HTS74: How HI-TEC® Resurrected Forgotten Classics
HI-TEC® kicked things off with a bang when they burst onto the scene in the mid-1970s. Established in 1974 in Shoeburyness, at the mouth of the Thames Estuary in southeast Essex, the brand has long been associated with two particular styles: the Squash and the lightweight Sierra Light hiking boot. While the latter was introduced by the brand’s Modesto, CA-based outpost in the USA, the aptly named Squash — which was crafted, naturally, for playing squash — holds the distinction of being HI-TEC®’s first-ever release and one that’s sold over 18 million pairs worldwide to date.
Squash and hiking silhouettes aside, HI-TEC® competed with its more established sporting goods counterparts in the 1980s by dropping some of the most underrated runners of the era. Finally, some decades later, those silhouettes are finally getting the shine they deserve as HI-TEC® bring back some of their most coveted OGs, which have been modernised and reestablished under a new banner: HTS74.
Air Ball Concept
When HI-TEC® introduced their lineup of flagship runners in the late-1980s, it looked no further for inspiration than the most gruelling race of them all: the Badwater Ultramarathon. Taking its name from the Badwater Basin in California’s notoriously brutal Death Valley, the Badwater Ultramarathon is billed as ‘the world’s toughest foot race’ and sees entrants starting their journey 85 metres below sea level, before ending their trek 2,548 metres above sea level, at the summit of Mount Whitney. Badwater and Mt. Whitney may only be a little less than 129 kilometres apart as the crow flies, but because the course traverses mountain ranges and stretches around lakebeds, runners cover 235 kilometres when all’s said and done.
If you’re going to cover 235 kilometres in temperatures that can reach as high as 54°C, you’d better have some of the best cushioning out there, so HI-TEC® came up with one of the most unique innovations to ever grace a runner’s midsole. The Air Ball Concept — simply known as ABC — is still to this day one of the more underrated cushioning concepts to hit shelves. The breakthrough design, built on the idea of air as lighter and more resilient than the traditional EVA midsoles of the time, utilised a pressurised cylinder that was seated in the heel of the shoe. The cylinder effectively compressed to absorb the shock of each impact before expanding to launch the wearer into the next stride. Think of ABC as a precursor to the energy-returning cushioning systems that are all the rage today. It was an innovation that was far ahead of its time.
The Air Ball Concept — which was replaceable and available in two different pressure ratings for individual running requirements — was coupled with the likes of breathable mesh panels, durable leather construction, and external stabilisers at both the heel and forefoot. In 1989, all of this was combined to create the ultimate ultramarathoner: the Badwater 146.
While the Badwater is back in near-OG form, another forgotten HI-TEC® classic is getting a bold overhaul for modern wearers. In 1981, before ultramarathons were even on HI-TEC®’s radar, the brand introduced the Silver Shadow. Worn by the recruits of both the British and German armies, the Silver Shadow was the best bang-for-your-buck trainer around, and an all-purpose one at that. There’s a reason it was once Britain’s top-selling running shoe of all-time.
Instead of just revisiting that 1981 design, however, the HI-TEC® team have taken the versatile looks of the OG and modernised them for the wearers of today by swapping out its original sole unit for some of the chunkiest tooling out there: that of the Vibram RollinGait.
First developed in 2011, RollinGait was actually created by Vibram in conjunction with the HI-TEC® product team and foresaw the chunky, supremely comfy kicks that would dominate the street style of wearers some seven years later. Already popular with high fashion brands, the functional RollinGait System (RGS) features an innovative midsole/outsole combo that’s specifically geared toward facilitating the natural movement of the foot in order to drastically cut down on muscle fatigue.
Billed as ‘a pure performance trail running product’, RGS has been coupled with everything from pig suede and air mesh to premium leather and wooly suede for the HTS74 Silver Shadow drops, as the best-selling 80s running design has been perfectly reimagined for today.
To Infinity, ADV and Beyond
The Badwater and Silver Shadow returns may be kicking things off, but HTS74 is just getting started in 2018. Come next year, HI-TEC® will be revisiting a couple more unearthed gems as it continues to expand the HTS74 lineup. While the Infinity bridges the gap from the past to the present and beyond, the ADV Racer looks back to the Adventure Racing Series of the early 1990s and employs a thick lug-equipped Vibram sole unit to tackle the likes of today’s Tough Mudder and Obstacle races.
HTS74 is an Australian-exclusive to Hype DC. The Badwater 146 retroes and Silver Shadow RGS are available now with the Infinity and ADV Racer set to follow in early 2019.