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The old story of the Reebok Instapump Fury with Designer Steven Smith

Reebok Instapump Fury designer Steven Smith shares the history of the revolutionary running shoe’s design.



There are a few recognizable names you always hear when the subject of great sneaker designers gets brought up.  Tinker Hatfield, Eric Avar, Jason Petrie…you probably know these guys, but there are many other designers that go unheralded.  Perhaps the most legendary sneaker designer that you’ve never heard of is Steven Smith.  An almost 30 year veteran of the footwear design industry, Steven has worked for numerous brands and created some of the most timeless silhouettes ever.

Let’s start with New Balance, where he landed his first shoe design gig right out of college in 1986. His resume there reads like a who’s who of your favorite New Balance retro models: the 574, 996, 997, and 1500 just to name a few.  Who knew that one guy designed all of these classics?

Next up for Steven was a one year stint at adidas, where he helped launch the Torsion technology in basketball shoes like the Artillery—one of the coolest late 80’s models from the Three Stripes.  He then headed over to Reebok where, among many other things, he helped create Instapump technology, DMX cushioning, and even the Vector logo.  Oh, and he also designed a little shoe called the Fury.

The adjective “iconic” probably gets thrown around a bit too often when talking about sneakers, but the Reebok Instapump Fury is indeed a certified icon of footwear design. (After all, not just any sneaker makes it into the Design Museum of London.)  The Fury is so futuristic that many still don’t quite understand it, so you can imagine how it blew minds back in 1994.  It has received numerous re-releases and new colorways throughout the years, but Reebok is bringing the Fury back in full force for its 20th birthday in 2014.  The celebration started with the accurate-to-the-original reproduction of the ‘Black/Citron/Red’ colorway that just dropped earlier this month, and then continues with a series of 27 collaborative versions throughout the year with Reebok’s Certified Network of global retailers.  Definitely not a bad way to highlight one of the brand’s most important models of all time.

After Mr. Smith’s prolific years at Reebok, he went over to FILA briefly, and then on to Nike where he designed some of the best mid-to-late 90’s running models like the Zoom Spiridon Cage, Air Max 2009, Shox Monster and many from the Bowerman series.  He’s now back at adidas where he’s helping develop the miCoach technology—which means he’s a fellow Portland resident with us here at SC headquarters.  Steven was kind enough to invite us into his home for an exclusive look at some of his amazing sneaker collection and some choice pieces from his career.  Since theInstapump Fury celebration is on, today we’ll take a look at some of his original prototypes—many never before seen—and hear the history of the shoe directly from its creator.

It was a good time (at Reebok), because for true innovation and great breakthroughdesign, I always say you need a “willing victim,” and Fireman was great for that.  He was one of the best guys to ever work for, because he was this incredible stream-of-consciousness thinker, and he would always be like, “What if you did this? What if you did that?”  And you’d go do it, because he empowered you to do it.

When Kanye West offers you a job, you take it. The rapper turned designer recently made a huge addition to his Yeezy team, recruiting Steven Smith, a well-tenured footwear designer who’s spent time at Adidas, Fila, Reebok, and Nike. Smith’s résumé includes important designs like the Reebok Insta Pump Fury, the Air Max 2009, and the New Balance 574.

Smith told Sole Collector that West personally reached out to him with the employment opportunity.

“Kanye cold called me and asked if I would come design with him. He had Adidas track me down,” Smith said in an interview.

Smith, who says he was hired by West three months ago, works directly for the Yeezy team, and not for Adidas. While he lives in Portland, Oregon, he’s been commuting back and forth to Calabasas, California where West currently lives for his Yeezy work.

Smith was tight-lipped about what sort of shoes he’s working on in his new role with the Yeezy team, but did mention that they’ll have Boost in them. Boost is of course a proprietary Adidas cushioning system, so it’s safe to assume this veteran designer will have some level of input on West’s wildly popular Adidas Yeezy Boost line.

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