Nike was in an innovative frame of mind yesterday as it unveiled a raft of tech-based sports shoes that it said represented “new breakthroughs in performance… the all-access pass to your potential.”
Hmmm. I must admit, I wish the announcements these companies make would be less hyperbole-laden. I always go into default sceptic mode when I hear those regular press release words like “groundbreaking,” “pioneering” and not forgetting the favourite “revolutionary”. Blame my years spent writing about the beauty industry for that.
But to be fair to Nike, when you strip back the superlatives, you do get some real steps forward (pun intended).
The innovation came through in launches such as its “adaptive lacing” platform, as well as a “pioneering” football technology that separates mud from cleats and “transformations” in the Nike Air and Nike Flyknit lines.
Nike CEO Mark Parker also unveiled the new Nike+ app that connects athletes with the brand’s products and services “in a simple, seamless way”. The company says it delivers a personal store and on-demand coaching through a personal feed that recommends products tailored to the user, coaching for all levels that adapts to each person’s performance and schedule, and a fair bit more.
Continuing with the superlatives, here’s more of what Parker said: “Today… represents a fundamental shift in how we serve the athlete. We’ve entered a new era of personalised performance. Athletes want more than a dashboard and data – they want a more personal relationship, one that gives them real solutions and total access to the best product and services.”
What this all boils down to is innovation in materials, fastenings and soles as well as all the extra services that the app will bring. This is some of what’s coming.
- Nike HyperAdapt 1.0: Ushering in this new era of personalised performance, it’s the first-ever step in the concept of “adaptive lacing.” That means self-tying to you and I. It delivers a precise fit that can be adjusted to the changing needs of the game so your heel will hit a sensor and the system will automatically tighten, although the wearer can also adjust the lacing via special buttons. Shoes using this tech will be exclusively available to purchase through the new Nike+ app, which means you won’t be able to buy them unless you sign up to Nike+.
- Air VaporMax Flyknit: Since the advent of the Air platform 40 years ago, designers required foam and rubber to separate the Air and the foot for support and traction purposes. But not amy more as the firm’s research has allowed “these barriers [to] be removed to create maximum feel and efficiency for runners.” Nike said this development “reimagines how footwear is made and offers athletes the purest cushioning ever created.” The Air VaporMax features Nike’s most advanced Air bag unit to date. It debuts not only more extreme, targeted Air placement but also more Air than before. Discarding the traditional foam midsole, sheds weight and bulk in exchange for better flexibility, without compromising structure. Weight and waste are reduced, and placing the upper directly on the Nike VaporMax Air unit ramps up response, the company says.
- Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit spike: This gets even more specific, introducing a knit pattern that provides mid-foot support adapted to the centrifugal force of the track. Plus, the innate construction of Flyknit eliminates the weight associated with traditional cut-and-sew uppers.
- Anti-Clog Traction: No, it’s not a declaration of war on Crocs or traditional dutch footwear! It’s clog as in clogging and helps prevent mud from sticking to the bottom of football boots (cleats) with a new adaptive polymer to help players avoid the slips and excess weight that can be a monumental pain.
- Flyknit: I have to admit, the Flyknit platform was something of a game-changer and it’s now available in all sports for all athletes in all conditions, a major leap forward for a technology that four years ago launched solely for marathoners. The combinations of yarns and digital knitting techniques that make up Flyknit now offer athletes stronger and more weatherproof options.