The new Flyknit shoe was the product of 4 years of R&D, which yielded new machines for a fabrication technique that never existed before.
Flyknit was powered by athletes’ input, says Tony Bignell, director of footwear innovation at Nike’s Innovation Kitchen. And what they wanted, head-scratchingly enough, was a sock. “A sock fits great, feels snug, goes unnoticed, and you get no irritation,” Bignell explains.“So the idea was, how do you engineer a sock into a high-performance shoe?”
A simple enough conceit, but one that proved harder to execute. “We had no interest in just creating a shoe that looked knit,” says Ben Shaffer, studio director for Nike Innovation Kitchen. “This is where we found our first biggest challenge: There was no technology in the world available to do this for footwear.” The intricacies of the work–building static structures and support into a dynamic knit–demanded entirely new machinery and software, Shaffer tells Co.Design. “We were challenging a fundamental way of making shoes.”