When it comes to advancing human potential, every detail counts. Distractions — whether the pull of an ill-fitting short or a sock slipping within a shoe — must be eliminated to allow the athlete’s mind and body to focus solely on performance.
This no-distraction notion applies to all sports and serves as the driver behind Nike’s development of NikeGRIP, an anti-slip solution that considers both the inside and outside of a sock to maximize grip, ultimately improving an athlete’s traction and confidence.
Conventional thinking suggests that sliding occurs between the sock and the shoe, but as Tim Clark, Design Director Nike Socks notes, “Athletes tell us that slipping happens as much between the foot and the sock as it does between the sock and the shoe. Our goal was to perfect ‘grip’ both inside and out of the sock to create a unique solution for athletes.”
Initially, the team investigated silicon fibers as a natural extension of traditional external slip-mitigating treatments. However, as Clark recalls, “one thing we kept hearing from athletes was that cotton was great, which we understand from research is because when cotton gets wet its surface area increases, creating friction.”
This feedback led to a light-bulb insight: If the surface area of a sock can be increased, slippage can be reduced. This new awareness pointed the designers towards an ultrafine polyester fiber. Like a gecko, which can climb vertical surfaces thanks to the traction provided by hundreds of tiny hairs on its toes, the nanofiber creates far more contact points with the foot and shoe than one fiber alone. Twisting the nanofiber with traditional fibers used in sock manufacturing, therefore, creates the ultimate sock fiber.
Fiber, though, is just the first step. It’s equally essential to establish the proper amount of grip to add and where to put it. Too little grip leads to slip, but too much can impede mobility. As Clark explains, “You’re trying to reach a sweet spot that gives the athlete confidence.” Working off wear-testing data, the designers increased contact points on the big toe and heel, and then simply improved the sock’s fit, dialing its size and eliminating extra fabric for a more precise heel-lock system. From there, NikeGRIP works in concert with Nike shoe insoles to ultimately boost an athlete’s purchase, and poise.