April 08, 2016

Nike Flyknit: A Visual History

Four years after its unveiling, Flyknit continues to form the frontline of performance footwear. Nike designers can now engineer each pixel to integrate multiple dimensions of sport-specific benefits, like lightweight strength, breathable structure and elemental defense.

August 18, 2016

Carl Lewis on the Sprint Relay

Winner of nine gold medals, American Carl Lewis is one of the world’s most decorated Track & Field athletes. His performances in the 100 meters, 200 meters and long jump are the stuff of individual legend — his leaping dominance stretched from 1984 through 1996. He is also former world record holder in the 4 x 100, his team netting a time of 37.40  during the 1992 Barcelona Games. 

The [sprint] relay is not just about the runners; it’s about the baton.

When the race starts, the objective is to keep the baton going the same speed once it gets to full speed. That means the incoming runner and the outgoing runner — the one taking the handoff — have to be going the same speed. Great passes come when the receiver of the baton is focused on matching the speed of the runner coming in. The relay is complicated because, obviously, the baton has to get around, but the event is based on that simple philosophy of shared speed. If achieved, the team should achieve.

For the individual legs, there are some unique responsibilities. The starter’s job is to get the race going and to make up some distance. Key to the exchange is making it later in the [20-meter pass] zone. If you really want to be fast, stretch it out to the incoming guy, who has to run after that guy — because then he’s focused on running full speed all the way. And cannot slow down in the zone.

The second leg is important because if the pass is smooth, the runner is on the straightaway. The second and third legs can be the longest, depending on how the pass zone is run, but as the second leg isn’t on any curves so a good pace can actually create the illusion of making up more distance. The third-leg pass is important because if it’s smooth, the team can make up the distance. As such, the second leg is really important: it’s that runner’s job to put the team out to the lead, and then the third leg must either extended or maintain it.

The anchor leg has two jobs: win and, hopefully, set a record. That’s it.

August 15, 2016

Michael Johnson on Sprinting

Four-time gold medalist and eight-time world champion Michael Johnson is widely celebrated as one of history's finest sprinters. Wearing the gilded spike, designed by Tobie Hatfield, Johnson took gold in both the 200 meters (setting a world record of 19.32 seconds, which stood for 12 years) and 400 meters at the Atlanta Games. Beyond, through his Michael Johnson Performance Center in McKinney, Texas, Johnson is invested in relaying his expertise to the next generation of athletes. Here, he explains the strategy behind sprinting and reflects on wearing the gold spikes 20 years ago.

On Sprinting

“There is a strategy [to sprinting] you might not expect. Many people think that if you’re good, it’s just because you were born good. But like any other sport, the more experience you gain the better you get. Experience allows you to execute the race much closer to perfection. There are things that sprinters are doing at 30 meters and at 20 meters and at 10 meters and 40 meters, and every point of the race, because that’s how you run the race. There’s not a point, ever, in any race — whether it’s 100 meters or 200 meters or 400 meters — when you’re not thinking and making adjustments and executing a strategy.

“People tend to look at sprinting as simple: The gun goes off and you just take off and run as fast as you can. But there’s technique, there’s strategy involved. The best basketball players are the greatest players because they can make adjustments. It’s the same thing that track athletes do — it’s just that you are able to see the complexity of other sports.”

On His Gold Spike

“The idea behind [the 1996 gold spike] was to develop a shoe to my specifications: I wanted it extremely lightweight, I wanted it to be extremely stable, I wanted it to work with my foot and, specifically, with how my foot was interacting with the track in the 200 meters as well as the 400 meters, around the bend and down the straight. And I wanted it to look very cool. We worked for about a year and a half to make this shoe accomplish all of those objectives. Then I asked Tobie Hatfield: Can you make it in gold? And he said: “Yeah, absolutely.” I don’t think they really thought I was serious. Then it kind of dawned on them: He’s really going to wear gold shoes.”
August 12, 2016

The Visual History of the Nike Track Spike

At Nike, the process of design is rooted in collaboration with athletes, who inspire a diverse dialogue — including anecdotes, data points, worn-out shoes and video footage — that motivates innovative solutions to complex sporting problems. The brand’s designers, like the athletes, seek to envision a better future. That means taking risks, pushing boundaries and reminding that, in quest of the perfect race, there is no finish line.

No competitive arena is more indicative of this spirit than track and field. Nike’s own design evolution began with runners in the late '60s. Today, the company archive is filled with footwear that routinely shattered convention and spurred new ways of thinking about how design can propel athletic potential — anywhere from 100 meters to 10,000 meters.

Historical information and imagery courtesy of Nike archives.

August 12, 2016

The Evolution of the Nike Swift Suit

When it comes to claiming gold on the track, milliseconds matter, which is why Nike focuses innovation efforts on building a holistic system of performance that works to eliminate distractions and enables an athlete to focus solely on the task at hand. As far back as 1996, Nike had advanced this effort by exploring the theory that applying textures to a runner could drop aerodynamic drag. Scientists and aerodynamicists in the NSRL (Nike Sports Research Lab) debuted this study in Sydney in 2000 with the original Nike Swift Suit and have continuously evolved the technology since.


Designed for the Sydney Games, the Nike Swift Suit championed zoned aerodynamics, a technology that places different fabrics and textures on various body parts, depending on their respective motion and velocity. It also included a hood to further minimize aerodynamic drag.


At the Athens Games, Nike introduced a refined version of its 2000 Swift Suit, employing the latest Nike innovations to craft a lighter and more breathable iteration.


For the Beijing Games, Nike created the Swift System of Dress, a collection of apparel that allowed athletes to customize what they wanted to wear while increasing aerodynamic advantages on key body parts. The new silhouettes fit closer to the skin, with Aerographics deployed on the back and fewer seams throughout. Dimpled fabric was also introduced on sprint apparel, like Nike Swift gloves and arm coverings, to reduce drag.


The London Games marked the arrival of the Nike Pro TurboSpeed collection. The collection advanced Nike Swift technology via AeroSwift construction and zoned aerodynamics designed to minimize distractions and drag. The apparel also became more sustainable: On average, kits employed 82% recycled polyester yarn.

2016 (Men's)

Nike’s new, faster Nike Vapor track and field kits evolve Nike AeroSwift technology by reducing and simplifying construction in an effort to minimize weight.

2016 (Women's)

This performance hybrid is made possible by an advanced manufacturing process that pairs four-way stretch knit with breathable, engineered mesh that also integrates Nike AeroBlades, formed nodes that channel air around the athlete, resulting in the greatest drag reduction of any Nike track and field kit to date.

Historical information and imagery courtesy of Nike archives.

January 04, 2016

The Nike Windrunner: A Visual History

In 2016, the year of sport’s ultimate competition, Nike is celebrating its foremost apparel icon: the Nike Windrunner Jacket. Designed in the late '70s, the silhouette has been a fixture on medal stands and city streets ever since. Seen on everyone from distance runners to spinning b-boys, the jacket continues to evolve and serve as a collaborative canvas, a practice that picks up in 2016: The Year of the Windrunner.​