After two years of development, adidas have finally launched the world’s first laceless football boot – the Ace16+ PureControl. A further refinement of the sporting giant’s Primeknit technology, the Ace16+ is built to fit like a sock, which is designed to give players the uncompromised feel and control of playing barefoot, while also allowing them to strike the ball cleanly and effectively. The laceless boot features a similar type of material used in their 2014 iteration of the “single yarn” boot, but now appears in a more robust material with an engineered control zone on the upper and a subtle support cage on the side and rear.However, one of the most interesting and unusual aspects of this boot isn’t just its design, but also the man who built it – Sam Handy, adidas’ Vice President of Design.
The Ace16+ represents the first football boot Handy has ever worked on, having previously worked extensively across the Originals department. To explain how a man more well known known for his sneaker design can help develop a product for top tier athletes, we caught up with Handy at the adidas HQ. “I wouldn’t say it’s a boot designed by me per se,” says Handy. “The boot was driven out of player insight. All of the products we build are based around input from players. “We got a lot of feedback about players saying, ‘wouldn’t it be perfect if I didn’t have to think about my laces’. That’s what laceless was born from. Optically the boot looks really simple – it’s an upper with stripes and an outsole, but internally the way it’s built and finished were the really big challenges as we had to make sure it stayed on your feet and could be used at the highest level. It’s in these design principles that adidas’ sporting legacy has been built – the desire to find solutions to problems faced by top level athletes has always been at the heart of the business. However Handy insists the consumer is still at the heart of the Ace16+.
“The principles the same. We have to think about what people want. For Originals it was to give them the best shoe from the archive, and it’s not a different principle for the Ace16+. We have to give the consumer the best shoe possible. A lot of the shoes in the Originals range were high end performace items when they were first released – the Superstar was a high performance basketball shoe, Stan Smith was the first leather tennis shoe – they were all built with a clear purpose in mind and were designed for the highest performing athlete of that time. This boot is the same. That’s what I wanted to bring from the lifestyle part of adidas – not just solving a technical problem, but to understand how you take innovative ideas and turn them into something people love.”
While the Ace16+ is a completely unique design, one that joins adidas’ recent upheaval of their footballing range, Handy does have experience working with Primeknit, having previously worked on the design of the Primeknit Stan Smith and Primeknit Superstar. “It’s a really hard challenge designing a high performance product using Primeknit, especially compared to designing a Primeknit lifestyle shoe, as a boot has to work so much more. In the Ace16+, the Primeknit gives you the control benefit, the structure in the forefoot, the comfort benefit, and the performance benefit. You have to think about all of these and make sure they work, and it makes the development process much more difficult than designing an EQT Primeknit for example.”
The Ace16+ PureControl will set you back $300 USD, and is currently in huge demand across the world, with many stores selling out within a few days of release. However more will become available, and you can expect to see them on the feet of everyone from Ozil to Oscar in the current season. The future of the German powerhouse’s football range can only go from strength to strength, as while Handy’s background may be more settled in the world of sneakers, it seems as though his design work and forward thinking is already making a huge impact at adidas.