Upon entering the bold, adidas-appointed space on the bottom level of London's Victoria House, the sportswear giant made it known exactly where they were taking the sport. In front of a white wall that read "99 gram boot; every gram" in bold, black type floated (quite literally levetated) a spinning, stark white boot with three black stripes.
Sure, the floating effect was a nice little party trick achieved by carefully repelled magnets, rotating nearly 360 degrees before momentum slowed it and the boot began turning in the opposite direction. Yet, party trick or not, it was the perfect way to showcase what would prove to be a marvelous innovation. The writing on the wall, specifically that "99 gram" piece of information is vital here.
That number, without context, means almost nothing. To give it some perspective, the current generation of the adidas adiZero weighs a relatively bloated 165 grams. When the now current version of that silo was released just ahead of World Cup 2010, that 165 grams seemed impossible. Then, adidas would launch the adiZero Prime, cutting that weight figure down by 20 grams. Finally, launching in 2015, is the 99 gram boot that adidas showcased in London.
A reduction of 66 grams from something already so light is truly a remarkable feat. The impressive figure (and even more impressive feeling when you actually pick it up) is achieved through innovating light materials that incluce woven and molded nylons, a paper-thin but incredibly strong skeleton, a 1mm thick upper, and clever engineering to ensure that the boot's strength is not compromised.
We had the chance to discuss the stunning new boot with adidas Innovation Director, Antonio Zea:
"Innovation is at the core of everything that we do. We wanted to make the ultimate lightweight boot.We know that the game is getting faster and that the players are getting faster.
"We looked at the boot from its entirety and said ‘OK, how can we shave weight off of the upper?' Right now, we're using leather or synthetic leather, so we looked at using a textile.
"It's thinner, still has the strength and flexibility that we need and we sandwich that between multiple layers of polyurethane. That gives us the body, the strength, the abrasion resistance, the tear strength. All of the things that we need in a football boot but still a significant amount of weight reduction.
"When we created the bottom, we used a nylon, which we use on the current F50, but we're at 1mm thick here. We reduced it as much as we could. We've gone to three studs in the heel.
"The structure comes from making this a 3D geometry so we still maintain that 1 mm thickness. The 3D geometry gives you the torsionability that you need. Very clever, very simple solution.
"We analysed the key movements in the game: turning left, turning right, cutting left, cutting right, starting, stopping, breaking, jumping. We basically analysed each of those specific movements and this is an amalgamation of each of the necessities that you need for that."
The boot, impressive on its own, wasn't the only example of football's fast future that was on show in the adidas lab. A little further in, also suspended in mid-air, was a full-size mannequin in mid-scissor kick, showing off the future of kit design. Wearing the aforementioned 99 gram boots, extremely thin compression materials, a mesh top, and lightweight shorts, players of the near future will play wearing a full kit that weighs a total of just 630 grams.
To give that figure a bit of reference, you can compare that to the adidas Copa Mundial, a classic boot that most players have experience with. A pair of Copas weighs 580 grams with each boot coming at 290 grams. The full adidas kit will weight just 50 grams more (roughly one-third the weight of a single current generation adiZero boot) than your old pair of dry Copa Mundials.
The future of football is fast and adidas are certainly leading the way.