Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The New Technology Behind Nike's Latest Running Shoe

For professional runners and running enthusiasts, the shoes they were play a huge role in their performance. The perfect running shoe would be one that is lightweight and fits like a glove – or in this case, sock – as such a a design would reduce injuries and increase speed. 

In the 1980s, Nike came out with the Sock Racer. And while it was comfortable, it wasn't durable enough. Other footwear manufacturers have tried to step up to the plate, but no one has succeeded – until now. Nike announced its latest running shoe last month, and this time, they got it right.

The Flyknit, which will be available in US stores starting July, boasts of a precise fit and a weight of 160 grams – way lighter than the popular Air Pegasus+ 28's 290 grams. But Nike executives aren't just thrilled about putting out a better running shoe. According to them, the advanced manufacturing technology behind the Flyknit can change the entire sports footwear industry.

Unlike other shoes that are assembled by hand, the Flyknit is woven together by a 15-foot-long machine using synthetic yarn. The result is a single-piece shoe upper that fits snugly like a second skin; the tongue and sole are added later on. With 35 fewer pieces to be sewn than the Air Pegasus+ 28, the Flyknit significantly slashes labor costs, production time, and wasted material.

Nike CEO Mark Parker says, “There is no more cutting and stitching with this. The most labor-intensive part of the footwear manufacturing process is gone from the picture.”

The Flyknit is the result of a four-year collaboration between teams of designers, engineers, and programmers. The engineers and programmers were hired by Nike to modify a sweater and sock knitting machine to weave a sneaker upper instead. 

Runners will have two models of the Flyknit to choose from, the Racer and the Trainer+.

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