L4040v3: THE MAKING OF A TOP-FLIGHT CLEAT
It takes hours upon hours for companies to develop a new pair of cleats, and when the player tries them on for the first time, that same pair is often judged in a matter of seconds. Are they comfortable? Flexible? Do they provide enough stability and cushion? New Balance went to great lengths when designing their L4040v3 cleats so players could answer “yes” to all those questions, and a critical part of that research and development process happened in their sports research lab.
New Balance brought in athletes of all levels—professional, college, high school, Little League—and placed custom inserts in their shoes that allowed them to capture underfoot pressure while these athletes performed baseball-specific movements: hitting, pitching, throwing, etc. They could then see where across that insert pressure was being applied (see pressure map above), where it wasn’t, and in what concentrations. That gave the innovation and product teams at New Balance the data needed to design what would be the foundation of the L4040v3.
They discovered that the highest areas of pressure occur in the forefoot, which they refer to as The Drive Zone. So when designing the insert for the L4040v3, they wanted to make that portion more responsive. They accomplished this by placing an uninterrupted, untouched piece of foam at that location. Meanwhile, in the heel, extra foam was added and placed on a sculpted-out part of the midsole, giving the player softness on top and breathability/flexibility on the bottom. In a way, this insert, also called New Balance's Data-Driven Platform, is intuitive: it knows your movements before you’ve even stepped foot in it.
When you’re playing the game at a high level, you probably don’t think much about the top-flight cleats you're wearing, how they're helping you, or what it takes to engineer them. And that’s how it should be. A cleat like the L4040v3 is doing its job if you’re not focused on it. If it’s feeling and performing exactly the way you expect it to, you’re free to focus on the game and what you have to do to help your team win. It’s nice to know that someone else is thinking about it though, isn’t it?
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