The fitness apparel game has changed with more players seeking marketshare than ever before. Brands whose core business had only been about high street fashion are now jumping onto the fitness craze bandwagon. With some, actually making quite beautiful contemporary activewear with luxe technical fabrics. This change in the landscape has no doubt left big players like Nike to continue to push the envelope on their apparel and footwear technology innovations. About a week ago I made the longest possible trek from Toronto to NYC (approximately 28 hours and 6 missed flights due to bad weather conditions) to Nike’s highly anticipated “Innovation for Everyone” event. Tired and extremely frustrated, I had seriously contemplated cancelling my trip altogether knowing that I missed so much of the festivities. However having been to more Nike media events than I can count, I knew that if I sat this one out I would most likely regret it. Similar to previous innovations summits I’ve attended, the event featured TV, print, and digital media from all over the world who checked their egos at the door and anxiously waited for the special reveals of Nike’s most technologically advanced products to date.
On day one, Nike’s President & CEO gave attendees a peek in the breadth of innovations we were all going to see during the event including Nike Air VaporMax; the future of a global icon, Nike Anti-Clog Traction technology that has a mud-beating polymer and will take a player’s game on the pitch to another level, Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 – the world’s first sport informed adaptive lacing shoe and of course the new and improved Nike+ app. Celeb Nike Brand Ambassador and notorious funny man Kevin Hart took to the stage to help kick off the festivities. What came as a surprise to most, the comedian and actor bypassed opportunities to make the crowd erupt in laughter and instead spoke passionately about training and what he’s been able to achieve through social media and the Nike+ Community. To build off the latest updates to the app, Hart hosted a private NRC/NTC combined session for the first time alongside elite athletes Sonya Richards Ross, Victor Cruz, Shalene Flanagahan and Global Nike Running Head Coach Chris Bennett.
This June Nike+ will get a refresh and the brand promises the new app will inspire athletes to pursue their potential. And what can be more motivating than hearing Kevin Hart’s voice cheering you on at every milestone? The actor’s voice has also been integrated into the app similar to elite athlete cheers you get when completing a run in the existing platform. What else can you expect to see from it this summer? The “plus” now equates to “personal”. Members will be able to stay connected to the Nike+ Run Club, Nike+ Training Club and the SNKRS apps. And if that’s not enough, a personal store based on the info members provide the app that houses performance product recommendations personalized to members’ sport and lifestyle preferences. Also, a unique QR code that can be scanned upon arrival in a Nike retail outlet allowing store employees to immediately pull products for you based on your profile and reserved invitations to their favourite sneakers. These combined offerings taking care of each step of a member’s athletic life. “We live in a world where technology and data are all around us. Technology is at it’s most powerful when it serves people. And today athletes want more than a dashboard – they want a relationship” says Nike President and CEO Mark Parker. The biggest impact I think will be within the Nike Training Club component which until now was reserved for the ladies. Internally the Nike team discovered that tons of men were actually also using the app and with the workouts designed specifically women, it only made sense to add male-centric workouts into the app to appease everyone. This means that in the future we can also expect to see men incorporated into NTC Live events and workouts both regionally and across the globe.
Nikki Neuberger, Vice President of Global Brand Member Services
Adaptive lacing? What the hell is that, right? My thoughts exactly as I impatiently sat in the airport thirstily refreshing my twitter timeline looking for updates from the event I was beyond fashionably late for at this point. Well, the HyperAdapt 1.0 is Nike’s latest platform breakthrough deep utilizing deep rooted research in digital, electrical and mechanical engineering into a product designed for movement. The self lacing shoe challenges the traditional understanding of fit as we know it and is said to be the solution of individual preferences and idiosyncrasies in both lacing and tension preferences. “Innovation at Nike is not about dreaming of tomorrow. It’s about accelerating toward it,” says Tinker Hatfield the sneaker icon behind the Air Max 1, Air Jordans 3 through 15 and more. “We are able to anticipate the needs of athletes because we know them better than anybody. Sometimes, we deliver a reality before others have even begun to imagine it.” This I can attest is true specifically for running and training, the brand has thought of every single convenience function imaginable. From a technology standpoint, Nike seems to have pushed past it’s competition in athletic footwear apparel with this innovation however, I am not completely sold on the design aesthetic. Although relatively light, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the flashing blue light in the midsole, I think shoes with flashing lights are reserved for children under the age of 10, but this design hiccup is certainly trumped over the fact the shoe that ties it’s own laces. Below, soccer star Cristian Ronaldo, is the first athlete to try on the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0.
Tinker Hatfield watches as attendee locks himself into the HyperAdapt 1.0
Nike Senior Innovator Tiffany Beers played an integral role in the development of this shoe and is also known for her work on the self lacing Nike Mag, Air Yeezy, Tom Sachs x Nike Mars Yard collabo, the ParaNormans and more.
When I finally got to the event grounds, I immediately beelined for the shoe to see if first hand. When you step into the shoe, your heel hits a sensor and the system automatically tightens. Then there’s two buttons on the outer side of each shoe’s upper to tighten and loosen if necessary so you can adjust until the fit is perfect providing a tailored-to-the-moment custom fit. The Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 will be available ONLY to members of the Nike+ community beginning holiday 2016 in three colour ways. Click here if you would like to receive a notification when the shoe becomes available.
Nike continued to tackle technology in footwear by redefining and re-developing the widely adored Air Max shoe. Debuting in 1987, the Air Max was the first shoe to have a visible air cushioning unit. If you’re old enough to remember it’s inaugural release like me, you have literally seen the legendary shoe transform in the 90s when the entire sole because an air unit. The next leap in technology is Nike Air VaporMax’s standalone outsole.
The VaporMax doesn’t require the air unit to be insulated anymore by a secondary rubber layer for added durability and protection and has more air than ever directly under the feet. They did have a size 8 on display and of course I squeezed my size 9 foot into the shoe to take it for a quick test drive. Having a Flyknit upper combined with eliminating the bulk of a foam layer, the shoe significantly reduces waste and weight while increases flexibility. I tried to get the dish on available colour ways but seeing as though this shoe won’t release until spring 2017 (yes you read that correctly) this decision has yet to be made.
Having missed an entire day of announcements and excitement, I had to get a crash course in the remaining vignettes throughout the innovation grounds. I crept up to the KD9 booth where Kevin Durant sat perched on a chair for what seemed like hours surrounded in masses of media, microphones and cameras all there to learn about the shoe’s design elements, inspired by Kevin’s new found love of photography and combines flyknit uppers with Zoom bags, first hand from the ball player and Nike Basketball Senior Design Director Leo Chang.
Nike Basketball Senior Design Director Leo Chang
And what seemed to fascinate most, even if they were there for running, training and basketball categories was the new Anti-Clog Traction technology for football (soccer). This redefining technology literally repeals dirt off the footbed of the cleat avoiding mud buildup that creates added weight to the shoe throughout a game in inclement weather conditions: