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Full Speed Ahead
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June 10, 2016

Full Speed Ahead

It’s regularly declared that it takes a village to raise a child. But what about a shoe? At Nike, the creation process has always been complex and collaborative, involving interdisciplinary partnerships and everything from a waffle iron to frozen foam, but, then, so is the company’s remit: to help make athletes faster. This persistent mission similarly serves as the catalyst behind the Nike Air Zoom All Out.

Disruptive in both form and function, the new everyday running shoe employs a speed-inducing propulsion and lockdown system similar to that seen in the recently unveiled Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit sprint spike. Arriving at this progressive solution required over three years and the cooperation of multiple Nike teams, ranging from the Nike Running Footwear Product team to cushioning innovation experts to Flyknit engineers to athletes, who together continuously tweaked, tested and refined the design.

The shoe’s development started when that aforementioned company mission met a new Running Footwear team charge: to evolve Nike Zoom Air bags, making them larger and more visible but still applicable to performance footwear. Specifically, to meet its overarching speed mandate at the time, the team was digging into the propulsion needs of sprinting events and, in collaboration with champion 200- and 400-meter runner Allyson Felix, experimenting with the energy return of spike plates. Their exploration led them to discover that the centrifugal force of the track’s curves was pushing the sprinter off her plate, which in turn minimized its propulsive pop. So they set out to design a lockdown system that would work in tandem with the new, stiffer Nike Superfly Elite plate.

Joining forces with the company’s Flyknit engineers and Felix, the team created a custom mid-collar Flyknit upper that integrates Flywire cables across the entire midfoot, broader and wider than ever before (think: a hand wrapping around the foot). Due to the malleability of Flyknit, what makes it a superior performance material, it took over 70 iterations to crack the comfort-control equation. The collar was high, then low, before arriving at the ideal height to balance the plate’s force.

Connecting the dots back to their Zoom Air assignment, the Running Footwear team realized that, applying these same physics principles, they could pair a similar Flyknit upper with a larger Nike Zoom Air sole. After all, a larger Zoom Air sole, like a stiffer spike plate, generates greater energy return that its predecessors and, therefore, necessitates restraint. So they adopted the upper and added a thin TPU skin to the heel counter and interior cushioning pods to the collar for enhanced containment and fit.

Together with materials engineers, the team focused on not only adding more responsive Zoom Air to a shoe than ever before — 3.2 times more, to be exact — but also adjusting the height of each tensile fabric strand within the Zoom Air unit to ensure the heel and forefoot adequately tapered to promote forceful toe-off and smooth transitions. Foot scans and pressure maps were analyzed and full- to mid-foot units trialed before the team landed on the bag’s ultimate three-quarter length.

The company’s largest visible Zoom Air bag to date, it, like the spike plate, employs increased resistance to amplify energy return. In hand, the bag feels stiff but, once engaged, compresses. Upon release, it propels the runner forward. So the more energy and compression a runner puts in, the more he or she gets out, meaning the faster one runs in the shoe, the faster it feels.

The shoe’s contoured last features a tapering 8mm heel-to-toe offset to augment propulsion, lockdown and transition whereas its pentagon traction pattern both echoes the organic, cellular shape of the Nike Superfly Elite spike plate and builds off recent studies which underscore that, when it comes to grip, the more rubber that hits the road the better — especially when you’re attempting to fly as fast as Felix.

The Nike Air Zoom All Out is available June 10 at nike.com and select retailers. An exclusive colorway of the NikeLab Zoom All Out Flyknit will be available at NikeLab.com and NikeLab retail locations.