Cleats are utilitarian footwear. While running and basketball shoes have long since transitioned to be worn off tracks and courts, cleats have a barrier to the streets that’s literally built-in. You’ve probably never seen someone wearing cleats to show off on social media.
How then are brands to generate excitement around them and get people talking about the product?
Adidas is taking the cross-categorical jump by taking successful lifestyle sneakers and turning them into cleats. First were the Yeezy Cleats, which morphed Kanye West’s existing Adidas silhouettes into football spikes. Now it's the Ultra Boost Cleat, unveiled this week, that reimagines the Three Stripes’ “greatest running shoe ever” for the gridiron.
While Adidas has been more than willing to connect with outside entities for sportswear projects, this one turns the approach inward. The Ultra Boost Cleat was the result of an intra-company partnership between Adidas Running and Adidas Football.
“Seeing where we can start to not always collab outside the company, but within the company to unite forces was the genesis of the idea,” is how Todd Rolak, a senior design director at Adidas, described the project in an interview with Sole Collector.
Rolak concedes that there were some naysayers at Adidas, but the idea of extending the reach of the already massively popular Ultra Boost was too hard to ignore. The Ultra Boost Cleat keeps the overall shape of the original intact, replacing its full-length Boost outsole with Adidas’ RazorFrame and Sprintstuds. Boost cushioning is still present (albeit less visible) via a sockliner built to reduce cleat pressure.
This tactic of re-appropriating existing silos and turning them into cleats isn’t going to slow the flow of pure football cleat designs. According to Rolak, Adidas will turn sneakers into cleats on more of a case-by-case basis depending on the reaction those sneakers are generating.
“It’s not a planned strategy,” he said. “If athletes are responding to what we are putting down then we will continue down theses paths.”
Without a doubt, the response to the Yeezy Boost was huge. The subsequent Adidas Yeezy Cleats had football footwear making headlines like never before. Part of that came from the fines that resulted from Adidas’ NFL athletes wearing them. While those added to product buzz, Adidas designers say it wasn’t their intent to go against the league’s uniform rules.
“We would work with our partners in the NFL to ensure we meet the guidelines cause we really want it to be on field,” said Joe Robertson, senior design director at Adidas Football. “Same thing with the NCAA or high school...We don’t ever intend to build products that get fined.”
Another piece of the buzz puzzle when it came to the Yeezy Cleats was the fact that people were actually buying pairs to resell, something seldom seen in the world of football cleats. While Rolak and Robertson agree that the primary goal is to get the cleats on the field, their sought-after status on the secondary market is a source of pride.
“I think it validates the concepts. It validates the heat we are putting into the market,” Rolak said.
It’s unlikely that the Adidas Ultra Boost Cleat will make waves the same way the Yeezy Cleats did, but this football take on one of Adidas’ best sneakers in years has the potential to sustain the conversation about cleats.
While Adidas hasn’t announced specific release info for the Ultra Boost Cleat, it promises that a launch is coming soon. It’s also looped the inspiration back around, bringing a matching colorway to a soon-to-release Adidas Ultra Boost with a first-ever silver shade on the midsole.
Are we heading towards a future where cleats finally break the barrier and people are sporting studded shoes in casual settings? While that feels far off and, frankly, still very impractical, an anecdote from Rolak suggests otherwise: “I have seen cleats in the Hong Kong airport, walking down the terminal, and I’m not lying.”