adidas officially launched the third series of the Ultra Boost franchise on December 6th. Although the silhouette maintained its immense comfort and style, another evolved state was debuted. Equipped with translucent caging and a new Primeknit pattern, the Ultra Boost 3.0 is arguably better than we’ve ever seen before. Loyalists like myself wish adidas could have kept the 1.0 Primeknit forever and we haven’t exactly had anyone tell us why it continues to change. That is… until now during my in-depth conversation on the new Ultra Boost 3.0 with its designer Ben Herath. Read ahead as we detail why the silhouette continues to evolve year after year, the intricacies of Primeknit, and Ben’s reaction to Kanye wearing the Ultra Boost to perform.
Ray P: Ben, you’re a living legend. Few people get to really change the sneaker game and you managed to do that with Ultra Boost. I appreciate your time. I spend a good amount of each day professing my love for that shoe, haha.
Ben Herath: Thank you for the kind words! I love what I do and I am really happy to hear when people out there love the UltraBOOST.
RP: We are now on the third series of the already iconic adidas Ultra Boost and each have their own distinct upper. Can you speak on what inspired the design of the 3.0 Primeknit pattern?
BH: We were inspired by the movement of the body. With Aramis motion capture equipment, we are able to see exactly how the skin moves while you run. From head to toe, we are able to see force vector lines showing the direction of skin movement. In this way, we can lay down lines of flex and support along the contours of the body that help the 2D Primeknit surface wrap around a 3D form. We then reinforced lines in certain areas to strengthen and support the foot where needed. The design is driven by data and sport science so that it reflects the shape and movement of the body.
RP: Wow, that’s way more intricate than any of us would have assumed. Why is it important to evolve the Primeknit pattern every year?
BH: UltraBOOST represents the best of what we can do and the latest of what we know about the body and technology. We treat the constant evolution of Primeknit like a software upgrade on an app. At adidas, we never stop creating and so we are constantly finding new ways to improve the fit and feel. We want the UltraBOOST to always pioneer the future of adidas running and to continue to teach the rest of our running models how to look and feel.
RP: When I first saw the 3.0 Primeknit, it reminded me of the original Yeezy Boost 350 and I love that. Honestly speaking, is this update a way to bring some of that extra Yeezy influence over to the Ultra Boost or could it be some sort of a homage, since he is responsible for the hysteria around the silhouette?
BH: Actually, the designs were arrived at independently, but there are strong synergies we have as a creative collective at adidas. We encourage our design teams to be talking to each other no matter where they are working, especially when working on our best technologies like BOOST and Primeknit. I feel that our latest Primeknit directions are a reflection of where we are going as a brand.
Ray P: That makes a lot of sense and I can see that throughout several new silhouettes adidas has been releasing.
I want to know, as a designer, what are some things you’ve really mastered in learning how to design the knit patterns since evolving it a few times now? Any difficulties you’ve overcome?
BH: Every Primeknit piece is a highly mathematical piece of engineering and every one is different. This means the challenge to push the boundaries and do something new comes with a lot of trials and hands-on craftsmanship. We are getting better at working with stretch and non-stretch yarns and how they work in harmony with the foot while it moves. We are also learning more about new yarns and the recent Parley version which uses 11 recycled bottles is a great example of this. I am also a big fan of the silver reflective yarns which were also many years in development. Every new Primeknit design is the culmination of years of data, exploration and insight from a team of experts.
Ray P: When us, the consumer, think about knit uppers we automatically assume it’s as easy as making socks. But, after hearing your explanation it’s really cool to understand how much technology is required to make Primeknit.
Is the new 3.0 Primeknit just a new aesthetic with the same performance characteristics as the previous two or does this new pattern perform better?
BH: We benchmark the fit and feel against every UltraBOOST we make. The aim is always to improve the experience and create a new sensation of comfort. We also push and pioneer the machine in new ways to create new visual directions that express the dynamic contours of the foot and the body in motion. The latest design aims to improve on the experience while pointing the way forward with a new expression of Primeknit.
Ray P: In a recent interview, Brandon Beaty explained how much adidas Running uses crowd sourcing to create product. It helped spawn both the Ultra Boost Uncaged and AlphaBounce. I see you liking and commenting on Instagram and Twitter pretty often for such a busy guy. Can we see you exploring non-traditional or upgraded materials knowing how much people love the shoe casually?
BH: Haha! Yes, I try to stay connected to the community out there when I can and especially with any fans of the UltraBOOST. I am inspired by the feedback and reactions I get and love to see how people are photographing their UltraBOOSTS. I love the power of materials and how a design can change in fit, feel, personality and attitude, simply by changing the materials. We are always exploring new materials that will complement the performance and enhance the fit and the feel.
Ray P: Speaking on upgraded materials, have you seen this Vachetta Tan Ultra Boost custom? It was done so well, I thought it was a special in-house project. Will we ever see the Ultra Boost go this direction away from performance from time to time? Or will you guys let collaborators like Y-3 handle that? (Their UB collaboration was insane).
BH: That UltraBOOST custom caught my eye and I think it is spectacular. Congratulations to @mbroidered for this thing of beauty. I love his work and I am inspired by his creativity. We are open to new ideas and love it when people out there customize and hack our designs. That fuels our enthusiasm toward new ideas and can accelerate our own thinking. I love that people out there are helping us shape the future of sport.
RP: How did you feel when Kanye West couldn’t stop wearing the Ultra Boost?
BH: It is a big honor! For Kanye to show such devotion to the UltraBOOST made me feel very proud. I am inspired by Kanye’s passion, creativity and ambition and to see him wearing the UltraBOOST on stage gave me goose bumps. I designed the UltraBOOST as a performance running shoe and never thought that it might end up on Kanye’s feet and on stage but I am happy that he loves the shoe.
RP: Before we close up here, the Ultra Boost helped spark my journalism career, connect with people all over the world, and made me not mind walking around the makeup store following my girlfriend for an hour or two because they’re that comfortable. How has the Ultra Boost changed your life?
BH: Wow! I am happy to hear that! How has the UltraBOOST changed my life? The UltraBOOST has certainly made it really difficult for me to wear any other shoe now! My shoe decisions these days are just about which color UltraBOOST I will wear. I also continue to hear inspiring stories from runners and fans of the UltraBOOST and this motivates me everyday to continue to create and do the best I can. While I am excited by the success of the UltraBOOST, I see this also as a challenge to think about what will come next and to make the next game changing running shoe. So stay tuned!