The Evolution of the adidas NMD
The NMD made a relatively low-key debut in New York City with a special launch event back on December 9, 2015. Building on the unparalleled success of the UltraBOOST, the new adidas design — helmed by adi’s VP of Global Design, Nic Galway — managed to take the German sportswear giant’s flagship Primeknit and BOOST technologies, and pair them with design cues from Three Stripes classics like the Boston Super, Rising Star, and Micropacer. The resulting creation was the perfect blend of the old and the new, and a relative oddity compared to some of the most popular kicks of the past decade. Heritage-inspired without being a derivative rehash, the NMD is a design-driven triumph in an era where celebrity endorsements, influencer co-signs, and limited-edition collaborations are paramount to a shoe’s success. You’d be hard pressed to find any new silhouette from the past few years that can compete with the NMD’s ‘instant classic’ status.
Fast forward to 2018 and adidas have clearly gone all-in on the NMD, building upon the success of countless sold-out drops with new variations on the midsole-plugged OG. Whether it be a laceless mid-top or a Pharrell-designed variant fit for the trail, NMD has seen it all and shows no sign of letting up.
With the second wave of the NMD on the horizon, we take a look back at the variations on the BOOST-cushioned silhouette since its 2015 debut.
adidas NMD_R1 PK ‘OG’
This one started it all. Unveiled on December 9, 2015 before launching a few days later, the original Primeknit-constructed NMD_R1 laid the groundwork for all of the releases that have followed. Coupling an all-black Primeknit upper with a white BOOST midsole, black rubber outsole, and red and blue midsole plugs, the kicks offered enough tech to be a runner’s go-to, but were also understated enough for everyday casual wear. As Nic Galway put it to us in 2016, ‘We built it for a lifestyle rather than for a look. People wear it many different ways, and not necessarily how we would have expected.’
To coincide with the debut, adidas produced a special ‘Friends and Family’ version of the design that featured a combination of black and grey throughout the knit upper. The uber-limited pair would ultimately set the stage for the ‘Camo’ NMDs that followed in 2016, as well as the coveted ‘Pitch Black’ F&F colourway, which was limited to just 500 pairs — 100 of which were given away via Snapchat — and commanded upwards of $5,000 USD on the resale market.
In addition to the Primeknit versions of the design, adidas launched a mesh version as a Foot Locker exclusive that same day. All in all, the three pairs set the stage for the countless R1s to follow, including collaborations with the likes of Nice Kicks, BAPE, Overkill, Hender Scheme, and Sneakersnstuff.
adidas NMD Chukka (NMD_C1)
The Three Stripes played off of the NMD’s success as a casual shoe for its first variation from the original design. Dubbed the NMD_C1, a chukka-style mid-top debuted in March 2016. The design retained the signature sole of the OG, but overhauled the upper entirely, swapping it out for suede and a higher cut. The result was one part desert boot, one part NMD.
adidas NMD City Sock (NMD_CS1)
Joining the NMD_C1 in March 2016 was the NMD_CS1, or City Sock. The kicks were the perfect mid-top alternative to their more buttoned-up Chukka counterpart, and arguably kicked off the current trend of sock-style sneakers thanks to its slip-on Primeknit upper. White Mountaineering and UNITED ARROWS both put their own spins on the design following its debut, while adi itself eventually gave the kicks a Gore-Tex assist to combat the elements — something the Herzo crew would also do with a number of future NMD releases.
Perhaps inspired by the UltraBOOST, adidas added a cage to the NMD with the debut of the NMD_XR1. Not only did the shoe feature an overhauled upper with the addition of cage-assisted lacing, it also tweaked the beloved midsole to employ a smaller plug at the forefoot.
Pharrell Williams x adidas Hu NMD and Hu NMD Trail
After Skateboard P himself was seen in the mysterious kicks in January 2016, adidas and Pharrell Williams linked up to launch his own signature take on the NMD. Dubbed the Hu NMD, the design featured an overhauled upper and added a new lacing system that connected to the midsole plugs of an XR1-style sole. Pharrell and adi have dropped countless iterations of the text-covered shoe in the two years since, including updates with a trail-ready outsole.
adidas NMD Chukka Trail (NMD_C1 TR)
For the latter months of 2016, adidas updated the Chukka for off-road wear with the NMD_C1 TR, a trail-ready version of the design. Aside from the addition of a nifty external leather heel counter, the shoe featured a toothy new outsole — one that would go on to greater prominence with Skateboard P’s collaborative releases.
2016 came to a close with the debut of the NMD’s proper sequel: the NMD_R2. Though the upper largely remain the same, the shoes ditched the signature midsole plugs of the OG and instead featured a new plug design on the medial side, while adding diagonal grooves to the lateral side of the BOOST.
adidas NMD City Sock 2 (NMD_CS2)
Naturally, adidas followed the R2 with a new version of the City Sock. The NMD_CS2 was built upon the new R2 sole and featured an evolution of the wrap-style Primeknit upper that graced the original City Sock. The result was even sleeker than the CS1 thanks to its one-piece upper and asymmetrical collar. A lifestyle-centric take on the design also followed, using a suede upper to essentially serve as the successor to the Chukka.
adidas NMD_R1 STLT
The NMD got yet another overhaul at the beginning of 2018 when adi introduced the new NMD_R1 STLT. The design was basically a streamlined take on the original that kept the overall aesthetic of the OG intact, while employing Yeezy BOOST 350—style lacing on the Primeknit upper.
adidas NMD Racer
The NMD Racer joined the STLT at the start of the year and is perhaps the sleekest NMD silhouette to date. The design features what’s more or less a ribbed version of the OG NMD_R1 PK upper and adds an external heel counter to go with an all-new sole — one that sports a midsole plug that wraps around the heel, and a rubber outsole that extends up and around the midsole.
In July 2018, the NMD lineup got its most tech-savvy addition yet with the release of the NMD_TS1. The TS1 debuted as a Consortium collaboration with Japan’s mita sneakers and extends the cut of the NMD_R1 skyward while adding mudguard-like overlays to the Primeknit. The shrouded tongue steals the show, however, and features toggle-style lacing for an adjustable fit.
adidas NMD_Rise of the Creator
A new selection of NMD_R1s dropped in nine heated colourways. This Rise of the Creator pack offers a mix of camouflage and uniquely applied colourways. Those with a militant mottle come in shades for all occasions, while others feature ash knit broken with crackly blue branding or smooth uppers of creamy svelte mesh. Distinguishing these even further from the rest are heels licked with NMD branding which is writ-large over BOOST cushioning. Couldn’t ask for more? Thought so.
The NMD is something of an unstoppable force. Every time one wave hits shores there’s another set looming on the horizon. It has kept its relevance for so long by adhering to the simple nomadic tenet of putting one foot in front of the other. The caravan of iterations born from this method have led many to forecast that, decades from now, nostalgic sneakerheads will look back at the NMD as the shoe that sparked their obsession. Now, we’re only a few years in and it’s hard to be certain. But these BOOSTs are made for walking, and step-by-step they’re making those predictions a reality.