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Running Now: Interview With James Carnes On The New adidas adipure Natural Running Collection

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Words: Yale Schalk / Photos: John Brilliant

Your feet are pretty special. They perform balancing acts of extraordinary skill all day long wherever you tread — especially when you take them on a run — and they don’t ask for much in return. Actually, they ask for nothing, which is the whole point behind natural running. The idea here is that the best running happens when the least amount of shoe is present, and it’s an idea adidas has put into practice three times with the adipure Natural Running Collection. Beginner, intermediate, or advanced natural runner? This range has you covered, covered, and covered. We wanted to find out more about the adipure Motion, adipure Gazelle and adipure Adapt, so we got adidas Global Sport Performance Creative Director James Carnes to tell us all about them. Find out how the adidas Natural Running Collection came together, what its stretchy Techfit upper can do, what makes it “adipure”, how you can make the natural running leap, and plenty more ahead…



CounterKicks: What was the genesis of the adipure Natural Running Line?

James Carnes: The launch of the adipure running line stems from our history of enabling athletes to achieve their potential in the most natural way. Recently we have been doing that a lot through innovation that is lightweight alone. We wanted to go a step further than feeling the absence of weight, and create products that feel like pure barefoot, only better. Last year we introduced the adipure Trainer, our first natural training shoe for the gym and the collection has continued to evolve with the launch of the adipure running range.

CK: Design inspirations?

Carnes: Although you’ve heard designers say this before, this range was truly inspired directly by the foot. The adipure Adapt is the best example of this where the upper is really a stretch material with a polymer print where the pattern is based on a 3D scan of the stress mapping of a foot. It literally mimics the areas on your foot where your skin expands and contracts during running motion. The shape is also completely sprung so that it only achieves its true form when you put it on your foot.

The way the upper is constructed is based on a revolutionary way of fitting a stretch upper onto your foot. That, combined with the sprung shape, makes the shoe fit like no other “sock-like” construction on the market. Typically, a stretch fit upper just provides a snugger sensation before you lace the shoe up, but it doesn’t actually hold your foot in. This is different. You’ll see more of this.

CK: How did you settle on the 11mm, 7mm, and 4mm heel-to-toe drop?

Carnes: The three shoes are made to allow you to transition from traditional running shoe heights down to almost barefoot over time. That means starting with a heel lift that is close to the shoes a runner might be wearing today. The adipure Motion, with the 11.0mm lift still accommodates heel strikers while promoting more efficient heel-to-forefoot landing. The adipure Gazelle has the 7.0mm lift which is designed for the runner looking to improve their midfoot running gait, by promoting a midfoot strike more often. The adipure Adapt with 4.0mm heel lift is the lower profile, which allows for the greatest range of motion and highest range of muscular activity in the feet and legs.

CK: Please talk a bit about the details and key tech of this line that set it apart from other minimal running shoes.

Carnes: The Techfit upper has a polyurethane pattern that provides 360 degrees of support in critical areas as mentioned. The materials used provide a sock-like fit that’s not possible with traditional running shoe construction and mesh. In addition to that, the dual layer midsole ensures that forces are distributed equally across the front of the foot. The flex grooves also allow for an optimal rolling feel when you land and take off again.

CK: What makes the line “adipure” as opposed to “adizero”?

Carnes: adipure as a concept is about promoting pure and natural movement to make you naturally strong, naturally agile, naturally quick. adizero is a franchise that is all about achieving the ultimate in lightweight, for the ultimate in speed.

CK: What’s your definition of “natural running”?

Carnes: Running that is as uninhibited by shoes as possible. That means reducing the role of the shoe down to the minimum. Of course the trick is that you need a certain amount of protection from surfaces, and that means the need to attach that protection in the most clever way that feels barefoot.

CK: Is natural running something that everyone can transition into? What are some advantages of doing so?

Carnes: The adipure running range allows a person to run in less restrictive shoes and slowly transition to a running experience that feels different. Our line has three different shoes with various heel-to-toe drops so runners who aren’t used to natural running can work their way down to that level. By reducing the height between the heel and the forefoot of the shoe, your body is encouraged to run on the balls of your feet. One of the advantages is allowing the musculoskeletal system of your lower body to be activated and to physically align itself more naturally. When we run natural we strengthen our entire mid to lower body at once as one complete system. There is a potential to get stronger.

CK: What are your thoughts on the natural/minimalist running movement the last few years? Where do you see it heading?

Carnes: It’s exciting to see so much interest in it. While it makes so much sense as a concept, it is not for everyone right now. It’s important to realize that running totally barefoot or with shoes that have absolutely no protection (or cushioning) too soon can be dangerous. If you spent 20 to 30 years wearing modern sport shoes, it will take you some time to transition into the experience and benefits of letting your body move more naturally.

CK: This collection seems like something Adi Dassler would’ve dreamed up to make runners even lighter and faster. Is it possible to go even lighter with this line? What can you tell us about where this line is headed?

Carnes: The next generation of athletes is driving a demand for lightweight and minimalist footwear design. This has impacted how we design and develop our products and has found its way into everything we do. You ‘ll see us continue to push the limits of lightest in class footwear with adizero, making players the fastest they can be, and you’ll see adipure expand into new sports to make athletes naturally quicker! Keep watching.


You can buy the adidas adipure Motion, adipure Gazelle and adipure Adapt now at adidas.com

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Comments (6)

I’m loving the ‘wrench-set’ system, where people can build towards barefoot running.

The shoes look great too, I’d like to see some ‘commercial’ versions, that are styled like the Track-Spikes(maybe a suggestion to promote your track athletes for fans/road-runners).

I’m in a mood that basketball lost it’s adiPURE though, :x we need it back.

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It’s a shame that you didn’t ask about the contradictory nature of the philosophies between natural running and classical shock absorbing shoes.

(love the new gallery function btw)

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Björn, thanks for the feedback. Appreciated.

Since the well-known ideas behind natural vs. heel strike have been covered in previous Running Now interviews, I chose not to revisit them this time around and focused instead on the adipure line’s attributes.

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Perfectly legit reason.

Interesting read anyhow! Makes me wonder if it is necessary to have three models in order to ease in to natural running. imagine if an interchangeable version would be feasible!

More of less shoes to the people!

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I wish I could find a Adidas store to try these on I like them! Great interview I love reading these with the Adidas designers

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great read! i learned a lot. it’s a shame though that you’ll have to get 3 shoes to get to the barefoot running but i do understand the concepts of safety behind it.

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