NBA All-Star weekend a showcase for footwear

Updated: February 18, 2005, 8:34 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Sneaker designers have been influenced from everything from architecture to nature to automobiles and motorcycles.

So what do designers see for the future, after years of technological advances in shoes?

"What I see now and what I'm promoting now is getting back to the essence of what performance is. Don't give an athlete more than what they need. Give them what they need and let them use their own talent to perform," said Nike Inc. designer and executive Tinker Hatfield.

His design principles are visible in the Air Jordan XX, which Ray Allen will wear in the NBA All-Star Game here Sunday. Players signed by adidas, Reebok and AND 1 also are showing off products during the game.

For Reebok, the push is on its Pump 2.0 technology and how it makes each wearer feel. On Sunday, Allen Iverson and Yao Ming will wear the new ATR Pump. Next season, Reebok will launch a laceless version in which a wearer steps in, and the shoe will inflate by itself to fit around the foot.

"For us, it's all about customization," said Todd Krinsky, Reebok vice president of basketball. "The young kids, every product they buy is all about customization, with music, entertainment, games. Our goal is to do that with footwear too."

Though Reebok is improving its technology, the key is to make it all visible.

AND 1 designer John Humphrey had the same idea with Rekanize, a show that highlights the thermoplastic urethane cage encasing the foot from the laces all around the foot to cinch it into place. Ben Wallace and Kyle Korver have customized pairs for the weekend.

"I basically like to keep things clean and not confuse the issue with what the shoe is about," said Humphrey, a former Nike intern.

Though technical-looking shoes and old-school shoes have both been popular lately, he sees more of a marriage between the two recently, with designers putting a new spin on classic looks.

Adidas has no product launches scheduled this weekend, but players like Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill will be wearing shoes coming out at various times this year.

"Our feel is kids want technology. They want to see what they're spending," adidas spokesman Travis Gonzolez said. "It's more of a functional fashion statement compared to a fashionable shoe with some bells and whistles."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press