adidas Y-3: The Next Generation of the Sneaker Heel

Y-3, is a Yohji Yamamoto adidas off-shoot line that offers sporty yet sleek and stylish apparel, footwear and accessories. Since the Y-3 line debuted in 2003, Yamamoto and his team have rarely misstepped in fusing his over-sized, avant-garde  silhouettes with athletic elements and materials. However when the 2010 Fall/Winter footwear line launched, a few of the items in the women's line left me both confused and a little disappointed.

Making a high heel comfortable and fashion forward is the holy grail of the design world. Most women will pick one or the other, as rarely does the style of Christian Louboutin come with the cushioning from performance footwear like the Nike Air Max 95. The sneaker heel, a hybrid shoe we've seen before but they usually end up looking cheap and not modern. Y-3 came out with two models of sneaker heels for the Fall/Winter season for women: the Torsion Heel and the Cushion Wedge.

The first thought I had when I saw the Torsion Heel was how similar it looked compared to the Balenciaga "Lego" heel from 2008. Not necessarily in styling or design but the overall concept and elements. Both used bright colour blocking, mesh and a skinny stiletto heel. A major difference between the two is that the Balenciaga shoe went completely over-board but still looked like it was true to futuristic, chunky aesthetic that Nicolas Ghesquire, Balenciaga's womenswear designer, is known for doing for the house every season. While the Y-3 looks almost looks cheap in comparison. The coloured patent leather looks dated and not futuristic and the mesh seems ill-placed. Perhaps if was on the toe box it would be less jarring. The curves of the different materials also seems odd, stronger shapes may have made the shoe more striking. The red toe box almost looks more Ronald McDonald-esque and not something that a futuristic femme fatale, like Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner, would wear. But, the shape of the heel with the slight wedge near the base of the foot is a welcome trend that we've seen with other designers like Alexander Wang.

As for the technology of the shoe, the adidas Y-3 store explains every element that went into the shoe. The shoe's constructed from a mix of patent leather, full-grain leather, mesh, pig skin and canvas. It utilises adidas "adiPRENE" in the EVA midsole, a "technology for premium cushioning and shock absorption". Lyrca forefoot inserts adapt to help avoid high heels stumbles.The heel itself, a cause for many tough calluses, uses "Torsion". It's a system that can allow the front and back of the foot to move independent, which adds stability. All these elements seem very interesting to a girl who lives in either 4 inch heels or sneakers, but does it all add up? Will I be able to stand for long periods of time without fatigue? Is it actually comfortable like a sneaker? A well made shoe with the right leather and fit for your shape of foot (not all designers will fit you the same), can translate to wearing heels for long periods of time, even after a few after hours beverages. With so much technology, how much is too much and does it really justifies the $450 USD price tag? This shoe must be test strutted in person for the final verdict. But in press photographs, it falls flat as just another shiny shoe that doesn't scream the next wave of fashion and technology.

The Y-3 Cushion Wedge didn't strike me as anything new either. I'm a fan of the black model, but it would lend itself better to sleek, lean silhouette, as they cut quite high above the ankle. The silver model from the 2010 Fall/Winter runway show though looks too shiny and overdone. The different cutouts of red and purple seem almost too abstract, while the adidas lines on the sole are so exact, that it's too odd to work together. Perhaps if the sneaker part was all silver, with touches of the red and purple just on the wedge, laces and lining, it would present a stronger, more futuristic appearance. The Cushion Wedge uses much of the same intelligent design as the Torsion Heel but instead, as the name suggests borrows from adidas cushioning to make a comfortable "fashion forward" model. It retails for $410 USD. The sneaker wedge is something that comes and goes in fashion often, and while this doesn't reinvent the idea, I would be interested to see if can bring a new world of comfort to the game.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pD_aNHjr_gE&feature=player_embedded]

I have harsh words for both models, but only because Y-3 is generally so meticulous yet unique in everything that's churned out. For example, check out the new short film for the 2010 Fall/Winter collection. It's dark, brooding and stars a sports star that's known for his style and now, modelling - Zinedine Zidane. It really embodies the Y-3 spirit that is functional, fashionable but also, incredibly mysterious and layered.

I'm hoping for stronger, but even more forward thinking shoe selection for the ladies for the 2011 Spring/Summer season. Perhaps we will a tweaked silhouette, new materials and likely, a new colour scheme that could really re-inspire these current models. What do you think of the Y-3 sneaker heels for women? Would you wear them? Are they worth the sticker price? Let me know what you think here or tweet me.