Running has long been a passion of mine — it comes in handy since working for a website usually comes with long working hours at the cost of a significant lack of physical activity. All too often, I look to put the cover down on the laptop after “one last post” in hopes of disappearing into the darkness of Hong Kong to lose myself for just a part of the day, adidas’s latest running shoe — aptly named the Springblade — caught my attention like many. Due to its rather polarizing look highlighted with 16 blades at the midsole, it urges casual admirers manually depress each blade and every experimental runner at heart to test the shoe. According to the German sporting giant, the Springblade is the first running shoe of its kind with 16 forward-angled blades made from a high-tech polymer that are angled in such a way to help propel runners forward and touted to increase running economy and efficiency. For the most part, shoe companies usually produce running shoes with molded midsoles that while provided the necessary cushioning and responsiveness, eventually degrade. However that’s not to say mechanical cushioning has been seen in the past via adidas’s own a³, Nike Shox, Mizuno Wave and the mechanisms behind On’s Cloudracer. But some recent footwear developments from adidas including its BOOST technology has looked to take that concept of propulsion and energy return to a new level. With all these improvements before me, one couldn’t help but wonder what the tech was actually capable of.
While my usual runs lead me through the concrete jungle of Kowloon in Hong Kong, I also tried out the Springblade in more “natural” surroundings such as grass and ground dirt which can be found on remote HK islands. A trail shoe the Springblade is certainly not, nor are they advertised as such but I wanted to put them through various scenarios.
At first glance, the undoubtedly progressive and unique design of adidas Springblade is carried by the 16 elastic, high-tech polymer blades instead of a traditional midsole. Each blade is angled forward to promote forward rather than vertical energy return and is designed to support the runner through every phase of their running stride. The design team drew inspiration from other pieces of athletic equipment, like springboards and pole vaults, and applied those concepts to a running shoe. Hands down, the design polarizes and doesn’t fall into your conventional running shoe category. For a debut colorway, there’s no missing the vibrant Techfit upper which combines a predominately open mesh upper with systematic usages of support for the heel cup and supportive Three Stripes branding. Subsequent colors that have since launched have also provided further options, for both men and women including some more understated colorways. But upon initial wearing, the Springblades — to use a cliche sneakerhead term — are neckbreakers and you can’t help but feel the general masses staring at your feet as you pass by.
“At first glance, the undoubtedly progressive and unique design of adidas Springblade is carried by the 16 elastic, high-tech polymer blades instead of a traditional midsole.”
Like all elements of the shoe, its cushioning is centered around the question whether the 16 blades on the sole offers high energy return or not. The anecdotal answer is yes. The blades offer great cushioning from impact and provides you with a definite bouncy feeling – especially on harder surfaces. One thing I noticed was the difference in the compression of the different blades. Each blade is “precisely tuned in geometry, thickness, and position for each phase of the stride to combine support and flexibility,” the difference could be felt immediately.
The heel is higher off the ground and provides a high level of cushioning while the lower forefoot blades carry you through the gait cycle. A minimalist shoe this is certainly not and the heel-toe drop differential upon first wearing the shoe is notable for anybody used to lower and/or zero drop shoes.
While the Springblade does a good job of providing sufficient cushioning to absorb shocks while running, there’s much to be desired regarding ground feel. In a time when minimal design in footwear has been heavily debated, it’s obvious proprioception isn’t exactly a high point for the Springblade.
“Each blade is ‘precisely tuned in geometry, thickness, and position for each phase of the stride to combine support and flexibility,’ the difference could be felt immediately.”
While my initial impression was that the shoe was too heavy, the upper layering provided an adequate level of breathability through more intense runs. In contrast to its sole, adidas chose to create a minimal upper whilst providing exceptional stability. Despite a weight of 13.1 ounces (Size 9), the adidas Springblade is enhanced by a synthetic sock-like Techfit upper that reduces weight and wraps seamlessly around the foot to form a flexible second skin, which comes into effect after a good couple of miles of running. It also features an air mesh tongue and collar, adding ample breathability to the shoe. Over several weeks of hot and humid runs, I noticed that these features proved to be a big advantage for the Springblade and internal heat was never an issue.
“Over several weeks of hot and humid runs, I noticed that these features proved to be a big advantage for the Springblade and internal heat was never an issue.”
As one of the most innovative running shoes to hit the market in recent years, the Springblade is at its best with heel strikers and casual runners. Without opening a huge can of worms, advanced runners with a more technical and/or midfoot running form will potentially struggle to achieve their accustomed approach to footstriking. But in regards to what the Springblade advertises, it delivers on what it promises –high energy return. However, it might take a mile or two until you can feel the noticeable difference. The 13.1 ounces in size 9 make the Springblade feel relatively heavy amongst the current crop of popular lightweight running shoes but decidedly it isn’t meant to compete amongst those.
“But in regards to what the Springblade advertises, it delivers on what it promises –high energy return.”