Q&A With Adidas’ Director of Running

Q&A With Adidas’ Director of Running

It’s hard to deny that runners have a ton of choices when it comes to shoes. But try this on for size: Last week, Adidas released what the brand is calling its best running shoe yet. We caught up with director of running, Mikal Peveto, to talk about what makes the Energy Boost ESM so special. 

Men’s Fitness: What inspired the Boost ESM design?

Mikal Peveto: The Boost ESM is really inspired by the athletes, runners. I think that sometimes when we talk about athletes, we think about the football guys and the basketball guys, but I’m talking about runners in this case. We introduced Boost in February 2013, and it was kind of a watershed moment for us because we’ve been in the running space, we’ve been building performance running shoes and servicing the running community certainly since Adidas America moved to Portland in ’93. But we never really had the traction from a business prospective compared to the effort that we were putting into it. Boost allowed us to really get in the game of the business side of running. Since that time it allowed us to have a deeper dialogue with runners, and it’s been a constant refinement of Boost. The upper in particular introduces the concept called “engineer stretch measures,” which is what the ESM is the acronym for.

When we first introduced Energy Boost, that was our first shoe that introduced Techfit into footwear. It’s essentially the four-way stretch material with these bands of polyurethane to give tension and support where you need it. But at the time, it was a new fit system. Generally in running you talk about, “Give me a thumbs width to the end of the shoe,” and you usually have room inside the shoe between the top of your toes or your foot and the top of the shoe, there’s usually a gap that is under the guides of over time when you run more your feet swell, etc. But we took the tact of no, these shoes should fit like a sock. We have a very refined, clean, and soft TPU [Thermoplastic polyurethane] fit system around the shoe. So you basically have this four-way stretch engineered mesh, and you have this clean simple kind of reman system to provide an enhanced fit, a great fit.

What’s been the reception so far?

It took some getting used to for a lot of people. There were some people who just said, “To me it’s just too foreign of a feeling,” so we knew that that was a great fit system to have in the product. We were going, “How do we get this with support where we want it, breathability where we want it, and comfort where we want it?” This has been the culmination of that efforts of talking to runners and going back into our lab. We do all kinds of crazy stuff like measure the tensile strength of the human skin, and what happens to the foot in barefoot condition, and how much elongation there is, etc. 

How important is breathability when you’re running?

Tough to put a number on it. For sure, it’s one of the common refrains you get from a runner: “I’m running and my feet got hot.” The easiest way to prevent that is to allow for more breathability in the process. Clearly it would be more important to someone living in Phoenix than someone in Seattle. 

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How does the Boost EMS sole work?

The heart of the Boost ESM is the mid-sole; it’s the boost technology. Ultimately that’s the hero of the product: 2,500 of these individual “energy capsules,” these highly elastic pellets, and when they are infused together in the molding process they form this platform that we call Boost, which provides unbelievable cushioning and unsurpassed return of energy. What we found over time is that the physical makeup of these individual capsules nesting on top of each other also creates an incredibly flexible shoe. As we found in our testing, we no longer need to put big grooves into the bottom of shoes to create a flexible platform. Any groove you put into the bottom of the shoe, you are taking away some cushioning because you are taking away foam. In this case we don’t have to, because these pellets basically form flex grooves all the way up the shoe anyway.

The other part we found was running is not a vertical activity, unlike basketball. You’re not pogo sticking, you are gliding and almost skidding when you land, and there are these sheering forces that happen in running that these Boost capsules, when they are placed on top of each other, allow for a certain amount of sheering, so they can move independently from each other. What that does is it slows the rate of pronation. The more you can control the speed, the more you can control the total degree. There is a direct correlation between speed of motion and total degree of motion. These characteristics of the boost technology allow for this amazing sheering to take place to slow the lever arm of the foot to get a inheritably stable part of the platform. We didn’t create this shoe with stability in mind; we created it with a neutral foot type in mind. But what we found is it’s actually quite stable as well.

Do you see this as the future of running technology?

Yes, I think without a shadow of a doubt this is – I’m just so happy that it’s ours, but we as an industry have been searching for something like this for 30 odd years. We are finding every day these positive byproducts of the technology that goes beyond what it was originally intended for, which was how to create a platform that cushions and springs at the same time – that’s the holy grail. And we are finding out that it actually does even more than that. 

Are you yourself a runner? Marathoner?

Life-long. I’ve done a dozen marathons. My best time is 2:21:58.

Update: Peveto was a little generous with his time. In a follow-up, he clarified that his best time is 2:26:58. “Kind of a  big distinction for us track nerds,” he said, “but I hope it’s still somewhat impressive.”

Learn more and pick up a pair at adidas.com.

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