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Art Basel 2021

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Nike Free
Design

Nike designs the most comfortable sneaker ever

By Dan McQuade

July 19, 2013

Nike may have made the most comfortable sneaker ever.

Granted, I only had them on for 15 minutes, walking and running around Nike’s expansive Oregon campus in a brief test wear. But the Nike Flyknit Hyperfeel was like no sneaker I’d ever worn before: It gripped like a racing flat, but had the strength of a shoe I could wear all week. It’s similar to Nike’s acclaimed Free line of sneakers, but has more of a cushioned feel thanks to the Nike Lunarlon foam midsole.

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The upper sole—composed of Nike’s ultra-comfortable Flyknit—feels like a sock that moves with your foot. Even though it’s a snug fit, it doesn’t suffocate the foot, thanks in part to the Hyperwire that runs over the arch and heel. To boot, I was able to slip it on with one hand.

These kicks are incredibly stylish, coming in two colorways starting Sepember 5: black-and-white (neon yellow sole for men, pink sole for women) and neon yellow-and-black.

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Nike Free

Nike had a big day on Tuesday, launching several products under the Nature Amplified banner. Nike CEO Mark Parker and president Trevor Edwards introduced the products to a crowd of several hundred journalists. “Nature Amplified has been part of our ethos for so many years now,” Edwards said, “and only now are we seeing that technology is finally catching up so that we can truly deliver our vision to athletes and to consumers.” Aries Merritt, reigning Olympic champion and world record holder in the 110-meter hurdles, even made a cameo on stage.

First, Nike showed off the Flyknit Free, a sneaker that combines the Flyknit upper with the Free sole that simulates barefoot running. They launch on August 1 and will eventually be in 10 colorways, released in waves until sometime next year.

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Nike also showed off some Dri-FIT apparel lines: touch (which feels like an old shirt that’s been through the wash a few hundred times), knit (which improves breathability and reduces chafing) and wool (for colder temperatures). Also debuting was the Aeroloft vest, a warm-yet-slim winter running vest that’s about the best looking winter running gear I’ve ever seen.

But the Nike Free Hyperfeel was the star of the day. Tony Bignell, Nike’s vice president of footwear innovation, introduced the sneaker for a crowd of journalists in a room with grass, wood chips and bouncy Lunarlon-style floors. We all had to remove our shoes, so we’d get a little preview of what wearing the Hyperfeel would be like. “It’s for someone who’s looking for that barefoot running sensation but without having to worry about if you’re going to step on a rock or a pebble,” Bignell said. The Hyperfeel, Bignell said, consists of seven “really hard-to-make” parts.

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Whitewall caught up with Bignell—who has quite the running cred, as an Olympic Trials finalist for Great Britain in 1992—after his presentation and chatted with him about the new Hyperfeel.

WHITEWALL: What inspired Nike to make this new sneaker?

TONY BIGNELL: I think it’s a constant look to how do you make things more natural. And we’re also constantly after how do you just make things feel better? We have the Lunar foam and the great knitted technology, but what’s the best way to package them? For us, even though it looks pretty simple, it took a while. It is simple, but it works really, really well.

WW: What are the differences between the new Hyperfeel and the already-established Nike Free?

TB: I think what this has is you feel the cushioning more. This really and compresses your foot down; the Nike Free is more holding you over the platform.

WW: What goes into coming up with the colorways for a shoe like this? Are you limited in color by the seven-part design?

TB: We have a team of colorists who search out trends. I don’t dare get in their way. We have all of these different threads going in, so you can do any color that you like. Or you can do a really quiet color. It really just depends on how you mix it all together.

WW: Will this Hyperfeel sole expand to other product lines in the future? Will we see, say, a Hyperfeel with an Air Max-style upper?

TB: We’re just learning, but I think the opportunity is pretty broad. It feels good, athletes like it, the sensation is nice. As we learn more about running, we’re learn more about where does it go in the future.

WW: How long did the research go into this sneaker?

TB: We’ve been working on the knit concept for over 10 years. But we really started this project as we came out of the [2012 London] Olympic Games.

WW: Nike’s mantra today has been “nature amplified.” What does that mean to you?

TB: I think it’s really looking at the body. How does the body work? What can we do to make it better for sport? With athletes, you’re trying to run 26 miles or trying to do lacrosse or trying to play soccer. Although we’ve evolved, we haven’t evolved to grow cleats. How do we amplify our body to do things that nature can’t keep up with?

Flyknit FreeFlyknit HyperfeelNikeNike’s Flyknit Collective

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