Creative Soccer Culture

PUMA evoTOUCH Design Q&A with Pascal Van Essen

Bringing the ball down on the next generation of PUMA Football, the brand have brought the all-new evoTOUCH to the table. A seamless combination of rich leather legacy and innovative tech, we sat down with Product Manager Pascal Van Essen to understand the boot that little bit more.

The evoTOUCH charters fresh ground for PUMA Football, can you introduce us to this new chapter and how the boot fits into the family?

"For us, it’s always really exciting because we obviously have the evoSPEED which is now established in the marketplace as a boot that is very lightweight, very extreme but it is a boot really focused on one aspect. Then on the other side of that we have the evoPOWER which is slightly heavier but also unique in the sense that it gives the barefoot feel with even more power behind the ball and very scientifically proven. It’s very technical, full of high end engineering and comfortable too. Then there is this area in the middle of that mindset that is still about fit and comfort but it also brings in things like leather, the emotion of the game and innovation too. It speaks towards more of an alternative choice - this is where we see the evoTOUCH sitting. What we have brought out is something we’re super happy with."

Some description

That journey and inspiration sees elements of evoSPEED and evoPOWER blended together, is that fair to say?

"You always come back to what we call an “ideal weight”, you can have something that is too heavy and equally something that is too light. For something like the evoTOUCH, we were always targetting something around the 210 grams mark so that you have a shoe that is comfortable to wear, that is lightweight and doesn’t feel heavy on your foot but is also really unique in terms of what it stands for."

"In this case, we have a nice way of naming our product at the moment with ‘evo’ and then the benefit. So for instance, the evoSPEED actively supports you being faster, the evoPOWER actively supports you with more power behind your shot regardless of whether you’re an elite level player or on the grass roots level and then obviously the evoTOUCH is dedicated to enhancing the touch from a 360 perspective. It really looks at all angles, not just how we catch the ball or dribble with the ball but how the plate interacts with the ground too. We’ve also looked at how the plate works with the upper in that sense and also how the shoe and the ball can work together as a system. This is something that makes this product unique for us but also for the industry."

Some description

Naturally the sock element provides something of a talking point with competitors having gone down that route. Is this something that PUMA has brought to their game in a completely different way?

"I think for us, it’s been about looking and listening to players, to consumers, to retailers and looking at what is really missing in the market. We’ve been leading in the leather aspect before. Whether it was the king or even before that, we really wanted to bring something unique which is why we started thinking about touch from a 360 perspective in the way you wear it and how we can enhance that touch. So the shoe itself when we look under the hood is made up of three components; the plate, the sock and the leather."

"The sock is not attached or glued to the leather or formed with the leather. It’s completely individual and you have the complete freedom of the sock with the evoKNIT working to its full potential. It’s stretchable and breathable - all those things that you actually want and probably won’t get from a football sock."

"Looking at the leather, because it isn’t directly attached to anything else is a lot softer so it really fits around the foot really nicely. Because the two work independently but together all the same, it’s not restrictive in any way. The way you wear this boot is quite unique as well. We’ve tested it and you can actually wear it without a sock. So people who don’t want to wear it with a traditional football sock don’t have too. When you think of 5-a-side or training, you can wear it easily without needing a sock. It’s a really nice boot to wear barefoot."

Some description

The classic leather approach and mixing that with the innovation technology combines elements of nostalgia and engineering. Is that something you aimed to do?

"The game of football in itself hasn’t changed. We still play on grass, we still play 11 a-side, we still play for 90 minutes. Except for some teams that get to play for 92 minutes and always win! Seriously though there’s a lot of things that have been proven to enhance the game. In time you have new insights and new materials and from a product perspective it’s about fusing these things together in a way that makes them work."

"Sometimes we have the feeling that brands do different things for the sake of adding new product propositions to their offering. For us at PUMA we took an approach that said “Ok we want to be different but by being better”. We took a step back and thought about the reasons behind what we were doing. 'Why are we here? How can we make it better?' That’s what we tried to convey with this product and overall I think we did a pretty good job. We worked closer than we ever have with Cesc Fabregas, Marco Verratti and Santi Cazorla to get their input. In doing so, we were able to pick up the little things that go a long way. For example, the sock element they outlined how they like the idea but don’t want anything restrictive that goes across the bone of the ankle. Sometimes players tape their ankles or have a shin pad that gets in the way. They’ve seen team-mates cutting off socks of competitor products and they didn’t want to run into the same problems. To engineer this from the design process was not all that easy but it’s something we were dedicated to." 

Some description

From prototyping through to the finished product, how did the evoTOUCH come to fruition?

"There’s a lot of different elements that we played with. Obviously there is new tooling with a new product so there was a lot of things to take into consideration from the width to the height and all the proportions. There’s a lot of fine tuning to ensure we got it right within all the prototypes. There’s also been the sock to take into consideration - different stretchability and ways of putting it on so the little things, for example the pull tab. How do we make it easy for people to put on but robust to stand the test of time. Do you make it synthetic? Well what happens when it gets wet? All these types of things are element that we had to think about. When people wear the shoe barefooted, how can we prevent any slipping? So we’d look at that and see what grip we can add inside the boot."

"If we were to add too much grip then on a bare foot it would blister so we had to make sure we added the perfect amount with the perfect material. Normally you would engineer a boot and after the second sample it works and you can improve it. But for the evoTOUCH is was really about fine tuning all the elements. For grip as an example, we had to find the balance of it being there but not intrusive. It’s something interesting but very challenging. It’s about getting all the ingredients together for the perfect recipe then fine tuning and finding the balance."

Some description

Looking to the future. Have you defined a boot here that will be with PUMA for the foreseeable? Is this the new template to base future released upon?

"It’s always difficult to say what exactly is the template. We’re in an industry that is driven by consistent innovation. Luckily, there are new materials coming in all the time, new player insight coming through, there’s new benefits, new manufacturing methods etc. Two or three years ago, no one was talking about knitting but now we have all the technology needed that has mean we’ve been able to create the evoKNIT and combine that with classic materials such as leather. It brings leather to a whole new level and the evoTOUCH is testament to that. This is something interesting, the cross-pollination between different industries as well as having players who are willing to try it and see the benefits. In the past there were player who were just happy to have a boot that works - leather upper, conical studs, done. But generations of today and the manufacturing opportunities we have, it’s almost like we’ve moved into a new era. It’s super exciting."

Fancy a pair? Pick them up here.


The Creative Soccer Culture Brief

Sign up to our newsletter and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the world of Creative Soccer Culture.