“Is there such thing as too light?”
Last year, adidas jumped into the limelight with the adiZero Crazy Light, bringing with it a dignified proclamation as the lightest basketball sneaker ever made. The recently launched adidas Crazy Light 2 just bumped the original off that spotlight with an all-new design and a 9.5 oz. curb weight – a 0.3 oz. decrease from its predecessor – setting the new standard of ‘Light’ with its record-breaking construction. We already showed you the entire Launch Event that went down this past Tuesday, but beyond the detailed photos of the sneakers, sketches, and samples, there’s still a lot more to be discovered about the Crazy Light 2. Sneaker News sat down with Robbie Fuller and Elysia Davis, two individuals who brought the adidas adiZero Crazy Light 2 to life, to explore the Crazy Light 2 a bit further, so continue on for an interview below and stay tuned for the official release of the adidas Crazy Light 2 this May 24th at an MSRP of $140.
Sneaker News: The adidas Crazy Light series is like your baby. What are you most excited about with the Crazy Light 2?
Robbie Fuller: The new Sprint Frame. The fact that it completely locks down. It’s the icon of the shoe. It started with the Crazy Light, so we figured out how to use it even more. We were able to add so many things to the Crazy Light 2, and still make it lighter, and that’s what we were set out to do.
SN: But is there such a thing as “too light”?
RF: Only when the athletes and the machines tell us “it’s too light”. What that means is that we’ll get athlete feedback – but they’ll never say “hey it’s too light”, but that it doesn’t have enough support in certain areas, and those things represent “it’s too light”. On the other side, we’ve got the machines that test the pull-strength, and if doesn’t withstand the pull-strength, we don’t get lighter, we have to add to it to make it stronger. I think with materials science and the way it is, and with bio-mechanics and polymer experts, I think there’s a long way to go in the lightweight direction.
SN: So getting lighter is the clear mission behind the adidas Crazy Light series. Is there something important about the sneaker design or construction that isn’t so obvious?
RF: “The fire within”. If you look inside the shoe, you’ll see an infrared/bright orange colorway coming from the insole that really brightens up, and that was some feedback from Derrick [Rose], when he was talking about the passion he has inside, kinda like a “fire within”. We worked that into all the colorways.We reach out to every asset – even myself, because I wear a sample size and I play ball, and i’ll know firsthand if they work or not! But yeah, we met up with him [Derrick] during one of the adidas research sessions and we got that little insight from him.
SN: Style is as important as function, and basketball shoes have become a lot more popular these days – almost like a renaissance of the 90’s. How do you find balance between form and function for such a high-tech looking shoe like the Crazy Light 2?
RF: The Crazy Light 2 is laser-focused on “achieving the benefit”. The way I see it, trends come and go, but winning’s always cool! The Crazy Light 2 is different for me than when I do an adiRose, because when I sit down and do a Rose, I have to really make sure that it’s a tastemaker – having the right inspiration. For this one, I just know that “winning’s always cool” with the Crazy Light 2 being the lightest basketball shoe in the world.
SN: So what carried over from the Crazy Light 1? Seems like the best way to go about it would be to build upon rather than start from scratch.
RF: I purposely carried on the three stripes on the ankle, because the fastest things are on the back, and also by freezing them in that spot, it gives it the identity – just look at the Stan Smith and once you see the perforated stripes, you know instantly that it’s a Stan Smith. I feel with the the Crazy Light, it’s so iconic and once its there, its there, so I can stop focusing on that and start focusing on innovation and improvements in other areas.
SN: One of the bigger stories coming out of the NCAA Tournament, especially in sneaker blogs and circles, was that adidas had some serious representation in the Tournament. Seven of the Sweet Sixteen were rockin’ adidas! What was your reaction to that especially with the Crazy Light 2 so close to a release?
RF: It was big! It’s great when the plan actually works, because really the guys have to get on court and get the job done, and they did – they got deep into the final rounds. For me, with NC State (Fuller’s alma mater), in the Sweet 16, and all the other schools being able to wear the Crazy Light 2 – it was just an absolute dream come true. Last year we kicked off with the shiny blue, so this year we chose to go with Electricity, the ones that Baylor wore during the Tournament. It’s about light, and it’s about color.
SN: The Electricity is indeed an eye-catcher, but are there any other upcoming colorways that you think we should be excited about? How involved are you with selecting colorways, or is there an independent team of colorists who work on that?
RF: I mean, the Electricity is great, but I like my greys because, well, it looks good! It’s got the crisp, matte finish. I’m very involved in selecting the colors. We have a color team, but ultimately, the final call comes down to me working wit the team and picking out the best colors.
SN: So last year, the Crazy Light pulled no punches with that advertisement with the Hyperdunk being chopped into two, and the Crazy Light proved to be immensely popular. So now that adidas is now the go-to brand for ‘lightweight’ and other brands will undoubtedly try to compete, what’s it like…
RF: …getting chased? It’s awesome. Believe me – lots of people are going to try, and lot’s of people are going to fail. If it was easy to do, everybody would do it. It is so hard to balance weight and strength, and nothing makes us happier when we see a guy sprinting down a court and stopping on a dime, and watching the shoe handle that with ease.
SN: So what’s in store with the Crazy Light 3, besides the obvious push to get even lighter?
RF: Not to give anything away, but we’re going to continue pushing the “lightweight” threshold and never at the cost of comfort, stability, grip. We’re in the lead, and we’re going to put another “10 yards distance” between us and whatever’s in second place.
Robbie Fuller is Category Designer, Global Advanced Footwear Team of adidas Basketball. He has been part of the adidas team for eleven years, beginning his career in design in Cross Training. He is the designer of the Crazy Light 2 in addition to the original Crazy Light and the adiZero Rose signature line.
Sneaker News: So adidas Basketball got back in the game by creating a whole new flagship sneaker with last year’s Crazy Light, essentially starting from scratch on the project. But for the Crazy Light 2, the team obviously had something to build upon. Walk us through the early process of the Crazy Light 2.
Elysia Davis: The Crazy Light 2 started with a review of the Crazy Light 1. We wanted to get a hold of what we achieved and what we wanted to improved. The Crazy Light 1 was really a statement of “Lightweight” and “Innovation”, so when we moved on to the Crazy Light 2, we definitely wanted to get lighter, so that was the first point we wanted to achieve. When we start at any shoe construction, we start at even before the samples, so it’s a review of sketches; Robbie had a lot of design ideas, so we sit down in a cross-functional team and go through which ideas seem to get after the concept, anytime we need to bring in our engineers to consult on Sprint Frame or any of the herringbone pattern, so we do a review of just sketches, then we go to a 2-D cat, then a 3-D cat, and review those before we even work on any tooling.
SN: With the Crazy Light being such an intense performance shoe, what’s the wear-test process like?
ED: We do an eight-week wear-test on Innovation concepts, so that means we take these early samples and send them to our D-1 colleges and have them play for eight weeks and we go visit them at the four-week mark and record any wear or abrasion issues that we need to address. One issue that was raised with the Crazy Light 1 was abrasion on the toe-cap, so we replaced it with a lightweight rubber toe-cap that would be more abrasion-resistant. We also run a series of parallel tests within our sports research lab – we have over fifteen tests that we put every single basketball shoe through, and that goes from traction, to cushioning, to flexibility, to torsional flexibility. We also have biomechanical testing – we get our lead athletes to perform agility drills, record the time it takes to complete the drill, the forces that they can generate, and of course, how the shoe is holding up using a lot of high-speed video. So from there, we complete a list of things that are great, and things that we want to improve on.
SN: It seems like there’s a lot of information that comes out of the testing process with athletes and machines, but obviously nothing’s perfect on the first try. How were the results from the initial round of testing?
ED: With all the learning we did with the Crazy Light 1, the first round of samples of the Crazy Light 2 were awesome! A lot of the revising with the Crazy Light 2 was with the materials, testing five different lining combinations, and once that was done, we got a design review. All of that feedback, including marketing and athlete feedback, went to Robbie who did a re-design, and that shoe went through the same exact testing we did with the first sample.
SN: Besides the toe-cap issue you mentioned before, what was another revision that had to be made from the original?
ED: Outside of the toe-cap issue, there’s a hang-tag on the Crazy Light 1 that says “For Indoor Use Only”, which allowed us to reduce web thickness and make the shoe as light as possible for optimal performance on court, but then we realized the majority of basketball players play outdoors.
SN: A few of our readers have mentioned the outdoor playability of shoe, and a lot of countries outside the U.S. play ball on outdoor courts.
ED: Yes, definitely. So one of the things was to change up the rubber – we actually have a thicker outsole around the perimeter which is a high-wear zone, and we also reduced the weight in the middle, and that resulted in a bit more abrasion-resistance and overall a more durable shoe that will allow you to play indoor and outdoor. Also, one of the big inspirations of Robbie was this idea of aerodynamic design and one of the results was reducing the seams. If you look at the forefoot, there really are no seams, so it’s almost piece up until the medial panel, so you have a smooth, more finessed finish. That was an unexpected revision that really enhanced the product.
SN: So where is the limit of “lightweight”, if there is any? Isn’t there the possibility of hitting a wall?
ED: Our team has a really solid understanding of basketball bio-mechanics and again, just going back to those 15 tests we put any shoe through – they’re pretty rigorous because that’s what comes from adidas, with our roots being in performance footwear. As long as we’re pushing the boundaries of “lightweight” and never forgetting and never compromising what it means to be a basketball shoe and what it requires, we can still go light. There’s a lot shoes that go light in a very arbitrary way, but we try to do it in a very intelligent way, and we’re still finding ways to make shoes lighter, which comes from not only material innovation, but construction innovation. We’re not there yet!
Elysia Davis is part of Sports Research, Basketball for adidas. Her background and experience in Biomechanics has been integral to the development of the adidas adiZero Crazy Light series.