Dave Dombrow took three things into consideration when he began the designing process of the Curry 5, Stephen Curry’s fifth signature sneaker, from Under Armour: weight, fit and traction. For a player like Curry, who’s known for mixing up defenders or stopping on a dime to make 35-foot 3-pointers look effortless, he needs stability and responsiveness from his shoes to compliment his game. Dombrow, UA’s Chief Design Officer, met with Curry to get a feel for what one the league’s most lethal players needed to continue to perform at the highest level before the shoe was unveiled earlier this year.
To honor Curry’s 30th birthday and his latest sneaker, Under Armour released 314 pairs of the Curry 5 to celebrate Pi Day on March 14. The sneaker drew heavy inspiration around “Squaring the circle,” a term used to describe the mathematical analogy and doing the impossible, something Curry’s defined during his nine-year career. He recently debuted the “Welcome Home” colorway, which features a white knit base and multicolor overlay. The shoe also features an EVA cushioning that delivers underfoot responsiveness along with a speed plate and flex zones in the midsole and outsole to help Curry stay light.
HoopsHype caught up with Dombrow to discuss the designing process, working with Curry, the evolution of the Curry line and more.
What’s the design process like when you’re working on a performance model like the Curry 5?
Dave Dombrow: First thing I would say is we’ve been working with Steph for a while now, so we have a general sense of what he’s looking for. We start to talk about it and ideate. The quick next step it to get wherever Steph is and meet with him and start to really pull from what he’s looking for from a design side and a function side. We have a pretty good idea, but there’s always something Stephen say that we might’ve not taken into account. That’s the first step – how quick can we get a meeting with him and make sure we’re headed in the right direction.
Was there anything specific Steph mentioned he wanted this sneaker to have?
DD: Lightweight was a big thing. How do we continue to evolve and get better and how do we do that? One way we did we looked at new ways to build the shoe, the Curry 5, and that led to it actually getting a bit lower on the shoe than we’ve been in previous past years. It borders on a high-low. Lightweight is one; locked in is another and that let us a piece with combining from this knit called Anafoam, which is this technology we’ve used in the past [on the Curry 1], but we kind of remixed in a different way on this shoe, so that would be able to provide the locked in. And the last thing that’s always important to Curry is traction, right? How to optimize traction and make sure that we’re given the patterns that work the best for him on-court? Those would be the three things – lightweight, locked in and traction.
How involved is Steph throughout these projects?
DD: Steph is fully involved from start to finish. When I’ve worked with a few different athletes throughout my career everybody’s different, but Stephen is pretty highly involved along the way the entire process. There’s definitely a meeting in the beginning and that’s any pre-actual designs and then there’s prototype meetings where he’s shown an early sample and there’s other meetings where he’s looking at stuff that’s a bit more finished, and then there’s a meeting after that. Some of the meetings have to do on the functional side or aesthetic and designing and color side and storytelling side. But there’s quite a few and they happen all over the place. Sometimes we might be in Oakland; other times he might be on the road and we might have the meeting wherever it’s more convenient for him.
Will there be a high-top version or will this sneaker be strictly a low?
DD: I call it a high-low, but this is the Curry 5 so it’s definitely towards the low side.
You’ve worked on previous models for Steph before. What’s been the best part?
DD: The best part is when you’re working with someone like Steph and you’re always trying to as a team we’re always trying to up our game to another level. When you’re working with someone who’s super involved and very articulate about what he wants and what he doesn’t want, it’s refreshing because you can actually get somewhere new where you yourself or as a team might not have gotten. I think that’s the refreshing part – his involvement and it’s great to pull off a story. Stephen’s very multidimensional I would say in his life. Basketball’s a huge part of his life, but there’s many other things that are a big part of his life as well. We’re kind of able to see all those aspects of his life on some level and start to pull ideas from that and it kind of sends us off in different directions. It’s really refreshing and he’s a great human being at the end of the day as well.
What’s your favorite part of the shoe?
DD: My favorite part of the shoe is that this is the design story … so I’ll quickly tell it. This shoe kind of came out of Stephen’s birthday is on 3-14. 3-14 also happens to be the number for Pi. And so this idea around the Pi Day shoe goes back to this idea of an impossible number. That goes back to Stephen and being wired different and he exceeds expectations of the impossible. Interestingly enough, this idea of Pi has references to circles and circles are associated with Pi. There’s this cool metaphor [used for Pi] that’s called “squaring the circle” and it’s this idea of trying to do the impossible. When you look at the shoe, you almost see this half circle – kind of the design line – so we embraced this idea of Pi and equated it to the circle and we used that to drive the design aesthetic both aesthetically and functionally. From the designer, that’s kind of the purist thing, right? We took the inspiration of Pi Day and then we used it to drive aesthetically and functionally through. If you know that story and you’re looking at the lateral movement of the shoe, it comes through quite clear. And then there’s all these hidden details – the Pi symbol in the knit. You don’t see it first, but you see it if you look and there’s stuff like that. There’s a bunch of other hidden details as well. A part of me just loves this idea that it’s driven off this Pi inspiration. [laughs]
Steph’s currently on his fifth signature sneaker. What’s it been like to see the evolution of the Curry line over the years?
DD: It’s great actually. It’s wonderful and really interesting that we’ve been able to take components from the 1 all the way up to the 5, and you can see that there’s actually aspects of different shoes within. There’s aspects of the 4 actually in the 5 and even going back to the 1 in the Anafoam. It’s just been done in a different way and that’s kind of our approach. We’re going to keep evolving, keep getting better and keep responding to what Stephen needs. If I look back at all of them, to see that there’s actually an evolution and they have all to share this linked DNA, which is a pretty cool thing.
The “Welcome Home” Curry 5 is now available for $130 on UnderArmour.com. Images courtesy of Under Armour.