When it was launched, the ZX running shoe series was designed for runners of all types and abilities, from casual joggers to competitive long-distance runners and everyone in between. Numeric designations were initially given to each shoe, starting with the ZX 500 and ZX 800 in 1984 and 1986, and eventually ramping up to the ZX 4000 and ZX 5000 in the late ’80s.
Led by French designer Jacques Chassaing, the ZX series was also a platform for adidas to amplify proprietary technology such as the brand's Torsion system and Soft Cell cushioning. The resulting ZX silhouettes and colorways are considered by many to be iconic examples of footwear design, with OG ZXs becoming increasingly collectible as the years move on. In 2014, adidas introduced the ZX Flux, a lightweight, pared-down runner based on the ZX 8000.
Last week in London, adidas welcomed sneakerheads and ZX fans to its "ZX — The Roots of Running" exhibition, which housed a comprehensive retrospective of key ’80s and ’90s ZX models. While a fair number of ZX appreciators came through to soak up the exhibition, there are likely plenty from adidas' current fan base less familiar with the iconic running range.
Speaking to Highsnobiety, Chassaing says, "I believe that today‘s customer is motivated to discover and rediscover products that align with their interests — it‘s a state of mind being part of a cultural evolution. Brands like adidas have an emotional history and strong DNA to inspire customers."
Pushing the range forward in recent months, new ZX iterations have taken on adidas' modern Boost cushioning tech on releases such as the ZX 500 RM by Sneakersnstuff and Hender Scheme. Sharing his thoughts on these new hybrid designs, Chassaing says, "I think it's the right direction, as Boost is a statement technology. And what better place than in ZX? Today's lifestyle consumer is searching for an appealing look and, in addition to that, for comfort."
Few people are likely to be more in the know about unreleased adidas products than Spezial designer Gary Aspden, who gave us a sneak peek of what's ahead for ZX. "The ZX 10000 C (slide #2 in the gallery above) is releasing in spring," Aspden says. "They are a completely new ZX shoe from adidas Consortium, where the original designer Jacques Chassaing gave some input to the design team. I find that exciting."
In terms of his own area of expertise, Aspden continues, "I personally can't wait to see the reaction to the ZX 530 SPZL from the Spezial range that I work on. They are a new take on the ZX 530 L, which is one of my favorite ZX styles. The first image of them went live yesterday and got a great reaction from some of the new trainer collectors, as well as the older adidas purists."
While Highsnobiety readers have a variety of new ZX sneakers to look forward to, Aspden reminds us that the range's subcultural roots should never be forgotten. "Many of the designs are classic and timeless, but what is also significant is the cultural associations of those designs," he says. "The ’80s gave birth to so many youth cultures that sportswear brands, particularly adidas, were intrinsic to — whether they were B-boys, ravers, rude boys, or [football] casuals. Those associations give these designs an additional dimension of interest."
The ZX has also been immortalized in a book titled The Roots of Running, which is available for purchase throughout the duration of the exhibition until it finishes on December 2. The event is open daily from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. local time. Stay posted for more developments from adidas and the ZX range as they arrive.
ZX — The Roots of Running 21-23 Earlham Street London WC2H 9LL
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