Noah Lyles has just finished his first year as a professional sprinter for adidas, but the 20-year-old track star is already making a name for himself.
Coming from a family of athletes (his brother Josephus is also an adidas pro, as was his father Kevin), sport was always in Lyle’s blood but severe childhood asthma threatened to hold him back. However after surgery and lifestyle changes, Lyles not only was able to keep his asthma in check, but he succeeded in breaking the national record while still in high school.
More recently, Lyle has had to overcome an injury that caused him to miss the 2017 World Championships, before coming back to win the 200m race in this year’s Diamond League. The young runner has also drawn attention for his post-win dance moves and because he not-so-secretly moonlights as a sneaker customizer.
We caught up with the athlete to talk about being a sneakerhead, how creativity influences his athletic career, and his ultimate goal to become a designer.
How does creativity fuel your sport and your life?
When I was younger, I was homeschooled because of severe asthma and my mom would take me to art classes. It was my way of being free and being normal. I’d spend days on a breathing machine in the hospital and I’d be really tired. Art was my outlet — I would draw things and I discovered I was good at it.
In running, I like to be exciting and friendly so I dance on the track, I want people to be excited. When you’re on the track, it’s a show and I am a performer — I like to see the crowd go wild.
Tell me about your shoe collection?
I have a big shoe collection. When I signed with adidas, I received a bunch to add to my collection. From Shadow Knit Tubulars to Ultra Boost, alphabounce, YEEZY (I love that all white pair), and Superstars.
The Ultra Boost 2.0 is my favorite. I would love to add a pair of Pharrell NMDs — they’re one of my favorite sneakers to look at because they don’t lace up normally.
What inspired you to customize your shoes?
I started customizing shoes in my senior year of high school. I was better at drawing than painting, so I started doing research on customization.
I came out with my first pair, which was Florida themed, then I started customizing for people and family who wanted to pay me. I still customize my own, but nothing I compete in. adidas worked really hard to make sure everything is crisp, clean and intentional. I wear my customized Superstars almost every day. One of my favorite customized shoes to wear are my black NMD – I painted the BOOST red and nubs gold.
What does being a professional athlete mean to you and where do you see yourself going?
Being a professional athlete is one of my biggest lifetime milestones. It’s an amazing feeling. I will wake up on a random day and think “Oh my gosh, I’m running for a shoe company. This is the best day of my life.” Why would they pay me to do my passion? It’s a crazy exciting feeling. I could be in school not being paid to run fast.
My ultimate goal is to become the greatest of all time. After I’m done, I want to be a creator. I want to design things, I want to make things. Hopefully, I can do this with adidas. I fell in love with “Create Positivity,” that’s the commercial that I want to represent me.
How did you first get into running?
My health allowed me to start doing sports at age six. I started with basketball, baseball, gymnastics, swimming and soccer. I landed on track when I was 11 or 12 as a high jumper but I didn’t start to get to the top level until 8th grade.
Both of my parents were 400m runners at Seton Hall University, New Jersey. My father, Kevin Lyles, was also an adidas athlete. My sister was on the track and field team and my dad was coach. Me and my brother were watching practice and said, “Dad, those kids aren’t very fast.” “Why don’t you try then,” he said. We went out there in jeans and we beat all the kids. I started getting into high jump, 100m first, then 200m.
How has running changed your life?
I’m not very good at school — I’m average but I have to work really hard at it. Truthfully, if I didn’t have running to get through the day, I don’t know what I’d do. Running gave me purpose.
How has sport helped you overcome fears or obstacles?
When I was younger, my fear was growing up. I was terrified of the idea of having responsibility dumped on me. I thought when I went pro, everyone would expect a huge responsibility from a 19-year-old. If I stayed in college, I would not have progressed the same way. Now, I have a team that I can slowly transition into adulthood with. My mom, brother and a good agent help me feel secure.
This lifestyle helped me overcome asthma — and some doctors even think the running helped. I had surgery to remove tonsils at age six, which helped. When I started running, I always had to have the inhaler around and I would have to take month long breaks when I was sick. I met a chiropractor who got me on a diet plan which includes supplements, protein and lots of iron ( mainly kale and spinach). It gets me through injuries and keeps my body in check
What’s your favorite sneaker?
Ultra Boost is the best because of the comfort, ultimate feel and all of the colorways. I’ve been thinking about painting the cage. The adidas adizero Boston is my go-to shoe for running in. They’re light and sturdy enough to go fast. I compete in the adidas adizero Prime SP.
You can cop adidas’s alphabounce sneaker collection right now by clicking the button below.
For more fitness inspiration, here are 4 training tips to stay fit and motivated, according to Michael B. Jordan.
- Photography: adidas