I feel like I can not even begin to discuss this without some kind of disclaimer. Nike has possibly the most devote, cult-like following that any sneaker company could ever hope to have. I can feel the nooses being tied and I haven’t even gotten to my point. So, to open, this is an opinion piece – it is my opinion.
Note from Juan: Isn’t it annoying that whenever somebody in sneaker culture wants to say something that might be construed as being supportive of another brand besides Nike/Jordan, they have preface it with praise for the big dog or else the fans come with the pitchforks?
Nike has fallen behind adidas in innovation.
There, let’s open with that. Just typing that out without ninja stars flying into my back has me breathing a little easier. Before I continue my hypothesis, let me first state that over the lengths of their respective company lives there is no question in my mind that Nike has been the more innovative of the two. I don’t even think that is debatable. I am also of sound mind and am fully aware that Nike is leaps and bounds, light-years, ahead of adidas in sales and in cultural relevance. I don’t want those facts to cloud my core statement: I think that right now, Nike has fallen behind the Three Stripes in product innovation.
To me you can almost end the conversation in one word: “BOOST.”
Let me be completely candid in saying that (in my opinion – I mean, really almost the opinion of ANYONE who has tried it) nobody in the sneaker industry has an answer for adidas’ BOOST foam technology. It is killer. It is game changing. It is so, so, so very much better than anyone’s closest comparable technology.
That being said, lets talk about Nike’s closest comparable technology. In BOOST’s two major advantages, comfort and responsiveness, I would have to say the Nike 360 Max Zoom is the closest comparable tech. No, not Lunarlon. I don’t think Lunarlon is even really worth mentioning against BOOST (I know this will be an unpopular opinion – flame me in the comments)
Aside from the argument that it may provide better stability without a carrier (soft foams, BOOST included, are often “contained” in firmer materials to provide additional support). I know that BOOST and Lunarlon are both foams and so it’s natural to want to compare them but in key attributes I just don’t think its worth spending much time on. BOOST is hands down the best foam. I don’t think anyone in their right mind can argue that, so I’m comparing it to Nike 360 Max Zoom because aside from not being as flexible as a foam set-up, it is (in my opinion) a closer match to the comfort and responsiveness of BOOST. I know, it’s “apples to oranges” but the fact that I need to leave Nike’s top foam here to even continue this conversation only strengthens my opinion.
Back to Nike 360 Max Zoom, in a word it is awesome. It is comfortable, it is very responsive and if I am being honest (and if it matters) it looks way cooler than BOOST. However, I do think BOOST is more comfortable and more responsive, not to mention it is not a rendition of two older technologies. It is brand new and so… it is truly innovative.
That is sort of my problem with Nike lately. I know innovation takes time, Nike SHOX was in development for SIXTEEN years before it was unveiled. In the meantime though, we get renditions and they get less and less exciting. Oh yay, a new Lunar shoe. Oh yay, a new implementation of Air Max.
Oh yay, Flywire is dynamic now (by the way how did it even work before it was dynamic?)
I have no doubt Nike is cooking away at the next big thing. Flyknit is actually still pretty new (and amazing) but adidas has a real answer to it in PrimeKnit. In the meantime, Nike has been mixing and matching models and technologies. Updating the classics and creating hybrids. Here is the thing about that though… adidas is doing that better too.
Now, I really feel the hate coming on. Hear me out…
The ZX Flux, the Tubular, the EQT – in fact most of adidas’ most popular models are modernized renditions of earlier work. They have been met with outstanding support. Can the same be said about whatever new Air Max 90 sneakerboot Frankenstein shoe just hit Nike outlet back walls? No. Let’s not even bring the Jordan Brand atrocities into the conversation.
To be fair it is probably, mostly, because people do not have the same psychotic reverence for classic adidas models. adidas can drastically change just about anything in their catalog without people grabbing pitchforks and screaming about how “they are bastardizing” a model. It isn’t just that though – in my opinion the aforementioned adidas models really are better than their original models.
There are clearly areas in which Nike is still way, way ahead. I think the basketball category specifically.
The thing is, they are not really innovating in that space. The LeBron 12 is Foamposite, Zoom Air (oh yay, it’s podulated and tuned – that, by the way, is not new to the LeBron 12), Hyperfuse (or whatever fancy name they gave it this year) and Flywire. Nothing new. What happens when adidas figures out how to make BOOST work best in a basketball sneaker? What if they then couple it with PrimeKnit? Look at the UltraBoost next to the latest LunarGlide… gulp.
Let’s talk more about it in the comments below, I really want to hear other opinions on this.