Q&A: VANS WAFFLECUP BMX SOLE

It’s been a long time coming, but riders now have their very own BMX specific sole from Vans. It holds true to the classic waffle pattern, but it’s tweaked to meet the needs of BMX’ers.  Let’s find out more shall we?

Click below for a Q&A with Sean Methven (Global Product Director) and Derek Huenecke (Footwear Designer) about the Wafflecup BMX sole.

When did discussions start internally for a new BMX specific sole?

Derek Huenecke – Roughly early 2017. The BMX sole was a design lead concept that was an exploration using Parametric Design to dictate the design and support of an outsole specifically for bike use, as a design experiment. Similar exploration as the Waffle Control for skate.

Was a BMX specific sole a long time coming for the brand, or did the idea come about quickly and/or out of necessity?

Derek Huenecke – It was long overdue that the BMX team have a shoe specific to them, the idea was received very well and felt like a no-brainer for the brand.

What does it take to invest in and push through a new sole design within a company like Vans?

Derek Huenecke – I relied heavily on rider input, studying their worn-out shoes, their riding styles, and feedback at every step of the process, with input from Sean, Jerry, and others familiar with BMX internally. After the initial design pitch, everything that went into that outsole was function driven.

For those who don’t know, how much does it roughly cost to open a new shoe mold?

Sean Methven – I can’t give you an exact dollar figure, but I can tell you it’s a substantial investment. We’ve been involved within BMX since the mid 70’s, so it’s an integral part of our brands core pillars and a key outlet for creative expression within youth culture that has helped shape Vans into what we are today.

You had hit me up early on in the design stages for Odyssey pedal samples to check pin placement and whatnot. What other R&D went into the sole?

Sean Methven – First, thanks for the pedals! Second, those pedals along with other various pedal designs on the market have helped us run in-house testing on things like grip and durability to simulate real-world scenarios. Lab room data is only part of our testing as we rely heavily on our team rider input on new function-driven designs like the BMX WaffleCup.

What are some functional improvements over the classic waffle sole that Vans wanted to address for BMX specifically?

Derek Huenecke – Fine tuning the right balance of stiffness and pedal feel, as well as focusing on putting rubber in the right places to be used to brake, a second layer of traction in the high-wear areas, as well as creating the right amount of edges to catch a pedal even after the pins have warn away. The WaffleCup adds another layer of support, the toe bumper only reaches where it needs to, and the arch cut-out allows for added support on any upper if needed.

The sole features a variation of 4 patterns, including the OG waffle. Can you describe each ones purpose?

Derek Huenecke – The big toe/met head hex waffle pattern is larger than the standard hex waffle, with a secondary herringbone pattern at the base for bonus traction. The arch area draws inspiration from the WaffleControl Pro Skate outsole, adding extra traction without sacrificing support. The heel area has the most rubber, allowing for hard braking on the back tire or the ground. Standard diamond waffle rounds out the rest of the toe area and in the transition area between the braking area and the arch.

Which team riders were most vocal and hands on with input?

Sean Methven – Dakota Roche, Ty Morrow, Matthias Dandois, Gary Young and Larry Edgar. We wanted to gather input from a broad cross-section of riders with very different riding styles to help simulate a broader spectrum of consumers out there. It’s pretty hard to argue with the talent and credibility of those 5 riders.

How long did it take from inception to reality for this to hit the market?

Derek Huenecke – Right around 18 months.

Is it safe to assume that this will come on all Vans that are marketed towards BMX?

Sean Methven – At least for the near future through the end of 2019. I can’t expose all our cards, but we always have additional projects in the works to help support BMX. This isn’t our first BMX specific project and it certainly won’t be our last.

I think it’s great that BMX has something like this to call its own. Anything to add before we wrap this?

Sean Methven – I’d like to give a huge shout out to everyone that helped bring the BMX WaffleCup project to life. Thank you Derek, Neal, Daz, David, Jerry, Grif and all the riders. Not everyone here at the office rides BMX, but we have an internal structure that allows the team riders like Dak, Ty, Gary, Matthias, Larry to lead the direction and make sure projects like this are by BMX’ers for BMX’ers.

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