Love at first sight is not a foreign concept for sneaker fans; if anything, bouts of instant and intense infatuation are things they’re particularly susceptible to.
The sneakers that incite strong emotional responses are typically not your average designs. They are not what practical-minded shoe buyers would consider to be safe and sensible choices for leisure footwear. Quite the opposite, the models that really fire us up are off-the-wall statements that don’t allow for middling opinions, and it’s because of those extremes they’re the shoes that we like to discuss the most.
The adidas Sobakov is one of those shoes. It’s arguably more approachable than its immediate kin, the slightly older Kamanda, but it’s still a design that evokes an emotional reaction. The fact that it’s certainly not for everyone is a feature that makes it all the more attractive; is there anything better than wearing a pair of trainers that not only draw interest, but also forces people to either praise or mock them?
Unlike the base Kamanda, which piques your curiosity because of its innovative outsole, the Sobakov is a more complex design with a greater number of details competing for your attention, and it’s because of those details that the Sobakov stands out; this is a sneaker that needs to be admired in your hand, and not just on foot.
Most obvious about the shoe is the wild adidas 3-stripe, which is constructed from strips of leather sewn to the upper that wrap around the entire quarter before terminating at the heel seam. The stripes are covered with a barely perceptible layer of reflective material; we’re not sure why adidas felt there was a need to improve the visibility of their shoes in the dark, but they did. Regardless, the stripes are the signature detail of the Sobakov and make it easy to spot a pair from a distance (which was the actual origin of the three stripe pattern).
adidas cites the Predator Precision as the inspirational force behind the Sobakov, and although it’s true that the football boot is the source of the three-stripe design, other details suggest that the Sobakov’s design team were paying homage to other boots too. For example, the stitch pattern used for the toe box of the luxurious upper is practically identical to the stitching used for the legendary Copa Mundial.
Of course none of this will matter to those who aren’t interested in football – apparently such people exist – and that’s fine; the Sobakov design stands on its own, and it can be fully appreciated with total disregard for its storied lineage.
Next to the lower profile Kamanda, the taller Sobakov has a more hulking appearance with its topline that sharply rises up from the toe box. This taller silhouette approaches a mid-cut height, and it’s another nod to football boots, but the overall effect is offset by the deeply undulating collar that gives the shoe a modern look.
At first glance the Sobakov’s prominent cupsole looks nearly identical to the one used on the Kamanda, but it’s actually quite different. adidas describes the tread pattern as a sculpted herringbone; whatever you want to call the organic – almost psychedelic – configuration, it is mesmerizing and very dissimilar to the Kamanda’s sawtooth Samba sole.
To give the package a touch of class, adidas used soft leather overlays at the top of the tongue and on the quarter as a heel tab. It might seem criminal to cover even one millimetre of the shoe’s incredible knit upper material, but the flashes of black leather really accentuate the premium feel of the Sobakov.
All of this beauty might get a shoe noticed on the shelf, but your feet don’t care about looks. The Sobakov on-foot experience is on par with the Kamanda, not surprising given the materials and construction of the sole units are the same for both models. For those who don’t own the Kamanda – yet – that means the Sobakov provides all-day cosiness as a walking shoe.
The lockdown provided by the slightly offset lacing system with its asymmetric-shaped throat (another quality detail) is decent for feet of average width and shape. Although the shoe’s foot opening isn’t particularly large, given its oversized cupsole it would also seem to be well suited for wider feet.
The Sobakov is a superlative design that should be included on any best of 2018 list, but will it actually become adidas’ de facto football-inspired sneaker? How well it sells will ultimately determine whether or not the model will stay the course. Given the target demographic for these shoes, we’re sceptical; old-school footy fans have a reputation for avoiding new designs that challenge them, which is why they’ve stuck to wearing the same so-called terrace shoes for decades now.
It will take time and the interest of other sneaker buyers before the Sobakov will transform from being a head-turning innovation into an instantly recognizable classic. We’re already waiting.
Although the adidas Copa Mundial was developed for the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain, it made its world debut in 1979 and has remained a production staple since then, making it one of the best-selling football boots in history.
Using an ultra-classic, black and white palette, the original Copa Mundial featured a premium leather upper and a fold-over tongue, and was made famous by football legends such as Franz Beckenbauer, Diego Maradona, Miroslav Klose, Zinadine Zidane, and Kaká.
Similar to the Copa, the Predator Precision’s release was intended to signify a major football tournament, in this case Euro 2000. Unlike the Copa, the modern Predator model used a hook and loop fastener to keep its fold-over tongue in place. The unmistakeable upper, which looked fast standing still, was overlaid with sections of rubber to enhance ball control and the whimsical and wispy three-stripe that is mimicked on the Sobakov. The outsole used removable Traxion studs, which allowed players to fine tune the Precision’s traction to the fields they had to play on.
ON THE OTHER FOOT
The adidas Sobakov is another model that borrows from the Yeezy 350 upper, and just as with that shoe, this one will polarize opinion: simply stated, you’re either going to love – or hate – the Sobakov.
The Sobakov fits into a relatively new category that’s become popular over recent years, one that every major manufacturer has bought into. Deconstructed knitted uppers are the new norm, they represent a way of constructing shoes that has never done before, and an example of how technology is playing an ever increasing role in everything we’re designing.
Not that long that everything was leather. Whether it was smooth leather, nubuck, or suede, it was the standard material for sneaker construction. Even when textile and nylon use became prominent, leather was used for structure. Things have changed; man-made materials are now equally effective at holding a foot in place, and since we’ve discovered that our feet require more freedom of movement than was allowed in a leather shoe, these newer materials allow for that too.
Will this new segment slow down when its popularity begins to wane? Yes, as does everything in time. The knitted upper will have its heyday, and then recline, but it’s going to remain a category in sneaker manufacturing. Much as leather vintage court shoes like the Stan Smith and the Superstar are considered classics today, the current crop of popular knitted upper models are destined to become classics of the future.
Looking at the Sobakov, I absolutely love its silhouette and how sleek it looks. The way in which the three stripes wrap around the shoe is gorgeous, and the application of the 3M reflective coating on the stripes is nicely done; it’s what I call a ghost version because it doesn’t visually detract from the shoe, and isn’t really visible in regular light.
The shoe’s exaggerated high heel tab has become a familiar and accepted feature, but it’s more of an aesthetic than functional thing now. It brings to mind how designs in the past were inspired by cars and planes, and that’s what I see here, a skateboard’s kicktail, or the spoiler on a car.
I like what adidas did with the stitching and consider it to be the best feature of the shoe. The stitching in the toe box area is particularly suggestive of the huge history behind this shoe, the inspiration for it, and how it came to be. Yes, it’s functional and provides stability, but it’s been done in a way that’s reminiscent of how soccer shoes are laid out. In particular, I can see the adidas Copa Mundial in the Sobakov and think it’s a model adidas got its inspiration from.
The other thing I like about the Sobakov, and a reason why this shoe works for me, is that it has a tongue that is separate from the upper. Traditional tongues allow the shoe to be opened or tightened a little bit more than a one-piece upper.
The design of the lacing system is different in a good way. It’s not centered, and the eyelets, which some would refer to as blind eyelets (they aren’t raised and lack hardware), is just a hole punched through the material and reinforced with a single stitch. It’s a touch that contributes to the overall sleekness of the design.
Another ode to soccer shoes and their exaggerated tongues is the leather patch on the Sobakov’s tongue. As a practical feature it adds to wear comfort, but perhaps more importantly, it also adds to the shoe’s perception of value. Similarly, the same soft leather was added to the heel counter; if adidas had just left the knitted material in those two areas alone, it would have been fine, but the addition of leather takes things up a notch. It’s not only something that the consumer will appreciate, but it give the Sobakov a more premium presence.
Another place adidas added perception of value is inside the shoe. What immediately pops out is the nice leather insole. If adidas wanted to create the effect that it had just cut out a piece of natural tan leather, slid it in there, and then embossed it with the Sobakov name in a bold, strong font – it worked.
On the underside of the tongue where most shoes have the size tag, adidas stitched in a nylon Sobakov label in a reverse font. I’m not sure why the Sobakov name is reversed, maybe it was just to be different, but I think it’s interesting and despite being oversized it still creates a clean look.
It’s impossible to overlook the shoe’s sole, and I absolutely love it. Oversized outsoles that are wider than the upper are trending now, and I like the effect of the upper sitting within, rather than on top of the outsole. They also tend to accommodate guys like me who have wide feet that pool over the sides of a regular sole. Those shoes, like the adidas Gazelle for example, are too narrow for me and I can’t wear them at all.
The gum colour used for the outsole is another highlight. It’s almost translucent – you can see a white midsole within it – and the most obvious point is its jagged texture. Very cool.
The block section on the bottom of the outsole is probably more of an aesthetic than functional touch. Aside from it being a way to put the adidas branding there, it adds cohesiveness across different models, in this case linking it to the Kamanda.
What don’t I like about the Sobakov? I really don’t have anything bad to say about its design. At first glance I thought adidas shouldn’t have used another Yeezy-like upper, but then I realized it actually did a good job differentiating this silhouette from all of its other models.
|COLOURWAY||Core Black/Footwear White/Gum 3|
|UPPER||Leather and Textile|
|SIZE TESTED||10.5 US / 10 UK / 44.3 EUR / 285 JPN|