‘More Speed, More Local, More Custom’: How Reebok is Thinking Outside the Mold

By Kelsey Alpaio, Staff Writer

The process of manufacturing athletic shoes is shockingly similar for almost every sneaker on the market. And according to Bill McInnis, the Vice President of Reebok’s Future group, it typically involves shaping liquid using a mold.

The problem? Making molds is expensive, labor intensive, and slow. Every piece of a shoe needs to be separately produced, carefully extracted from the mold, and then later assembled. And according to McInnis, that can result in a design and manufacturing process for athletic shoes that stretches to 18 months.

“[18 months] is way too long, particularly for something as simple as athletic shoes,” says McInnis. “We wanted to get a lot more speed, a lot more local, and a lot more custom.”

That was the motivating force behind Reebok Future, one of the innovation/R&D arms within the Canton, Mass.-based footwear and apparel company, part of Adidas AG.

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