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adidas’ Futurecraft initiative took the sneaker world by storm when it was first announced in 2016, showing off a fully 3d-printed sneaker midsole. Since then, the technology has changed several times, eventually landing on the current iteration, titled Futurecraft 4D. The material comes from an advanced 3D-printing technique perfected by Carbon, a California-based laboratory specializing in printing technologies. This is the form that has become widely known as adidas 4D, after the Three Stripes spent a few years doing R&D with it. Over this time, the team at JustFreshKicks spent quite a while testing out adidas’ latest underfoot technology, from the Alphaedge 4D to the updated ZX4000. Here’s what we think.
Futurecraft 4D looks like something straight out of the future. The lattice structure looks organic, almost like something pulled out of the ocean and strapped to the bottom of your foot, making it very aesthetically appealing. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear there is no randomness in the design, as each strut connects to another, building layers of highly flexible support systems. The same feeling of quality in the materials extends to the upper of each 4D-equipped silhouette, which varies depending on the sneaker’s need. The latest pair we’ve been testing out, the ZX4000_4D, features a single-piece Primeknit upper to adapt to the wearer’s foot, reinforced by a system of beautiful suede overlays for added support. On the other hand, the Alphaedge, which is built for performance, is designed to provide more targeted support for runners through TPU-coated fibers.
While adidas 4D has proven that it looks good in any form, the real excitement for the new technology lies in its performance benefits. Carbon’s development process for 4D is known as Continuous Liquid Interface Production, which is a fairly short-worded way to put it. Essentially, there is a small vat of liquid polymer resin, from which the shape of the midsole is slowly pulled out of while blasted with ultraviolet light so that it hardens quickly. The result is an extremely bouncy, high energy return midsole. The technology is also entirely customizable too, meaning that the team at adidas can take a 3D scan of your feet and running motion, and then print a pair of midsoles fitted specifically to you. However, as of now, adidas is currently using a single midsole design formed from the amalgamation of hundreds of different test runners.
So how does 4D perform on the pavement? I was fairly astonished when I took my first run in the Alphaedge 4D, and I’m not sure I’ve ever had an initial experience with running shoes quite like that. The energy return in adidas 4D is almost shocking, with the first few steps feeling like you’re walking on the moon. I had mostly been running in Ultraboost before trying the printed midsoles, and I converted instantly. 4D just made me want to run. After the first three, I decided to do three more. The first few weeks felt like a brand new pair of shoes every time I took them out, and each time I still had energy in the end to push myself an extra mile or two. Although a little more lightweight, the team found the ZX 4000 to similarly exceed our expectations in comfort and performance. 4D works great as an all-day casual shoe, whether you’re walking through a city or exploring trails.
So where does adidas go from here? In the past few weeks, we’ve gotten a closer look at several upcoming new silhouettes featuring 4D technology, giving us a better idea of whats to come. Obviously, the 3D-printed soles will still be featured in the performance cateogory, namely on a new as-of-now unnamed runner, while also continuing its foray into the lifestyle cateogory through an update to the I-5923, original Ultraboost, as well as the Consortium-designed 4D Runner V2.
Currently, the adidas Futurecraft 4D technology is available on just two silhouettes, the Alphaedge 4D and the ZX4000_4D. Both of which are available in numerous colorways directly from adidas, priced at $300 and $350 respectively. With more and more pairs becoming available with every release, we are likely to see even more styles and colors of 4D footwear in 2020. We’re definitely excited to see what’s next, and if you are as well be sure to keep it locked to JustFreshKicks for all the news and updates.
Words by Ben Serleth / JustFreshKicks