Nike breaks the mould with Joyride cushioning system
Set to put a new bounce in your step, the brand’s latest innovation-packed running shoe features a dynamic footbed made of thousands of TPE beads
In 1978, Nike revolutionised the sneaker industry with the Air Tailwind using technology developed by former NASA engineer M Frank Rudy for the Apollo missions. Since then, its push for athlete advancement has continued at a stellar pace, with 2018 a bumper year marked by a trio of ‘rapidly scaling’ breakthrough platforms: Nike React, the softest and most resilient foam it has ever created; Nike ZoomX foam, delivering an 85 per cent energy return; and expressive new designs for Nike Air. Today, the brand unveils Nike Joyride, touted as the ‘most personalised cushioning system’ it has ever launched and featuring an ultra-responsive footbed filled with thousands of TPE beads.
‘Everything that went into this shoe was designed to give your legs a day off,’ explains Kylee Barton, global senior footwear product director of Nike Running. The design team tested 150 different materials before settling on a TPE – a copolymer of plastic and rubber – for the beads. These are dispersed within zonally-tuned pockets, which allows the foam to expand in all directions (‘multi-dimensional displacement’ as Nike has christened it). The heel cavity – the ‘snack-pack’ quips Barton – is punctuated by a circular series of holes, that let air out as the beads become compressed during activity, harking back to Nike’s decades-long experimentations with air.
Nike Joyride has been several years in the making. The inspiration came from a common observation that runners gravitated to softer ground next to concrete paths in cities globally. ‘We took that insight and married it with this notion of sand,’ says Barton, ‘[in essence] that sensation of taking your shoes and socks off at the beach, where you first step onto it and it conforms to your toes and your feet.’ And while the branding material describes the feeling underfoot as ‘almost like running on bubbles’, a test run of the new shoe on London’s pavements did feed back a sensation more akin to trail running.
Nike’s desire to bring customers in closer contact to its technology resulted in the designers creating a new manufacturing process that allowed them to remove the traditional sock-liner and replace it with a micro-thin, seamless bootie construction stitched directly into the shoe. Barton adds, ‘We wanted you to feel the beads, because stepping on the beads unlocks the technology.’ The Nike Joyride also addresses ‘the critically important upper’ with a decidedly soft material palette – ranging from the brand’s signature Flyknit to neoprene – creating plush touch points all over the shoe, while the big toe area features a ‘plastic-based skin’ (complete with a tonal swoosh) to ensure durability is maintained in spite of toe drag. ‘We really wanted to tell the runner that the whole package is cushioned and inviting,’ notes Barton.
Billed as one of its most accessible releases that will appeal to all levels, the Joyride also marks an important addition to the recovery tools – including contrast showers, sports massages and plenty of rest – that Nike athletes such as middle-distance runners Laura Muir and Charlie Grice already have in their arsenal. Future silhouettes featuring the new cushioning system include the Nike Joyride NSW; the Nike Joyride Setter (which debuted during Matthew Williams’ S/S20 ALYX show at Paris Fashion Week in June); the Nike Joyride Optik, exclusive to women; and the Nike Joyride Nova, engineered especially for young athletes. Watch this space. §