Let’s face it, shoes are often much more about function than comfort. They typically aim to offer pressure-point support or fill the arch void, but the reality is that shoes are not a one-design-fits-all kind of arrangement. This is no surprise to shoe manufacturers constantly hitting up the R&D department for a more cushioned and comfy footbed or low-impact design. In fact, comfort or superior performance often equates to a low fashion grade. But Nike’s new Joyride technology might just tackle the need for support, comfort, and trendy design all at once.
The secret is microbeads. Where predecessors like Nike Air Soles and Adidas Boost shoes have previously added more cushion, Nike claims that their shock-absorbing beads add the highest possible level of comfort. That’s because previous designs added cushion to the heel or inside footbed, whereas the Joyride technology fills the entire sole of the shoe. The beads are then free to shift around, creating a custom fit for the foot of the wearer.
This innovation provides consistent support wherever the user needs it most. The regular shifting of beads gives extra cushion in the heel when running many miles, while the toe area gets the brunt of the support while climbing stairs. Users describe the experience as standing on unpoppable bubble wrap.
The goal is to incur less impact on the body while running, and therefore make running a more enjoyable and less painful experience. If you haven’t been a fan of running in the past, this might be the motivation you’ve been waiting for.
Will Moroski, the Senior Product Line Manager for Nike Running, says: “Every runner faces the same problem: stress from pounding the pavement. We knew we needed a completely new cushioning system.”
The design incorporates separate compartments under the foot so that the 8,000-10,000 beads in each sole don’t all congregate in one area at once. These compartments, or pods, hold the beads within a particular section of the shoe. Instead of the beads rolling to a new location as needed, pressure from the foot initiates a unique response in each pod. This response is to flatten or expand the beads, thereby filling the pod and providing new support. The pods also vary in size depending on which area of the foot they’re covering, including large pods for the heel to absorb impact and smaller pods for the forefoot.
The description of the Joyride technology might have you envisioning those puffy white beads that oozed out of your children’s stuffed animals or ended up dispersed around the house thanks to your dog’s chew toy. In reality, Nike design engineers evaluated 150 different materials before deciding on TPE (thermoplastic elastomers), a substance made from a combination of rubber and plastic that offered the expansion response qualities Nike was looking for.
The company will soon offer the new technology on a sneaker called the Nike Joyride Run Flyknit, but eventually they plan to make the Joyride sole an option for all the shoes in their catalogue. It will, however, only be available for the Nike brand for the time being. Nike members can score the new technology now, but the general public and the rest of the world will have their chance beginning August 15th.