A few months back I gave you what my initial thoughts were for what I felt the future could be for Nike FlyKnit in my piece “Hacking The Industry.” The piece was solely penned from my pure excitement of what I had understood of the technology at the time of its initial press release. While I still think those ideas are fun and unique and could provide a very bright future for the manufacturing process, I now have a new Philosophy for where I see FlyKnit going in the intermediate time frame.
In the second part of this series, Function, I compared the FlyKnit Trainer to my current everyday runner the Nike LunarEclipse. As I mentioned in that article the main reason I wear the LunarEclipse is for my outrageous pronation but I also described my hate for stability shoes, my main objection to them is how heavy and chunky they are. For a very long period I wore the LunarRacer because it was so light on my foot but at the same time it was terrible for my gait and eventually caused me knee pains. But now with the FlyKnit Trainer I have that same feeling of extreme lightness and I really don’t want to go back but as much as I don’t want to admit it, I still need some stability.
So the designer in me started thinking, if I was going to create a stability shoe with FlyKnit what would it be?
It is important to remember that you can’t ever really stop pronation, all you can do is try to contain it. Most stability shoes like my LunarEclipse; feature a large heel counter or a “posted” medial arch where harder density foam is used to absorb and control how far your foot rolls over. The heel counter in my eyes is the most important part of this system because if your heel is stable then you won’t have much side-to-side movement within your shoe and therefore you can slow down pronation.
But a large plastic piece glued on to the heel of a FlyKnit upper is so counterintuitive to not only the philosophy and purpose of FlyKnit but also the manufacturing process and honestly it would just be lazy design for me to do this. So I need to come up with a way to blend or should I say knit the two.
I am thinking that if you use thermosetting plastic and knit it into the upper in the main support areas and then use a curing element such as heat, you can set the upper directly around the runners foot. The thermosetting plastic would be knitted to encompass the heel and wrap into the medial arch for maximum stability control. If you combine this upper with a sole unit that has Nike’s Dynamic Support, essentially a posted shoe that is created by two densities of foam that wedge together; you could have a pretty amazing stability shoe. I would wear it, but…
A key thing I have learned through my young design career is that if you are designing for yourself, you are designing for no one. So how can I take this concept of a creating a shoe that would be perfect for me and present it to the world?
At most Niketown’s you already have a treadmill set up for runners to try your product and the workers also educate the consumer on what shoe is best for them. When they buy this new shoe that I am calling the FLYKNITCONTROL, you fit the user by curing the product at an established area within the store. Hopefully near the treadmill and running area. You have already started to do something similar to this at running events where you have steamed the FlyKnits to give a completely contoured fit to the runner that purchases the shoes. I don’t know how warm that steam is getting, I would assume at least 212° which would be perfect for my idea because from what I understand with thermosetting plastic (which is little, I’m just a designer) is that it needs to be 200° to cure. So in my eyes combining these two processes could give the runner the ultimate in fit.
Last Thursday in my sketchbook drop I gave a little preview to the design below as I showed the process I was using to create this runner, the FLYKNITCONTROL. The shoe uses a similar upper to the current FlyKnit running product, a mix of tightly knitted material for support and integrated areas of stretch for flexibility along with Dynamic Flywire to lock the foot into place. The main innovation in the FLYKNITCONTROL is the knitted thermosetting plastic that interacts with a high rising midsole to stabilize the heel and help contain pronation. The thermosetting plastic is knitted in a cross-grain direction compared to the rest of the upper. My goal was to create a stronger weave by intersecting it with the FlyKnit.
I really focused on creating an aesthetic that carries your eye from heel to forefoot but at the same time has complimentary graphics that provide function as they are tightly knitted areas that contour the shape of the foot from lateral to medial. The midsole is Lunarlon and internally features the Dynamic Support system that also helps contain pronation.
The styling direction of the midsole was to aide in the styling of the upper. I created a support beam that wraps from heel to toe that is painted in black. The beam is meant to graphically lock in place the rest of the midsole that features facets that aide in the cushioning of the shoe as they collapse on themselves when you land and dispense the weight throughout the length of the shoe. The facets remove unnecessary weight as well.
The main goal of this project was to create a lightweight shoe that would stabilize pronation and allow someone (myself) to run intermediate distances without causing future pain. As you can tell it is purely an artistic vision but I do believe there are some ideas here that could help take, what I am considering the most innovative manufacturing process in the past ten years of footwear, to the next level. Let me know if you agree below.
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