adidas 'ZX - The Roots of Running' Exhibition

On Thursday, we headed to London to check out the adidas 'ZX - The Roots of Running' Exhibition which is currently being held in Covent Garden. As the title of the exhibition suggests, it is dedicated to the ZX family, and with 2019 being the 30th anniversary of the 1000 series, it was the perfect way to kick off celebrations of the historic series.
Prior to the exhibition, we were lucky enough to sit down to dinner with some of the adidas Consortium partners, along with a very special guest in the form of Jacques Chassaing. Having been with adidas since the 70's, Jacques has played an integral part in the ZX series, and has created silhouettes such as the ZX500 and Forum.
Heading to the event for a private preview, we took a look around the space and the hundreds of ZX silhouettes on show, before being treated to a Q&A session with Jacques, Gary Aspden, and Robert Brooks, where we got some insights into the processes of creation of the ZX series during the 80's and 90's.
Take a read through some words from the event below, and enjoy this incredible exhibition of ZX in pictures. The event is open to the public 12pm to 8pm daily until December 2nd at 21-23 Earlham St, London, WC2H 9LL.
Note: all information used as reference below is taken from the exhibition.


"Contained in this exhibition is only a snapshot of the full extent of the re-issues and product legacy created by the two original ZX series within adidas Originals. Whilst the 1980s ZX were at the cutting edge of sports performance and technology on release, those running technologies have been improved upon by adidas themselves over the past thirty years or so. Whilst their performance attributes for serious athletes may now have been superseded by the likes of Boost and technology or 4D, the design and look of these shoes continues to endure and inspire. When we were planning this exhibition we began by seeing how many vintage pairs of ZX we could find as the products had to be the heroes in this story. Through a network of adidas collectors we located most OG 80s styles, many in delicate condition (with some lesser known vintage colour-ways) and had we gone on indefinitely we could perhaps have located the handful of missing pieces in the OG jigsaw puzzle contained here."
"As we were working within a short time schedule and with a degree of confidentiality we stopped the search once we felt we had enough pairs to sufficiently tell the ZX story. We began chasing adidas collectors and scouring old catalogues to gather technical information on these products for the accompanying exhibition book. Our reaching out went beyond the UK to ZX collectors in Berlin where Quote and Marc from Overkill pulled out all the stops to ensure that the ZX four digit series was well represented here. The only ZX400 we could access at the time of compiling the exhibition book were the ZX400 SPZL from 2016 - these were a very accurate reissue of Brooksy's pairs (they even replicated some of the 'mistakes' from the upper of Robert's OG) so we felt they could potentially stand in as a great replacement in the book. Robert couldn't locate the only known pairs that he owns at the time of shooting the book but happily they have since been found and included in the exhibition."
"This then triggered conversations about the other Spezial ZX releases - the ZX452 SPZL is quite a different shoe to the vintage Argentinian ZX452, so it made sense to present those. The only other Spezial ZX release to date is the ZX280 SPZL and whilst this is very similar to its Taiwanese ancestor it made sense to include them too. Whilst finalizing this line up we received the finished sample of the forthcoming ZX530 SPZL which, while the uppers are nearly identical bar the graphic SPZL, there are still some differences (particularly the outsoles) to its predecessors. We figures a reveal of a forthcoming version of a ZX three digit reissues, a reveal of a forthcoming ZX four digit reissues alongside the first reveal of the Consortium ZX10000C would add another strand of interest to this project. Over the past two decades there have been a number of new shoes created by various designed at adidas Originals that have used the ZX prefix with 'fictional' new numbers to differing degress of commercial success. However, bringing in Jacque Chassaing who designed many of the original ZX series has brought a dimension of newness with history to the ZX10000C that arguably goes above and beyond anything that has gone before."


"The ZX500, a revolutionary running shoe and the first of the ZX models, was born in 1984 and launches during a global jogging boom. Incorporating every possible technical feature to assist with support, flexibility and protection, it was the perfect shoe for the serious runner. Back then, adidas were constantly trying to work out how to improve their products to better athletic performance, an approach that remains at the core of the adidas ethos to this day. High quality, technical perfection and functionality coupled with a strong aesthetic were essentials for the design team and developers, requiring constant and committed research, along with endless testing. The brand worked closely with top athletes, coaches, sports scientists, and orthopaedic experts to study and determine the specific running motions. adidas then needed to optimise manufacturing methods and choose the correct materials for each purpose. With its depth and breadth, that first ZX series accommodated a host of different runners needs and, in doing so, offered a range like nothing ever seen before in the sports shoe industry. In the mid-80s the three digit ZX incorporated every possible technical feature to assist the wearer with everything needed to enhance performance. Every model was designed to tackle motion problems, with research leading to simple yet effective solutions; one example being the dual-density polyurethane foam midsoles and uppers to assist orthotics."
"As the range evolved into the mid to late 80s, it became more and more advanced - the emphasis being on the specific requirements of the runner. At the time the ZX was state-of-the-art sports shoe design at its very best. Every function was designed to work in unison, giving the wearer the perfect footwear for their needs."
"When the groundbreaking four digit Torsion range was launched in 1989, some of the three digit ZX models, the ZX310, ZX500, ZX710, ZX800, ZX802, and ZX930, were still being produced and marketed alongside the brand new Torsion series. In hindsight, it is evident that the ZX three digit series remained popular amongst runners despite the technological advances of their successors."


"Up until 1989, cushion, support and guidance were all combined into one shoe. When Torsion was born, adidas had developed different shoes designed specifically for different needs - like the ZX7000G for guidance, ZX8000C for cushion, and ZX9000S for support. These pioneering running shoes were the first of their kind on the market, the first biochemical shoes with Torsion technology that worked with the natural independent motion of the heel and the forefoot to create greater stability and control."
"Suddenly, runners had more flexibility and speed than ever before. These top of the range models were designed to assist the wearer with pronation problems - the 'S' models or Support models in the range such as the ZX6000S and ZX9000S were the perfect response to these age-old runners' problems. For supination, the 'G' or guidance models like the state of the art ZX7000G were the answer. Runners who had never suffered these problems were also considered - the ZX8000C, ZX8020C, ZX5000C, and ZX5020C were specifically designed cushion shoes developed to provide the runner with unequalled cushioning, guidance, control, and the support necessary to compete to their absolute maximum. Only feet that can move more freely can reach their peak performance. The innovative and groundbreaking Torsion design created the first sports shoe that adopted to the movements of the foot. Torsion provided independent rotation between fore and rear-foot movement allowing the natural range of motion while reducing impact and slippage. The Torsion groove, the gap at the centre of the sole unit allowed coupling of and rotation movement between, fore and rear-foot - a completely new concept in the sports shoe industry."
"To add to this revolutionary design was the Torsion bar embedded into the centre of the midsole. This key feature changed running shoes forever, it prevented excessive unnatural twisting and ensured flexibility at the ball of the foot. Prior to Torsion technology, conventional running shoes restricted energy transfer with the rigidity of the soles. When running on uneven surfaces, the feet were forced into an unnatural position resulting in higher loads to the locomotive apparatus and unfavourable loading conditions."
"The second ZX series assisted the runner to enable better performance through vertical alignment of the heel, Achilles tendon, and the lower leg. The polyurethane Torsion midsole and the innovative hard-wearing carbon rubber outsole provided maximum tread surface. This helped to ensure safety, protection against overload, better distribution of pressure, and optimal surface contact when moving in all directions which in turn reduced the risk of injury. Torsion enabled the body to be as biochemically efficient as possible, helping stability where needed and flexibility where desired. The Torsion bar allowed better distribution of impact, spreading it over a larger area of the sole, thereby greatly reducing shock."
Check out some of our favourite pieces from the exhibition below. Thanks to those behind the exhibition for the words above and to adidas for having us.
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