Making their return to speed, PUMA recently unveiled the ULTRA 1.1, a boot that’s packed with groundbreaking innovation for when fast is too slow. But what does that mean, and how, exactly, is this boot faster than what’s come before. To find the answer to these questions, we spoke with Head of Teamsport Footwear at PUMA, Dominique Gathier.

The PUMA Ultra launched this week, and the revolutionary new design saw brand new innovations in the form of a fully engineered and technologically advanced, lightweight MATRYXEVO® upper – the first time this material has ever been utilised in a football boot – combined with an instinctive running spike outsole. It’s essentially about the brand that made shoes for the world's fastest man – for whom speed is forever in their DNA – getting back to just that. To find out more and get the inside track, we spoke to one of the men at the heart of the design, Dominique Gathier, Head of Teamsport Footwear at PUMA.

To start with, the boot is beautiful. Where did the Ultra boot come from as an idea?

So with Ultra, we have come back to our roots. Speed is the DNA of PUMA since we were founded. Ultra brings us back into that territory so it’s a super important boot for us. We’ve also been very close to pro-athletes who we talk regularly with. It was in that process that made it clear that they wanted a pure speed boot from the brand. So that’s what encouraged us to create the Ultra boot.

Could you give us the top line summary of the product in your words? What’s its make up under the hood?

We wanted to go after uncatchable speed. That’s the fundamental inspiration behind the product. That’s the advantage and edge we wanted to create for the players. That has come from a culmination of things. Naturally, the lighter the boot, the less weight the players have to carry and the faster they become but what we also wanted to do was to provide the right amount of support. You need to propel yourself using the energy and how your feet move off the ground. Those were two key elements. The third one which was very important especially when listening to players and in particular, Thierry Henry was that football is a game with a ball. Being fast is one thing but you need to be fast with the ball. So with that in mind, Ultra is a product that is extremely soft and offers a cushioned feel on the ball.

When talking about materials and those textures, what are the things you’ll notice when in hand or on foot rather than in pictures?

The number one thing is that people will be amazed at how light this is. It’s lighter than a mobile phone as a relatable comparison. The second thing is how soft it is. The upper feels really plush. Another huge element of design success is that when you step into the boot, you will need no break-in time. You will feel extremely comfortable from the first moment you wear it, right from the get go it will feel unique though part of you.

Speed is the DNA of PUMA since we were founded, and Ultra brings us back into that territory, so it’s a super important boot for us"
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How do you achieve the million dollar mission of meeting comfort with speed and not letting one element beat the other?

We really wanted to get that because that’s the feedback we’re getting all the time from players. We listen to them, we listen to people who play football day in, day out. The one thing they always say is that they simply want to feel great in their boots. That’s what we wanted to go after and have achieved. We’ve done that by using a specific material that is uncoated. It means that it avoids having that layer of finishing and one overall coating on the shoe – by avoiding that, it means the boot is super soft. 

PUMA has strong connections to the world of Formula 1. Did you bring them into the design of this boot?

We are very connected and very close to the world of Formula 1. So we definitely took inspiration from there as an industry and how they work, how their product is designed. To make the fastest car is a ratio between different components. That is the same and the inspiration for us with Ultra. We didn’t chase grams at all costs. We could have gone even lighter but that would have been at the expense of other elements. The support as an example is so important to this boot, as is the comfort. For us it’s about striking the right balance. 

How easy is that balance to achieve? As well as all those components, the boot has to be beautiful too…

It is a big challenge. We like challenges though. It’s a passion. It’s tough to get the right balance but we’re a group of incredibly passionate people and there’s a lot of design talent working on this. We’ve all played football along the way at some point and that’s the beauty of it. We understand the importance of the beauty for this boot across all elements that make it up. We spend a lot of time on the material, the construction, the sole plate, the right stud configuration, the right length, the right stiffness and softness. As you bring all those components together, it’s about finding a magic formula.

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We’ve been working with Usain Bolt for so long and we have that history of being the fastest on the planet with him, so we took a lot of inspiration from there"

When it comes to looking outside of football for inspiration, Formula 1 as an example, is it important to take in references from all kinds of industry?

Absolutely. We come from a football background and are close to those people playing the game so we have that genuine insight but it’s vital for us to be curious as to what is happening in other industries. Especially motor sports because it is very technical. Things move so fast these days though. Getting inspiration from all kinds of industry is extremely important to push football to the next level. So we look at motor sports and aviation as two key areas and try to pick up the best from all places we can.

There’s so much engineering that goes into crafting a product like this. Can you tell us about the technical details that have gone into this?

Starting with the sole plate, we took inspiration there from track and field. Of course we’ve been working with Usain Bolt for so long so we have that history of being the fastest on the planet with him so we took a lot of inspiration from there and him. We looked at track spikes and the orientation of them to create something new.

The other piece of new technology that we have used which has been absolutely key is the material used on the upper. It’s a unique, woven material that uses very specific yarns. Those yarns have been individually coated which in turn allows us to not have that additional all over coat that many boots have. It means we can get this new level of softness and strength. We use carbon yarns and fibre yarns which have strategically placed to achieve a lockdown for the shoe as well as an elite level of stability. With all of those properties woven into that material, it means we’re able to achieve this perfect balance of being extremely lightweight but also giving that incredible level of support.

In a world that moves so fast, how do you create a boot that has longevity and can keep feeling fresh when you see it?

We’re living in a forever faster world. It’s important for us to be following what’s happening in the market but also ultimately propose newness. That unique material we’re bringing to the table here enables us to have endless possibilities. This boot has been engineered to hit the levels needed at the top of the game and PUMA. Having achieved that, it sets us up to be able to keep innovating and moving forward at pace.

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How involved was Thierry Henry and who else did you bring in for their advice?

We’re very close to a number of players and with the objective of this boot to create a product that suits the needs of professional and amateur players it’s important to work with them throughout the entire process. The active pros provide a whole level of intensity to the product. We worked closely with Thierry Henry on a number of projects, including the Ultra. We also worked very closely with Antoine Griezmann. As a speed player and a lover of speed boots, he’s someone who is at the core of the considerations when we’re designing and creating Ultra. It has to fulfil the needs of those at the very top of the game. 

I was told that when he was given the boots to test, he didn’t want to give them back – that’s got to be a good sign?

It’s brilliant. We put so much effort into the product so it’s a great sign that when the boots get to the player, he loves them the way they are. It’s a sign of accomplishment as players like him are at the pinnacle in all they do. The speed in which they play, the agility with which they move, the contact they have with the ball, it’s a home run when you get that kind of reaction.

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Pick up the PUMA Ultra 1.1 at