Inside the Nike Flyknit Shoe Design - Design Bureau

Inside the Nike Flyknit Shoe Design

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

The radical minimalist movement in running shoe design, which has brought us shoes with less and less material between our feet and the pavement, took another step forward with the recent unveiling of the Nike Flyknit Racer. But the knit moniker carries with it a touch of irony, as this is not craft fair knitting. Nike's new Flyknit technology employs differently engineered yarns and fabric variations in what looks like a knitted upper on the shoe. What's the knit upper get you? No visible seams, lightweight (the Racer's upper and tongue weigh just 1.2 ounces) and the ability to cling more closely to the foot—all musts for the minimalist runner. I queried Ben Shaffer, studio director for Nike’s Innovation Kitchen, about the thinking behind the revolutionary new sneaker.

Minimalism has become a big shift in running shoe design. Can you tell us why this is? Were we wrong to think that the foot needed a lot of padding and support from the pavement?

The voice of the athlete drives our design solutions, and each athlete has different needs. While some runners need the added added stability and cushioning that traditional running footwear provides, there are others who benefit from our varying designs and innovations like knit. Also, the Flyknit racer is considered supportive enough to be a marathon shoe—Abdi Abdirahman qualified for the 2012 London games wearing the Flyknit racer for 26.2 miles.

Why is the knitted pattern good for a running shoe upper?

Runners have asked us for amazing fit and feather-light shoes, and [those] who have experienced knit have been very pleased at the result. Abdi Abdirahman told us after wearing the Flyknit racer, “These things are so light, I actually had to look down at my feet to make sure I was wearing shoes!”

The knit construction in the Flyknit is obviously the innovative aspect of the shoe. What about the sole? 

We’ve introduced Waffle Skin for the bottom/outsole that significantly reduces the weight with calibrated traction and a thin rubber web. 

Just what kind of material are we talking about in the Flyknit?  How many different prototypes did you go through?

We’ve developed various types of engineered yarns of polyester that were intertwined to create the fabrics and technical knit structures. This was truly a development marriage between design and engineering with the continual blessing of hundreds of runners.

And design-o-philes can get their Flyknit, too. The HTM Flyknit collection, a collaboration between style leader Hiroshi Fujiwara, Nike design legend Tinker Hatfield, and Nike CEO and designer Mark Parker, has been released in limited edition colorways. The HTM Flyknit Racer made its performance debut at the US Track & Field trials, and you can be sure that the Flyknit sneaks will be in action at the 2012 Olympics, as well. The Flyknit Racer and Trainer will be available this July.


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