In February 2013, adidas introduced sneaker technology that has come to define an era. Boost first found a home in the shoes of high-performance runners — providing, well, a boost to their stride. At first, its soft cushioning system system and responsive ride seemed contradictory for many runners who may have preferred more minimal “barefoot” tooling, but the material’s high-energy return quickly found a devoted following. Boost was initially reserved for the best, but the potential outside the performance sect was obvious — an innovation in a sneaker industry dominated by Nike and a new lifeline for adidas, which had been steadily falling further behind the Swoosh.
Fast-forward to 2017 and, no matter where you go, adidas sneakers with Boost are as widespread as any other shoe on the market. The springy material has shed all the initial comparisons with styrofoam, becoming the de facto answer for anyone who has ever complained about their sneakers being uncomfortable. In fact, comfort has probably never been more important to sneakerheads around the world than it it now.
adidas has added the technology to popular new models like the Ultra Boost or YEEZY collection, as well as old school styles including the Superstar, Stan Smith, and EQT series. In a matter of a few years, Boost has helped rebuild adidas’s reputation among an audience that was once fixated only on Nike. But is Boost on course to become a flash in the pan, as opposed to a tent pole technology for the next 20 years? More precisely: is adidas using Boost too much?
There’s little argument that Boost is the most comfortable sneaker system on the market today. Nike’s newly released VaporMax system may give it a run for its money, but Nike still has a lot to prove before knocking Boost off the top spot. However, if we only wore shoes for their comfort, the sneaker industry as we know it likely wouldn’t exist. Other factors, such as price and appearance, weigh just as heavily on our decision of which sneakers to buy.
Not to mention, the comfort of Boost comes at a cost. As a high-performance material requiring years of development, Boost wasn’t created by adidas’s team. Instead, it came about through a partnership with the largest chemical company in the world, Germany’s Badische Anilin & Soda-Fabrik and bore its original name Infinergy. That cost of R&D, along with licensing and exclusive usage rights, comes down the line to consumers and tacks on an additional charge to any shoe that features the technology.
For example, an original leather Stan Smith runs an affordable $60, but with the addition of Boost, that price immediately doubles to $120. With another of adidas’s popular treatments like Primeknit, it jumps another $20. Is the added comfort worth the extra cost? Some say yes wholeheartedly. Others may not. As a sales tool though, Boost seems to be working pretty well, helping bring the company’s stock to heights it hasn’t seen since it split shares in 2006.
There’s also the more subjective question of whether the technological advancement of Boost actually belongs on adidas’s most memorable styles. Nike’s performance-first nature shines through in its well-known models and, while adidas’s football heritage has driven the company since its founding, its classic silhouettes tend to be more casual in nature.
The Three Stripes has done a great job of keeping those sneakers relevant by bringing them back and exposing them to a mass audience, but modern trimmings like Primeknit or Boost often take away from the history behind them. A Stan Smith doesn’t need all the extra accoutrements — just the classic leather makeup and green heel tab.
This is only one piece of a larger equation. At this point, Boost is more than four years old. But with its relatively recent ubiquity, it seems to have become a crutch for adidas. While undoubtedly comfortable, Boost feels more like a bolt-on feature with little added value anymore. adidas can no longer rely on it to sustain the momentum it’s garnered or stoke the fire of fickle sneakerheads and hypebeasts who are constantly hungry for something new.
adidas has made strides in those other exciting areas as well, developing sustainable products such as the Parley Ocean Plastic shoe or its recently announced fully biodegradable sneakers. Those creations only further the idea that Boost is nothing more than table stakes by now. On a mass scale, comfort can take you a long way. But without something to replace or improve it, the allure of Boost will eventually fade.
There’s a belief that once a disruptive force becomes mainstream, there’s typically another one following closely behind. So maybe we are just around the corner from adidas announcing a groundbreaking feature or style. Or perhaps the thought that Boost has become oversaturated is a bit closed-minded. When you consider the fact that the most comfortable sneaker technology to date has become completely and utterly mainstream, it’s a constant reminder that we’re in an amazing age for sneakers.
But there’s a time and a place for those advancements, and maybe adidas needs to hear that the answer isn’t necessarily “everywhere.”
Now read our latest op-ed on why sneakerheads have no excuse to wear terrible pants in 2017.