Lights three weeks before the season ended, because he didn’t want to take them off. [laughs] That’s what you want though.
That’s been the coolest reaction to this. Once guys put it on, they don’t want to switch. Once you get up into the collegiate level, and the NFL level, that’s where guys get pretty particular about their shoes, and they don’t want to switch. And this is an option that those guys have been able to wear that’s completely different from what we’ve done in the past.
NDP: What is a more traditional weight in a mid-cut shoe that this will be competing against?
Typically you are going to see a mid-cut speed shoe in the 10-ounce range. They are usually low-to-mid 10 ounces. So this, being at 7.9, is almost three ounces lighter than any of our competitors products in comparison. Our Scorch X Mid last year, I believe, was 10.6 ounces, and that was our lightest mid at the time in a molded cleat. When you get in to the detachable cleats, then obviously it takes another jump.
NDP: Do you feel like you are getting to a zone, with weight, which is going to be pretty tough to top? Or do you think there is a next step in lightweight?
That’s a tough one. To be honest, I think a lot of it is material innovations. The key thing, and the hardest part of creating a revolutionary lightweight product is that you want to create that product, but maintain the stability at the same time. And that’s the trick. I think there is a point where you can’t go too much further in order to keep the desired amount of stability in the product.
Look for the adidas adiZero 5-Star Mid to officially be launched at the US Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio today: