Is Nike Going Full-Minimalist?

MeaganGeneral6 Comments

It looks like one of the wishes on my “Minimalist Wish-List” might be coming true. Today, Nike announced their newest technology, Flyknit, and the associated shoe, the Nike Flyknit Racer. I am intrigued by the video for this shoe, as it seems to suggest that the Flyknit Racer will be a minimalist shoe. The video begins by showing the bare footprints of the runner, and then slowly “builds” the person’s foot, clearly showing their midfoot form. The shoe is then constructed around the foot, allowing the runner to maintain the mid foot form. So, what does this all mean? Is Nike going minimalist? Beyond a few photos and the video included below, they haven’t released too much information, yet, about what exactly this shoe is meant for or details about its construction. Here’s what we think we know or have seen so far:

1. The “knit” in Flyknit appears to refer to the woven construction of the shoe’s vamp.

2. Nike is marketing the Flyknit technology as “Lighter. Faster. Formfitting. Running revolutionized.” You’ll note in the video that the runner is not wearing socks, so it seems that the upper part of the shoe is meant to fit more like a sock. The shoe is also constructed to be almost seamless so there aren’t any tough seams rubbing on your feet.

3. At 5.6 oz per shoe, the Nike Flyknit Racer will be incredibly light. For the sake of comparison, this is 0.6 oz lighter than the Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove (Men’s; 6.2 oz) and 0.4 oz lighter than the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila (Men’s; 6.0 oz).

4. The shoes are set to be released this summer.

5. Unfortunately, there are a couple details that seem to point to this not being a true minimalist shoe. First, the toe box does not appear to be significantly wider than a traditional running shoe. Second, the heel of the shoe still appears to be rather thick, but this might be an illusion created by extending the rubber of the soles up the sides of the heels more than is actually present in the padding.

I’m crossing my fingers that this all means that Nike is finally making a true minimalist shoe, relative to the more transitional Nike Free, but it’s too early to tell right now. Additional information is set to be released in the coming days, so I’ll update this post as I find out more, especially as it pertains to the heel-toe drop of the shoe, info about arch support, and any other details of interest to the minimalist community. One thing I think we can all agree on is that Nike knows how to make one heck of an intriguing debut video:

[UPDATE 2/23/12 5:30 PM] Upon further investigation, it appears that the Nike Flyknit Racer is simply meant to be an ultra-light racing shoe. The heel is still too built-up and the toe box too narrow for it to be a true minimalist shoe. If you ask me, though, having this light, seamless material leaves Nike primed to release a real minimalist shoe so hopefully they pull the trigger sooner rather than later!