How RAD brings the sneaker hype to CrossFit shoes

The latest fitness shoe people are talking about doesn’t come with some bulbous new technology or the promise of making you run faster or jump higher. Instead, it focuses on a much simpler promise: to be a beautiful product that works across the long list of functional movements and seeks to minimize environmental impact. It’s also not a shoe created by Nike, Adidas or Reebok, but rather an upstart brand trying to change the way we think about training shoes.

RAD, which stands for Rally Against Destruction, released its first RAD One sneakers at this year’s Wodapalooza, a weekend-long CrossFit competition held in Miami. The shoes came out of nowhere, but instantly became a talking point within the close-knit CrossFit community. As quickly as they came, they left. The shoes have been released in five colorways and are nearly sold out on the brand’s website.

In an Instagram Story shared by RAD’s star athlete, Danielle Brandonone user said it was Yeezy from CrossFit.

Danielle Brandon in RAD Image via Instagram

This sentiment was echoed by Joel Te, who runs the YouTube review channel As many reviews as possiblein which he said, “To me, they look like the Yeezys of training shoes, they have this organic design.”

The sneakers themselves are the best of both worlds when it comes to CrossFit and workout footwear. They’re stable enough to handle Olympic lifts and squats, yet flexible enough to run and do box jumps and other plyometric movements. The midsole is translucent and ridged throughout, while the upper is a mix of mesh and a synthetic microsuede material. The midsole cushioning is borrowed from Allbirds Swell Foam material, which is open source and made from sugar cane. I put them through months of CrossFit training and hitting heavyweight PR and never felt there was a WOD they couldn’t survive.

This comparison with Yeezys is not too far off. The brand is rooted in street culture and CrossFit. Its founder, Benjamin Massey, 32, is a two-time CrossFit Games athlete from London who worked at A Bathing Ape’s Soho store throughout high school and college.

“I loved the coaches. It was the stuff, the streetwear sneakers, the skateboarding and all that vibe,” he says.

Massey opened his own CrossFit gym, Blitz, in London in 2011. Before becoming an official CrossFit-affiliated gym in 2013, it would have around 400 members. Massey then sold the business and claims the sale helped fund the first two years of RAD’s launch.

He came up with the idea of ​​creating a shoe for functional fitness that was, well, functional outside of cleans and jerks, handstand pushups and double unders. The CrossFit space was dominated by Nike’s Metcon series, Reebok’s Nanos, and No Bull, a brand of minimalist workout shoes loved by fitness enthusiasts but overlooked or ridiculed by anyone obsessed with shoe collection.

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Danielle Brandon wearing the RAD One. Image via RAD

Although he had a vision for the sneaker, Massey is not a shoe designer by trade. So he went to the best place to have a sneaker designed: Portland, Oregon. There he met former Nike designer and industry veteran, Tom Berend. Berend worked at Nike for over 15 years and spent 12 years working in innovation for the brand, including time working with Tinker Hatfield in Nike’s famed Innovation Kitchen.

“I thought if we had that experience and that credibility with an incredible designer, an incredible development team, we would be able to create a fantastic shoe,” Massey says. “It was kind of reverse engineered in a way. I felt like I wasn’t going to talk about performance, because that’s what all the other brands do. The performance is in the shoe , but, above all, it needed to grab people’s attention and make them say, “Oh shit, this looks different. This looks fresh.”

In an interview published on RAD website, Berend talks about the design process of the sneaker. “Everything we went through in the process always had a flip side. And we had to find that perfect spot in the middle,” he says. “Cushioned enough to run, but stable enough to lift. something beautiful while taking into account its environmental impact.

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The RAD One in a navy colourway. Image via RAD

Massey says he and Berend would organically work together on the shoe. He says he spent hours Photoshopping ideas and design elements to give Berend a rough idea of ​​what he wanted in the model, but ultimately let him work on his years of experience. in the final product. “It wasn’t going to Tom and saying, ‘This is what I want, go ahead and do it.’ I want to be very involved in design and branding, which is what I love,” says Massey.

Massey doesn’t have a specific point of reference for the shoe, but he says it’s inspired by skate culture. He says CrossFitters are like skaters in the fitness industry; a group of foreigners with their own jargon and subculture rules.

If you didn’t know RAD was rooted in functional fitness, then you guessed it was a streetwear brand on its website. There are no shirtless men or women in lycra. It looks more like a DIY website from the 90s, complete with a dancing sunflower and a spinning version of the brand’s logo.

If marketing was going to play a big role in the shoe, then the company needed someone to help pitch the sneaker. That’s where Danielle Brandon came in. The 26-year-old went to CrossFit games three times, finishing as high as 10th in her rookie season, and became a fan favorite over the last year. His often dyed hair, either pink or blue, allows him to easily stand out visually on the competition field. She also gained some notoriety in last year’s game after being forced to compete in an isolated line for the duration of the weekend due to her two sparring partners testing positive for Covid, despite her negative test. After winning the handstand walk event at a breakneck pace, she jumped onto the platform and threw two middle fingers towards the crowd. It was one of the biggest highlights of the weekend.

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The RAD One in a Grey/Lime colourway. Image via RAD

At the time, Brandon was a Nike athlete who chose to wear a pair of Nike Blazers for this event. Suddenly, all of that changed. In January, at Wodapalooza, it was announced that she was the new face of RAD, a brand no one had ever heard of before. It was shocking to some. Brandon is one of CrossFit’s brightest up-and-coming athletes. His trainer Justin Cotler described his only weakness as being the mental side of the competition.

She says she left Nike, however, because the brand didn’t allow her to give much information.

“I chose to leave Nike for RAD because what I saw at RAD was an opportunity I never would have had with Nike. With Nike being so established and well, just being Nike, I wasn’t going to never had so much influence over the things the company had to offer, like apparel, footwear, brand, style, etc.,” she says. “However, with RAD, I now have the chance to express myself and have a more intimate relationship with the company, so it’s more of a partnership than just sponsorship.”

Massey says Brandon will gain financially if the brand does well.

She says her fans told her there couldn’t be a better person to work with. When asked if she would be releasing her own sneaker, she replied, “You can expect a lot.” The brand recently posted on Instagram that “DBE” (Danielle Brandon Energy) products are coming soon.

One of the most eye-catching and high-profile moments for RAD happened at Wodapalooza, but it wasn’t the brand rollout. It was Australian CrossFit legend Khan Porter instead. taking a shooey of his gray and lime green RAD Ones.

In addition, the brand tries to minimize its carbon footprint. Massey says: “As we grow and evolve, we always want to try to find new technologies and ways to integrate them into our products to reduce our impact.

It will be interesting to see what happens to RAD The shoes, which cost $150, are worth the hype. And these are the first training shoes I would consider wearing outside of the gym. Once again people will be able to buy them, I’m sure you’ll see them more frequently. “So it’s like now, how is it to put the shoe on people’s feet so they know it’s a good product?” Massy said. “And that’s what I think we need to work on.”

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