On top of Adidas’ apparel contract with the University Athletic Department, the company has also been working closely with the University’s School of Kinesiology on research focused on athletes’ apparel needs.
Over the past three years, Kinesiology researchers have enlisted the help of student-athletes to better understand what products and features work, don’t work and need improvement when it comes to athletic equipment. Assistant Research Scientist Grant Goulet oversees much of the project, which he says has benefitted student-athletes, coaches, researchers and Adidas.
The program started three years ago when Adidas, a German athletic equipment company valued at $12 billion, wanted to boost it’s involvement with traditionally North American sports like football and basketball, and identified the University as an ideal research partner, Goulet said. Kinesiology Dean Ron Zernicke already had a relationship with the company.
Some research projects test Adidas’ wares, like a certain type of running shoe or compression suits, while other studies do not concern an Adidas product and are simply meant to garner a better understanding of athletes’ needs.
A current study undertaken by Goulet and his team will examine the effect of a running shoe’s cushioned thickness on performance and the physical impact that is transmitted through the body.
“It’s purely just to develop a better understanding of running and how some properties of footwear could affect risk of injury and things like that,” Goulet said.
Goulet emphasized that players and coaches benefit from their participation through the information obtained from the data. One example he cited was a study that involved football players wearing sensors while developing an Adidas product called Speedcell, which is a sensor worn in the shoe. Using the data from this research, the team was able to learn how far they were running during practice and how that compared with how far they actually ran in a game.
One challenge Goulet he anticipated was that Adidas might not want to hear criticism of their products. He said he was happy to find that this wasn’t the case, as the team of researchers he works with at Adidas focuses solely on innovation. They are separate from those who bring products to market and sell them.
“Fortunately, we are working with a team who’s genuinely interested in bettering the product.” Goulet said.
Though the contract between the two groups is renewed on a two-year basis, Goulet does not see any end to this partnership in sight, as long as all parties are continuing to benefit from the research.