If The Shoe Fits

The purpose of this blog is to provide important information on the subject of proper footwear as it relates to the sport of footbag.  I am going to start by first talking about the current footbag shoe of choice, the Adidas Rod Laver.

Most recently, the Rod Lavers went into hiding for nearly two years. After a bit of a scare that our beloved Lavers would be gone forever, Adidas re-released this classic shoe.  Our first booking order in over two years arrived in our warehouse last week (April 9, 2014), and needless to say the Laver lovers around the world are breathing a collective sigh of relief.

Upon close inspection, our team of Laver experts has discovered some significant changes to the shoe with a cult-like following that is worthy of note.  First, and probably not a huge deal, the shoes are now made in Indonesia instead of China.  More significantly, the durometer of the sole material has gone through a transformation.  The sole is now a rubber cupsole with a gum outsole, which should add a better grip on wood floors than its predecessor.  We believe that this new sole material will be stronger than the old model, which had some durability issues, but only time will tell.  The most important change to the new Lavers during their hiatus is that they have bulked up to almost 50% more in overall weight.  This is bad news if you are looking for the lightest shoe for sticking a “swirling whirl” or a “spank your mama”.  However, it’s good news if you have worn leg weights in the past to improve leg strength, as they will no longer be needed.  We know for a fact that footbag players are a resourceful bunch, and they have and will adapt their shoes with the necessary modifications.

We value our customers as our number one priority, and strongly believe that an informed customer will translate into a loyal customer for our continued success and longevity.  Please know that we have already been in touch with Adidas over these changes and our overall displeasure.  Naturally, our small voice with a company of this size and significance in the industry may carry little weight, but it will not stop us from trying to make a difference for all concerned.

Anyone who plays footbag on a competitive, professional or even recreational level understands the importance of his or her footwear.  Wearing the right shoe can mean the difference of a true straight kick or a shank.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our feet are our racket when it comes to controlling and manipulating a small object the size of something slightly larger than a golf ball.

Selecting the proper attire to cover our feet when playing footbag is as important to us as a glove is to a baseball player, a club for a golfer, snowboard to a boarder or racket to a tennis player.  Let’s face it; playing in bare feet just is not the same.

Players have been modifying their footwear with special cutting, sanding, unique lacing techniques, and even creating flat paddle adapters to be worn on or over their shoes since the early eighties.  When infected with the dreaded disease of footbag fever, aficionados will reach into every corner to extract their creative juices to come up with the perfect racket for our sport.  The first explorer in this arena that I recall was Philo (Dutch) Holland III.  Philo created a slip-on box to fasten to his comfy running shoes to achieve the flattest surface imaginable.  The lack of an efficient production process halted his progress.  The most significant slicing and dicing modification was seen by Daryl (Genzu) Genz in the early ‘90’s.  Daryl would cut the end of the toe box off completely leaving the sole intact, but exposing his sock laced toes for a naked-like feel for toe delays.  Although Daryl won many a freestyle competition in his day, his butchering of shoes never caught on with the footbag community at large.  In the mid ‘90’s, Paul Vorvick came up with a special lacing technique which modifies the eye stays and creates a catchers mitt for toe delay security for beginner to advance freestylers.  Paul’s handy instructions can be found at:

http://worldfootbag.com/about-footbag/adidas-rod-laver-lacing-instructions/

Martin Cote from Montreal, Quebec Canada has been experimenting with a glued/stitched/laced pad on the inside and outside of a shoe for more than 20 years.  Martin continues to improve upon his invention that is in use today by several World level footbag net players.

Over the past 35 years I have been associated with many different shoe companies.  Developing relationships with footwear companies has been an extension to the responsibility of my full-time career in footbag since 1981.  For many years I have said that footwear sponsorships are as natural for footbag as Pepto Bismol is to sponsoring the Texas Chili Cook-off.

In the late ‘70’s when footbag was still in its infancy and confined to the northwest, we had a cushy deal with an Oregon based, startup shoe company called Nike.  They made a shoe called the “Court” and another called “Avenger” that had the right makeup for our new sport, but most importantly we had their support and free product for our early demonstration teams.

In the early ‘80’s, we shifted to Vans because of a personal relationship that Greg Cortopassi (co-founder of World Footbag) had with a close family member who was tied-in at the corporate level with this fun beachwear, skateboard shoe company.  They made shoes and clothing for us specifically in our corporate colors of red, black and white.  It was a sweet deal that lasted nearly three years, but ended abruptly, and coincidentally at the termination of the close family member.

In 1985, we had a short stint with Jaclar, a new shoe and clothing company that took us onboard.  It was a relationship built on their craving for an inexpensive promotional vehicle.  In turn, it filled a void for us, as we were reeling from our first true failed love affair with Vans.

Jaclar quickly disappeared from production and fell into the void of companies trying to compete with the giants in this industry.  It was a blessing in disguise for us because they never produced a shoe that worked well for our sport.

1n 1987, we partnered with Kaepa, a shoe with everything we needed (i.e., flat insides and outside, nice flat toe box and a lightweight breathable upper) plus they loved being associated with the new popular up and coming sport of footbag.  Kaepa’s unique double lacing system that served function and form was consistent throughout their line of shoes.  The nylon mesh K-165 and leather K-120 became the official shoe of World Footbag touring teams and a best seller in our sales catalog.  After nearly six years, our relationship ended due to a change in corporate personnel.  Kaepa would later close their doors falling victim to the behemoth shoe companies that were flexing their muscles in the very competitive marketplace at the time.

In the early 1990’s, we found a shoe very similar to the Kaepa K-165 that again had all the right stuff.  LeCoq Sportif was a French based company that specialized in tennis appeal and footwear.  Unfortunately for us, they did not see the value of our sport as a marketing tool and would not buy into the sponsorship opportunities we were selling.  Their shoe called the Super Ashe however made its mark in our sport and on our bottom-line as we sold this shoe very well until they chose to discontinue the model we had fallen in love with and promoted for three years.

It didn’t take us long to find a shoe that had been right under our preverbal noses the whole time.  In 1970, Adidas introduced the first signature shoe for the famed Australian tennis player, Rod Laver.  Rod Laver is the only player in history to win the tennis Grand Slam twice, and he is considered by many to be the greatest tennis player of all time.  Lavers are equipped with a lightweight breathable upper, flat surfaces, strong arch supports, durable soles, perfect eyelet configuration for footbag modifications, and the largest aircraft carrier toe deck (as Kenny Shults would say) in the shoe industry.  We say that just putting Rod Lavers on your feet will make you a better player.  Not only is this shoe a perfect fit for our sport, but also it is the shoe that Kaepa, LeCoq Sportif and others had modeled their styles after.

World Footbag has been selling the Adidas Rod Lavers to footbag enthusiasts; tennis players and style-setters looking for that classic retro look for more that 15 years.  From time to time we have enjoyed low-level sponsorships from Adidas with clothing and footwear support for our performing teams, but most importantly it, as been a stable relationship that has provided the world with the perfect shoe choice for footbag while affording us a nice revenue stream along the way.  Over the years, the Rod Laver shoes have seen small changes, mainly color options, material offerings such as leather or canvas, occasionally an adjustment in their manufacturing locations (i.e., Slovenia, China and currently Indonesia).

World Footbag partnered with Brooks Sports in 2002 to offer footbag net players an alternative shoe choice primarily for play on grass.  The Brooks Beast (men’s) and Ariel (women’s) is a durable and sturdy running shoe with exceptional flat insides and outsides.  Both models of shoes are sold to footbag players and runners alike through our product offerings.  Brooks is currently the supporting clothing and footwear sponsor of World Footbags’ performing and competitive teams.

Our European friends with Planet Footbag created their very own shoe in 2005 called the Millennium.  This shoe was patterned after the famous Adidas Rod Lavers.  The Millennium was the first and only attempt thus far to build a shoe specifically for the sport of freestyle footbag.  Player acceptance ran high, but unfortunately, Planet Footbag experienced the challenges of shoe manufacturing as they entered the uncharted waters, and production was suspended.

Footbag players will always be in search for the perfect tool for their feet.  Perhaps the ultimate footbag shoe is still to come, but for now the Adidas Rod Lavers fits pretty darn well.

Bust a lace,

Bruce Guettich
World Footbag President