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What You Need To Know About The PUMA Disc System
Win. Lose. But never tie.
In 1989, German sports manufacturer PUMA started their Trinomic series to develop technical innovations for runners. After the CELL system set standards in terms of cushioning, flexibility and stability, it was actually a closing technology that caught everybody's attention: DISC.
1991's PUMA Disc was a milestone for footwear developers and laid a foundation for further models to come in the future. Jon Tang, who is a former footwear designer at the brand, broke down the simple aspects that made the original PUMA Disc so unique in a 2013 interview with Complex: 'No laces! With a couple clicks you’re ready to go. Easy on, easy off. Can’t beat that. There’s no other shoe like it.'
5.000 pairs of the original shoe were made back then, aiming to provide athletes with the best fit possible. So the actual intention behind the PUMA Disc is not geting rid of laces: the eponymous disc controls an internal wiring system which tightens the upper and carefully wraps around the wearer's foot. The Disc system was included in cross-training, running and tennis shoes, with basketball following in 1992. Several PUMA athletes like Heike Drechsler or Colin Jackson, are able to achieve gold medals and world records with these pioneering shoes on their feet. 1993 sees the launch of the Disc Blaze silhouette with a new cage system for a even more precisely adjustable fit – the successor is pretty popular today, but only lived for a short run initially.
In the early 90s, PUMA found itself in financial difficulties which called for an immediate change of course. At the age of 30, Jochen Zeitz becomes the youngest CEO of a listed company in Germany and initiates a new direction for PUMA. While the brand becomes a coveted premium brand and one of the three leading athletic companies in the world, projects like the Disc System were discontinued. Helmut Fischer, better known as Mr. PUMA to many, has been a founder of the brand's marketing departement in the late 1970s and still supports the business management with an advisory function. He reflects on how the Disc suddenly disappeared more than 20 years ago – and then found its way back. 'On the one hand, there have been technical issues but on the other hand it happened due to changes within the company's management. Nevertheless, I am proud and happy about the renaissance of these shoes from my archives, especially because this time they came back as lifestyle products instead of running or tennis shoes.'
Image via PUMA
And like we've already seen it several times before, one particular gentleman played an important role in the models return: Ronnie Fieg. For his first collab with PUMA in 2012, the New York designer reconstructed the OG Disc Blaze and replaced the asymmetrical toebox with a regular one. The black Blaze cage is wrapped around a laguna blue suede upper and makes the silhouette a kickoff for more assorted projects to come in the future. In 2013, PUMA strips down the OG to create the Disc Blaze Lite with a new lightweight sole unit which is already used in various current running silhouettes. Joint works with the likes of Sophia Chang, Hussein Chalayan, GraphersRock, Ronnie Fieg (again) and A Bathing Ape cement the DISCs standing in a world focussed on fashion and design. But of course they had to go back to the roots at some point too...
At the end of 2015, world record sprinter and PUMA athlete Usain Bolt introduced the world to the PUMA Autodisc. Powered by a servo-motor, this innovation takes the Disc System one step further – it makes the flexible mesh and foam upper fit to your feet automatically, just at the push of a button. Shoes like the IGNITE Disc or evoSPEED Disc Spike already showcase what the Disc technology paired with current PUMA footwear innovations. But of course everybody is eagerly waiting on the see the Autodisc hit retailers – which is still scheduled to happen in 2016. And we're more than excited to see how that turns out, both in terms of performance and design.
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