Leon Gu Shares Insights on the Design Process Behind the Latest Performance Footwear for the Sharpest Shooter in the Game

It's finally here. No, we're not talking about the 2019-20 NBA season, though it has been 132 long days without basketball (but who's counting?).


Stephen Curry is entering a new season in a new arena, and his newest signature footwear – the Curry 7 – will power his 11th regular season run. We sat down with Under Armour designer Leon Gu to hear about the design process this go around, what Stephen wanted in his seventh signature shoe and how the innovation and design teams at UA are working to make him better with the final product.


UA Newsroom Editor: When you started with the Curry 7, what was Stephen asking for that brought new ideas and innovations to the table? What was his role in the process?


Leon Gu: Stephen is a real competitor who's always looking for an edge. He asked for the new design to be more responsive for the upcoming season, a shoe that gives him better ground feel and more traction. With the Curry 7, we focused on making the traction adaptive. It features different layers of grip that are dependent on applied force. We’ve also decoupled the heel and forefoot to allow quicker stabilization. 


Stephen was involved throughout the entire design process. He gave us a lot of creative input, which we were able to bring to life. We were happy with both the look and functionality of the final samples, especially how the exposed flex plate and translucent upper layering all came together.  


UA: What does it take to make an iconic silhouette? Is it pure design, or how much the athlete adds to the process?


LG: I think it’s a mixture of both. We're proud of how the Curry signature footwear line has evolved and believe the Curry 7 will be a fan favorite. Each colorway balances on-trend aesthetics with performance innovations based around Stephen’s suggestions for improved on-court play.


UA: What kind of pressure comes with designing for, and collaborating with, the best shooter in the game, especially ahead of such a pivotal season?


LG: I’m always excited to design for an athlete like Stephen. All eyes are on Stephen and his team heading into the 2019-20 season, so there was some added pressure to make sure the Curry 7 helps him have another great year. It feels good to help equip one of basketball’s greatest players with new and improved tools that help elevate his game. 


I’m excited about the new technology and colorways we're bringing to the court. The Curry 7 offers a lower feel, an enhanced zonal traction that allows Stephen to control every inch of the hardwood, and a flexible plate that gives him explosive energy return and helps create separation from defenders.


UA: What's new and different with the Curry 7 from previous iterations? 


LG: Stephen wanted a more responsive shoe. The Curry 7 is the first Under Armour Basketball shoe to combine the UA HOVR™ and Micro G® cushioning technologies, and the first Curry signature shoe to feature Micro G® . We started with UA HOVR foam at the top and then added Micro G at the bottom. Both materials are separated and perfectly balanced by the flexible plate.


UA HOVR foam is made up of several layered materials that provide reinforcement in zonal areas for comfort, stability and mobility. Micro G is bouncy and responsive. The combination allows for extra lift and energy return. 


We also transitioned from radial traction to adaptive, herringbone traction in the Curry 7. This provides zonally added grip, something the Curry 6 didn’t have. The various grip heights react to Stephen’s movements, meeting the demands of his game and quick footwork. 


UA: What's the advantage of putting two midsole cushioning technologies – HOVR and Micro-G – in one shoe together, both for Stephen personally and any other athlete lacing up in the Curry 7?


LG: By incorporating both UA HOVR foam and Micro G, we’re bringing together two cushioning systems that provide athletes different, but equally important, performance benefits. UA HOVR foam is a dynamic material that provides energy return, while the Micro G is super responsive and helps the athlete explode on the court, something Stephen specifically wanted in this shoe. 


UA: Micro G is a crowd favorite, going back to some of UA Basketball's first performance footwear including the UA Anatomix Spawn and UA Clutchfit Drive 1. Why is UA reintroducing it now with the Curry 7, and how will it benefit Stephen’s on court game?


LG: Both Stephen and our fans love Micro G, and it was the cushioning that supported Stephen in the footwear he wore the – UA Anatomix Spawn and UA Clutchfit Drive – when he first joined the Under Armour family. We wanted to bring that cushioning back and introduce it to the Curry signature line with the Curry 7. We made it lighter while ensuring that it provides the same response that Stephen needs. 


We’re always focused on new innovation. And, we feel the combination of Micro G and UA HOVR foam would help Stephen and all athletes take their game to the next level.


UA: The flexible plate is visually striking. Tell me more about why you incorporated it and also gave it prominence on the heel of the shoe. 


LG: The flexible plate balances the cushioning system of the shoe and adds the stability Stephen needs. When designing the shoe, we wanted to give the sneaker a futuristic look that highlights our new technology. The external material on the heel provides an outward expression of the shoe’s internal design.


UA: Full knit uppers seem to be very popular; the Curry 6 had a fully knit upper, and the Curry 7 uses a layering approach of different materials. Can you explain why you took a new approach to the upper this iteration and what performance benefit it offers? 


LG: The brief for the Curry 7 was to design the shoe from the inside out, which was actually a new approach for us. With that said, we are always pushing ourselves to innovate around the Curry footwear design. 


The idea for this upper was to layer translucent panels that grow the levels of opaqueness and showcase an intuitive construction that comes together with an exposed flex plate. By incorporating this translucent layering application of synthetic leather, mesh and TPU skins, we’ve ensured reinforcement in the shoe’s zonal areas. This offers comfort, stability and mobility, which is exactly what Stephen needs to perform at his absolute best.


UA: The Curry 6 had some hidden design details that were inspired by Stephen. Are there any hidden design features we can expect to see in the Curry 7?


LG: The Curry 7 features a nod to Stephen’s three children on the pull tab. We included three characters that represent each of them - a wolf for Canon, a unicorn for Riley and a butterfly for Ryan. His children will be with him anytime he's on the court.


UA: For the Curry 6, the colorways all tied back to Oakland in some way, celebrating Stephen’s 10 Years in The Town. Now that the Golden State Warriors are in San Francisco, what will the colorways focus on this year? Is there a colorway you're most excited about? 


LG: It was really special to be able to honor Stephen’s time in Oakland with the Curry 6 colorways. Without giving too much away, we’re tying each Curry 7 colorway back to Stephen’s game and interests, in fun and unique ways throughout the season. 


Stephen will wear my favorite colorway on Christmas Day. I won’t scoop the design details here, but I’m really excited to see it on court.


UA: What's next for the Curry line? 


LG: I was excited to see the Curry 6 adapted as a spikeless golf shoe for the Range Unlimited collection. There's more in store for the Curry 7 off the court. As for beyond the Curry 7, I'll just say there's a lot to be excited about.