James Carnes, Adidas
Head Of Global Design
For Sport Performance
Runners and athletes may recall that during the mid- to late 1990s, athletic shoes came in two varieties: heavy and heavier. James Carnes, head of global design for sport performance at Adidas, helped change that.
Carnes, who joined Adidas in 1995 after graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in industrial design, developed the original prototype for Adidas’ minimalist Feet You Wear model in the late ’90s. He then went on to spearhead the company’s integration of ClimaCool technology in 2002. But Carnes’ most prominent contribution to the global footwear giant is its AdiZero technology, which creates extremely lightweight sneakers.
“Every brand was trying to come out with the next new technology that gives you added cushioning or propulsion,” Carnes said. “Our athletes told us they wanted shoes that were minimalist and light.”
By creating a single-piece shoe chassis, Carnes eliminated the need for heavy glues and extra stitching, both of which add weight. The technology produced the 11.5-ounce Crazy Light basketball model, which is four to five grams lighter than other lightweight basketball shoes.
Carnes concedes that Adidas has to convince some consumers that lightweight shoes can still be as supportive and stable as the heavier alternatives. Still, the company is not backing down from the challenge.
“If you play too much in the expected territory, people are skeptical of your product,” Carnes said. “You have to blow them away.”
— Fred Dreier