Adidas AG (ADDYY) is releasing its first sneaker, the Futurecraft 4D, that features what it says are soles made with digital light synthesis. For you non scientists out there, digital light synthesis is allegedly the next generation of 3D printing manufacturing that allows Adidas to provide athletes with tailor-made shoes.
Futurecraft was first launched by Adidas in 2014, with the 3D Runner released the following year. The Futurecraft 3D Runner's soles were created through 3D printing - a tactic increasingly used by competitor Under Armour (UA) (UAA) , too.
But, through its new partnership with tech company Carbon, Adidas said it figured out how to use an advanced method of 3D printing technology - digital light synthesis - to design sneakers custom made to each athlete.
"It's actually a tool to help you perform better, it's not a toy," said Adidas Head of Global Brands Eric Liedtke in an interview with TheStreet. "This is the holy grail of sneakers."
Adidas said 300 pairs of Futurecraft 4D sold at a "premium price point" will be released this month. They will be made from Carbon's Silicon Valley based facility. An additional 5,000 pairs are set to hit retailers in the fall or winter of this year. The company plans to have more than 100,000 Futurecraft 4D sneakers on the market by the end of 2018 as Carbon opens new manufacturing sites.
Adidas' move comes at a particularly rough time for Under Armour, which saw its stock crash nearly 56% over the past year. Late last month, the rival company released its UA ArchiTech Futurist lace-free, 3D printing-infused sneaker at a whopping price of $300.
But, Under Armour has been struggling to stay relevant as of late, and is trying to stay afloat with ploys going as far as capitalizing on sneakers inspired by brand spokesperson and actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's "grueling training sessions."
Meanwhile, Nike (NKE) is standing apart from the crowd by not joining the 3D printing fad but instead focusing on designing sneakers using lightweight fabric. The company took its latest addition to its Air line of sneakers to market on March 26 - the extra lightweight Nike Air VaporMax costs $190 and was dubbed with the cloud-like ZoomX sole.
The Futurecraft 4D has the lattice type sole synonymous with 3D printed sneakers. The shoe is light, but not as light as we thought before lifting it up.
The sneaker feels cushy.
Carbon's 3D printed sole.
Editor's Pick: Originally published Apr. 7.