It is no secret that I have been heavily anticipating the release of Nike’s FlyKnit. If you have been following me, emailing me or having the pleasure to have any dialogue with me in the past six months, the only shoes I wanted to talk about was the FlyKnit Trainer and Racer. Literally I believe that this shoe has the potential to rewrite how the footwear industry develops product. It completely changes how we engineer and develop a shoe. The potential is seriously unlimited!
Whether it is from a performance standpoint and providing a shoe that could eventually fit each individual foot or whether it is an environmentally sound product that has very little waste or even if it is simply from an aesthetic standpoint. Flyknit is a truly revolutionary product. Over the next few days I will be breaking down the Form, Function & Philosophy of the FlyKnit Trainer. Check out the breakdown of the Form below.
The shape of the shoe probably is as close to the silhouette of a last (the form in which a shoe is made on) as I have seen in the athletic industry and especially in running shoes. It is very tight in appearance, meaning there isn’t much volume or wasted space as the shoe really is formed to the last and therefore your foot.
My favorite area is the collar; as it looks like the no show socks I normally wear. The collar drops down from the eyerow in a very crisp and organic gesture and almost comes to a point in the heel as it wraps up around your Achilles. I was surprised at how tight and crisp the line is. In my mind, knitting is a process that would be hard to control the shape of but it doesn’t appear to be so as the material edges are closed and rounded off quite well.
Materials & Processes
I am not going to touch too much on the process of the shoe as it has been much advertised and overall gist of it can be seen in the video below.
But what I am going to focus on is what shocked me the most about the shoe. From all of the pictures I had seen it made me imagine a material similar to the Air Presto, basically a highly stretchable nylon with reinforced areas weaved into it. The Presto is incredibly soft and formable to the point where it can’t really be a long distance runner because there is very little support. However, the Trainer is the exact opposite. It is completely woven in 90˚ angles, so basically it is intersecting loops that go over the top of each other and hook together or simply put, it is a circular knit. The material is much more stiff than I imagined, which is not a bad thing as it provides a good amount of structure. I don’t know exactly what the material is knitted from but it feels very similar to a canvas, which isn’t bad.
Another element that I wasn’t anticipating but I can’t say I was surprised by is that internally in the heel is a welded piece of microfiber that has a very thin amount of foam on the back of it. This and a small area down the center of tongue are the only places on the upper of the shoe that have any foam to provide structure, not too many athletic shoes outside of sprint spikes are created this way. The foam isn’t much more than 5mm thick but it does provide the shoe with a very minimal heel counter, which isn’t something that I believe the knitting could provide, at this time.
What the knitting does provide you with is a one-piece upper that can essentially do everything. You need the pattern to be tighter in supportive areas? Increase the knitting density. You need the shoe to have perforations to aide in breathability? Just open the weave up. The knitting process really allows for the potential of some very unique aesthetics and I am sure we are only just beginning to see what the creative minds at Nike have in store.
Fit & Feel
Flat out this shoe feels like a sprint spike on your foot. It is very light-weight but not as light as a sprint spike, but in shape and form it is nearly the same. It hugs you and forms directly around the shape of your foot. Outside of a soccer boot, I don’t think I have ever worn a shoe that fits so closely to my heel. It is quite beautiful as it feels like it is a part of me.
Overall I would say the shoe fits very well and is true to size. I know that at the Olympic Trials in Eugene earlier this summer, Nike was using steam to create a more custom fit. I ordered mine off of the NikeStore so I did not get to experience this but I wonder what difference it makes. Anyone who had this done please let me know in the comments below.
If I have to give any complaints to the fit and feel is that it would be that the toe box is a little tight and not as flexible as I anticipated which could be this way for a couple of reasons. The first being that I am not use to a shoe that is so closely shaped to the last, especially in a running shoe. Most running shoes are quite baggy in their toe boxes to allow for splaying of the toes, the FlyKnit Trainer does not feature this. The second being is the canvas like material is too supportive and could have the weave opened up a little bit to solve for this. If I am kicking myself over anything is that I bought two pairs of the Trainers and passed on the Racers so I can’t compare if this is true in that shoe.
I haven’t really focused on the sole unit of the shoe because outside of styling there really isn’t anything dramatically new to point out. The shoe features two Zoom Air units, one in the heel and one in the forefoot and they feel great! But I am really becoming a Lunar only guy in the running category and outside of the HTM version that has been released in limited quantities, Nike has not released any FlyKnit product with a Lunar sole. It should also be pointed out that the bulk of 5.6-ounce weight is coming from the sole unit.
Nike has provided a plethora of color options for the Trainer. I am pretty confident that outside of Violet and Yellow you can get damn near every primary color. I have the Blue Glow-Blue Tint/Volt colorway that you see in my photographs along with the Black/White version. It really is quite dope to see how the weaving blends the colors together. It really adds a very dynamic detail to the shoe.
A subtle little detail that I was thoroughly impressed with was how crisp the screen-printing of the swoosh was. With the shoe being knitted and having uneven surfaces I anticipated this area to be a little wavy but the screen-print didn’t lose any shape in its execution.
The shoe is very well designed and really speaks to the heart of running product. If you notice the shoes are graphically cut into overlapping thirds. The tightly knitted heel area overlaps and blends in with the open knitted midfoot, that also has dynamic Flywire woven into it; which in return overlaps and blends into forefoot area that features a new color and graphic break up and is also a combination of tightly and loosely knitted thread that aides and supports flexibility.
So basically the shoe blends support, breathability and flexibility all with material and color.
All of this adds up to create a very dynamic graphic that caters to the running demographic. While I have no confirmed knowledge of it, because outside of Tinker Hatfield I have yet to talk with a Nike designer involved heavily on the project; but it is my belief that the color flipping at the forefoot is to call out the most efficient way of running; forefoot running. It seems a little ironic that the most efficient process the athletic footwear industry has seen in years is color blocked to highlight the most efficient gait a runner can have. It is probably a complete coincidence but still a unique detail I noticed.
Graphically I only have one complaint and it is probably minor to most. On the top view, at the medial side over your big toe; is a woven area that harkens to old school running shoes of the late 70’s and 80’s. Back then designers would add an extra patch of support over the toe that also aided in durability while on the trails. It could be that I got very tired of drawing this feature while I was at New Balance but I think this element could have been left off of this shoe. But that is just me and it is a minor glitch in an amazing aesthetic.
The Form of this shoe is fantastic and it is almost everything I imagined it to be. It feels good, it looks good and so far it runs damn good. Outside of a few minor qualms, that I will admit are completely personal; it has some serious potential to become a favorite. I have worn them everyday ever since I received them a little under a week ago, not just because they are new but because they are a dope shoe! Later this week, after you read about the Function & Philosophy, you will definitely need a pair. I guarantee it.
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