The Design Process Behind The adidas Harden Vol. 2

The Design Process Behind The adidas Harden Vol. 2

By Ben Felderstein
Edited by John Kim
James Harden’s on-court game is all about changing direction quickly and staying light on his feet. With an offensive arsenal that includes a paralyzing jab-step, head-turning euro-step, and a nearly indefensible step-back jumper, Harden knows there isn’t a defender in the league that can match his footwork. His uncanny ability to snake his way to the hoop and draw contact combined with his sharp-shooting prowess make him one of the most most dangerous offensive weapons in the game, but his incredible passing ability deem him one of the few full-service offensive talents in the league that no five-man defensive scheme can contain.

Growing up in Los Angeles, James’ first love was basketball. He began cultivating an affinity for the game at a young age at Audubon Middle School, and from there his talents have taken him to Arizona State, an early NBA Finals appearance with the OKC Thunder, and now among the world’s elite ballers as the leader of the Houston Rockets. adidas and Harden know that the standards have been raised since the introduction of the Harden Vol. 1; more is simply expected from the brand, especially since Harden’s rise to MVP levels began right after that first signature shoe was released. The Harden Vol 2’s design team knows those are big shoes to fill, but its lead designer Rashad Williams has assured us that they are up to the task.

Adidas Harden Vol 2 Select Banner 1

It’s All About Data

  Pressure mapping, BOOST, and FORGEFIBER

Data-driven technology was key when designing the Harden Vol. 2. It’s new outsole traction pattern is based completely off Harden’s tendencies and the different pressure points scattered around his foot. Studying data helped Williams and the rest of the adidas design team develop a creation that would serve James best while being relevant to consumers on a performance level. Data-driven design has been a key driver in footwear innovation in the industry, but it’s emphasis on basketball is apparent as the sport sees such a high demand for foot protection and stability.
  • Adidas Harden Vol 2 Feature Vision 1

    adidas Harden Vol. 2, Vision

  • Adidas Harden Vol 2 Feature Vision 2

    adidas Harden Vol. 2, Vision

  • Adidas Harden Vol 2 Feature Cal 1

    adidas Harden Vol. 2, California Dreamin’

  • Adidas Harden Vol 2 Feature Cal 2

    adidas Harden Vol. 2, California Dreamin’

  • Adidas Harden Vol 2 Feature Ignite 1

    adidas Harden Vol. 2, Ignite

  • Adidas Harden Vol 2 Feature Ignite 2

    adidas Harden Vol. 2, Ignite

Launching during All-Star Weekend in three lifestyle and on-court ready colorways, the Harden Vol. 2 is ready to make a name for itself as one of the best-performing basketball sneakers on the planet. The “California Dreamin’” color scheme is inspired by James’ love for the city of Los Angeles – the place where Harden learned to love the game of basketball and truly honed his technique. “Ignite” comes dressed primarily in deep Maroon and represents “The Beard’s” drive and fire to bring a title back to Houston as well as his ability to create more points for his team than any other superstar in the Association. Rounding out the first trio of drops is the “Vision”, which pays homage to number 13’s LA-based Middle School where he developed his vision and goal to become the player he is today.

Adidas Harden Vol 2 Select Banner 2

Rashad Williams

  Senior Director Basketball Footwear

Before making his way over to the adidas, Rashad Williams was the head of men’s basketball at Under Armour, and was an instrumental cog in the machine responsible for Steph Curry’s signature shoe line. As an industry veteran, Williams was a welcomed addition to adidas Basketball and had an influential hand in the Harden Vol. 2. We spoke with him to discuss his role and more.

The goal is to keep James as fresh in the fourth quarter as he was in the first quarter.

  Rashad Williams on why his team opted for more BOOST

Sneaker News: The BOOST unit on the harden 2 is much more visible than the Harden Vol. 1. Why did you opt for that?

Rashad Williams: Well, you know BOOST is the best foam in the industry, really resilient, great energy return. So the goal was for James to really improve on his footwork. We looked at a few things for James, we know he plays like 36 minutes per game so it’s a very long season. We wanted to give him extra underfoot comfort. Full length BOOST, with roughly around 15% more, so that makes the Vol. 2 the shoe with the most BOOST ever in an adidas basketball shoe. Having the most BOOST should make it the most comfortable. The goal is to keep James as fresh in the fourth quarter as he was in the first quarter.

SN: Based one what was revealed with the first model, Harden series is organized in volumes to tell stories. What is the story behind the Volume 2?

RW: This volume is all around James’ evolution of his game and all around changing direction. We focused on three areas, his three signature moves – euro step, step back, and his jab step – and that really informed the evolution of the shoe.

This volume is all around James’ evolution of his game and all around changing direction.

  Rashad Williams on the story behind the Harden Vol. 2

SN: Were there any elements that James specifically wanted or didn’t want as part of the sneaker this time around?

RW: He wanted to make sure he had a more holistic fit – we call it a 360-degree fit. He wanted great traction, great midsole cushioning and great cushion in the upper. The way we got after it is with a new data-informed traction pattern. This is all based off of pressure mapping of James foot. The pods on the bottom are all the same fit but not the same size, and as you get to the smaller clusters, that is where James puts the most pressure on his foot.

  • Harden Motion Cali

    adidas Harden Vol. 2, California Dreamin’

  • Harden Motion Vision

    adidas Harden Vol. 2, Vision

  • Harden Motion Vignite

    adidas Harden Vol. 2, Ignite

SN: What did your team envision when you added this unique lacing mechanism to the sneaker?

RW: The whole idea is all around fit, so the lacing system gives consumers or players the option. It’s all about changing direction in the forefoot but the lacing system can give you more support in the forefoot if you need it, or if you need more in the ankle. That gives you that flexibility for some guys that like their shoes tight and some guys like there shoes loose.

The whole idea is all around fit, so the lacing system gives consumers or players the option.

  Rashad Williams on the customizable lacing unit of the Harden Vol. 2

SN: There was a bit more time in between the release of the harden 1 and the harden 2 than the industry is accustomed to. Were there any additional learnings from the extra time, or was it just a business decision to launch during All-Star Weekend?

RW: A little bit of both, we really wanted to get into the technology and the data of this one, we need to make sure were on James’ level, so we’re constantly gathering data. As we move forward with the volume 3 and the volume 4, we might look to adjust the releases of those.

SN: Do you have any special edition colorways or holiday releases coming soon you can tell us about?

RW: We have a few colorways coming, and the All-Star edition drops soon. There’s also the Audubon colorway which takes inspiration from his middle school, and that’s where he fell in love with the game of basketball. I remind people that James is an LA kid, and that has come out in some of these shoes. You’ll see more vibrant colorways from us, we took a little bit of retro Rockets inspiration as well. And some more LA, and California feels.

SN: The floodgates for streetwear collaborations on basketball sneakers are now open. Are there any similar projects for the Harden 2?

RW: Yeah, the great part is that we’re all about co-creating. So we’re always inspired and taking ideas from other brands, so we’re always looking to co-create with other brands. We hope to have a little bit more things coming. I think the Dame BAPE is kind of the beginning. Just wait and see.

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