Nike Olympic Sole Materials- 04.13.08
I have that tendency to post things when i get really excited… really really late at night (like 4:30am?)… thing like the Nike 2008 Olympic Footwear collection, which has a new unique shoe for EVERY sport to be represented at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. And then as usual, i wake up, and start reading and clicking and browsing even FURTHER only to find another aspect of the story i just get so giddy about i can’t help posting it. Well today, it was reading the design stories behind each and every shoe, and viewing the extremely high resolution images, have you LOOKED at some of these soles up close?
Shoe and sport aside, there is some fascinating materials design going on here. After the jump are some of the most interesting shoe soles and their Material Design Stories as found in the many press releases.
[Click any of the shoe images to view them in their super high res form, which is the only way to truly appreciate how crazy they are!]
Nike’s smallest shoe being offered to athletes in Beijing, the Nike Pidima, is designed to support the needs of world-class gymnasts during the Vault competition. Much like the long-jump, this sport requires athletes to run as fast as they can in a short distance and leap with intense force off the vault in order to achieve the maximum distance, height, and foot velocity before they “stick” the landing. Inspired by track and field footwear, designers developed the Nike Pidima’s strappy rubber traction system to improve speed and control during approach and landing.
Working with a German sports research scientist, Nike developed a forefoot pad that mimicks the Nike track spike pattern. A split on the outsole allows for pliability between the first and second metatarsals where they spread during impact. Essential to the design is a slightness of material that allows the foot to feel as bare as possible while improving traction beneath the sole. A neutral-color rubber is used in construction to minimize distraction of the athletes and judges.
Each pair of the Nike Pidimas are packaged in a small carrying pouch inspired by Chinese silk to keep the shoes together in gymnasts’ duffel bags.
In Beijing, kayakers will maneuver their boats through gates in a slalom course into manmade whitewater rapids. The athlete’s feet are on pegs inside the kayak braced against the sides of the hull for stability and balance. US kayakers competing in Beijing, accustomed to competing barefoot, asked Nike designers to build them footwear that would provide lightweight protection and traction for their feet during a race. Inspired by the challenge of improving the performance of athletes who normally forgo footwear during competition, designers created the Nike Grigoros.
Made from a single piece of Nike’s stickiest rubber compound, the shoe is a low-profile skin that easily slips over the foot. A web and lug pattern on the sole delivers reliable grip in the boat and on the dock while channels in between allow for water drainage. The anatomical, split-toe design of this fitted silhouette provides natural movement of the foot on the boat’s pegs. As with every world-championship event for which Nike has created shoes, lightweight innovation makes the Nike Grigoros an improvement over any other footwear option available—even an athlete’s bare skin.
The Nike Grigoros is made from one piece of 100% recycled rubber.
Weight wise, 100 grams has always been the Holy Grail for a track spike.
Tom Redding and John Truax, the Nike design and development team on the Nike Zoom Victory, weighed everything that went into the spike. They used lightweight Vectran thread. Stronger than Kevlar, it’s spun from liquid crystal polymers and was used to sew the balloons on the Lunar Rover. The Flywire filaments themselves are covered in a TPU film to ensure they don’t snag. The TPU film determines much of the spike’s weight, so it was paired down to only a couple microns thick. Every part of the shoe that could be, was perfected to cut weight. To cut even more weight, the decision was made to remove the sock liner. Instead of the foam sockliner used in traditional track spikes, a single piece of lightweight suede was used. To get a better fit, the shoe was constructed with a center seam, but then a way was also found to remove the thread itself. The shoe was still sewn up the center, but drafted in a solution more common to surgery—water-soluble thread. Now, just before the factory adds the suede sock liner and puts the shoe in the box, the Zoom Victory is wiped down with a wet brush to dissolve the thread. This process removes approximately 1.2 grams.
The final innovation John and Tom incorporated was a hole in the heel. “We didn’t need a heel counter, which again probably weighs five or six grams,” Tom explains. They created a weld around the edge and punched it out to expose the foot itself. At first athletes were nervous about the fit, but the hole allows the Zoom Victory to grip the heel tightly, creating an almost custom fit and preventing slippage.
The success of a world-championship marksman depends on balance and rock-solid stability. In a sport where athletes have to be as steady as possible, often pulling the trigger of a gun between heartbeats, the slightest movement can be devastating. The unshakable foundation of this kind of extreme body control relies on stable footwear, which is why designers met with US gold medalist athletes to develop the ultimate shooting shoe, the Nike Simadi.
Available in a mid version for rifle shooting and a low model for pistol shooting, the key innovation in this footwear is the outsole. Designed to provide the most stable platform possible for a shooter, the Nike Simadi is built on a carbon fiber plate that is both lightweight and stiff, allowing the most comfort possible in a shooting shoe. To prevent foot slippage, a high-traction rubber compound is integrated into the outsole, providing unmatched grip on the hardwood floors of the range. The stiff, synthetic upper—with a molded heel cup and midfoot panel—helps keep the athlete’s foot firmly in place inside the shoe.
The Nike Simadi Mid rifle shoe has been constructed with as much ankle support as possible, helping to immobilize the kinetic chain of the lower leg and lock down the shooter’s stance. The square toe of the Nike Simadi Mid was designed to accommodate and stabilize the toe-to-floor contact point of the foot in laying and kneeling positions. In the rifle shoe only, the carbon plate in the sole has been truncated to allow slight flex for floor positions.
When the process began to create an innovative archery shoe for Beijing, the first step was to seek athlete insight. Based on feedback from the world’s top archers, the goal was to design footwear that helped the athlete execute precise use of a bow and arrow. To do so, athletes would require footwear that was lightweight, stable and comfortable. As with any sport that demands steadiness for perfect aim, an archer’s stance is the foundation for a well-placed shot. Building from Nike’s heritage of turf traction and stability footwear, a modified football cleat was used as the basis for the Nike Akribis archery shoe. With a nubby Astrograbber outsole that can penetrate and grip either grass or synthetic turf and a contoured footbed that elevates the heel to an athletic shooting position, the Nike Akribis provides comfort and sure footing on any surface, giving Nike athletes a better chance to perform their best in Beijing.