Nike's latest Joyride sneaker creates the feeling of "running on bubbles"
Nike's Joyride Run Flyknit trainer features a cushioned underfoot platform made up of thousands of tiny rubber beads that mould to the runner's foot shape and stride over time.
The Nike Joyride Run Flyknit is designed for all runners, from beginner to athlete, with a springy sole that has been engineered to absorb the impact of a stride, giving the user's legs "a day off".
Four pods filled with thousands of tiny beads are positioned at different pressure points of the foot, directly underneath the runner's feet.
The beads are made from thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) – a polymer blend with an elasticity similar to rubber that is both durable and springy.
Being contained inside their separate capsules allows the beads to expand in all directions – what Nike refers to as multi-dimensional displacement – to create a footbed that forms to your foot over time.
Nike likens the sensation to "running on bubbles".
"We've proven that we can make runners faster with some of our other models, like the Nike Vaporfly, but we also know that not every runner is looking to break their personal record or to run a marathon," explained Kylee Barton, senior director of Nike Running Footwear.
"Some of the design language used in the faster products can actually be off-putting for some people, and can feel very 'elite' runner," she continued.
"We also know that recovery runs are important for elite runners on days off, and they need something to make that a little easier on their body," Barton added. "So we set out to create something that, regardless of level or ability, could make your run easier."
Initially designed as one bead-filled capsule along the bottom of the foot, test runners found that the beads would migrate to the place with the least resistance and become uncomfortable, like sand, balling up under the foot arch or the big toe.
So Barton worked with Nike's Sport Research Lab (NSRL) and footwear design teams to develop the four-pod system.
Each cavity is a different shape and size and contains a different amount of beads, all based on how the foot strikes the ground when in motion.
For example, if there are 8,000 beads in total in a running shoe, around 50 per cent of the beads would cover the heel strike to absorb impact, while five per cent would offer cushioning at the forefoot to assist a smooth forward transition.
Barton took inspiration for the sneakers' cushioned platform design from the tracks made by runners along patches of grass.
"In places all over the world, we saw that where there was a park or a trail that had cement, next to it you would see a path of grass that had been worn down from runners looking for softer ground," she explained.
"We paired this observation with the idea of walking on sand which, at first, feels great as it conforms to your toes and feet, but as you keep walking, and especially if you run, it's super hard and it feels terrible, actually," she continued.
Barton combined these two ideas of the conforming nature of sand and the softness of grass to create a shoe that would suit runners of all levels.
Joyride's upper is made from neoprene (a synthetic rubber) and Nike Flyknit to offer a breathable, second-skin feel.
The sneaker also boasts a double-layer booty construction at the back to allow for easy entry and to keep the heel secure and supported inside the shoe.
The designers eliminated the removable sock liner typically found in trainers and replaced it with a thin layer of material that is seamlessly sewn to the rest of the insole.
This enables the runner to come into closer contact with the beads to activate the system through the foot's force compression, to conform to your foot shape and stride.
In addition to Flyknit being Nike's most sustainable, zero-waste material, the beads inside the Joyride Run trainer are also recyclable.
The whole shoe can also go through Nike's worldwide Reuse-A-Shoe program, which collects and recycles used shoes and transforms them into Nike Grind, a material used to create courts, tracks, fields and playgrounds.
Currently available in a palette of white, corals and blues, Nike plans on releasing more colour-ways in the near future.
The Nike Joyride Run Flyknit is available to Nike Members from 25 July 2019, before being rolled out globally via the Nike website on the 15 August.